The UEFA Champions League returns tonight with two nights of action lined up and plenty of top quality fixtures in store.
After last seasons competition drawing to a close in odd circumstances without fans in Lisbon and in a one game format, this seasons tournament kicks off without fans across Europe as counties continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s your preview of the key fixtures from the opening night…
Barcelona v Ferencvaros
After a turbulent summer, Barcelona, with Lionel Messi, will be happy to be back playing football, and none more so than in their favourite competition.
The Catalan giants go into their opening fixture as huge favourites and should make light work of Celtic’s qualifying conquerors.
Chelsea v Sevilla
This looks set to be a classic tie as Frank Lampard’s new look Chelsea host the Europa League winners Sevilla at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues have been inconsistent this term in the Premier League and have made a habit of conceding goals, something they will have to address on the opening night as they face a well organised La Liga outfit who pose plenty of threat.
PSG v Manchester United
Manchester United travel to last seasons runners-up and the birthplace of the permanent appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
United haven’t made a particularly thrilling start to their domestic campaign, despite a 4-1 victory in their last outing. This will be a huge test for the three times European champions.
The Red Devils will also be without their club captain Harry Maguire in defence, while Edinson Cavani is currently deemed not fit enough yet to play against his former employers having only started training with United on Sunday.
PSG, meanwhile, have won their last five games in Ligue 1 and look set to provide plenty of problems.
Dynamo Kyiv v Juventus 17.55, Zenit St Petersburg v Club Brugge 17.55, Lazio v Dortmund 20.00, RB Leipzig 20.00, Rennes v Krasnodar 20.00
Following the closure, or ‘slamming’ of the transfer window late on Monday night for Premier League clubs wishing to buy from abroad, the time is nigh to pick the top five transfers from the bizarre summer of 2020.
Many may have expected a curbed spending prior to the window given the financial landscape and without the prospect of full stadiums on the horizon, although top flight clubs still spent in excess of £1 billion – remarkable.
The Welsh star has returned to the place that first brought him to the attention of the world in Tottenham Hotspur having spent a strange last 18 months in Madrid.
Bale, who is now 31 years old left north London for Real Madrid in the summer of 2013 for a reported £85.3 million fee and enjoy a largely successful spell, including multiple La Liga and Champions League successes. Most of which the athletic forward was an integral part of.
However the last two seasons in particular have seen the Welshman take up a watching brief, perhaps owing to injury and a fallout with the powers that be.
Bale has now resigned for Spurs on loan and despite not playing since his return due to injury, fans across the land will be excited to see the man who was once heralded as amongst the world’s elite playing football again.
Perhaps the most talked about move of the summer finally came to fruition as defending Premier League champions spent just over £20 million to land their man from Bayern Munich.
The Spaniard has only made one fleeting second half appearance against Chelsea thus far, having since tested positive for Covid-19.
However that 45 minutes and his previous form is enough to convince Reds fans and many others the 29 year old will add plenty of quality to an already packed Liverpool midfield.
The multiple trophy winner has an eye for a pass and dictates plenty of matches and will perhaps provide additional threat to the best team in the land.
James Rodriguez – Everton
Another who hasn’t played a massive amount of football in recent times, however the Columbian forward has certainly hit the ground running in an Everton shirt as the Blues have got off to the perfect start in the Premier League.
The 2012 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winner has been in dazzling form since his arrival and linking back up with Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti.
Having signed from Real Madrid with plenty of pedigree, the 29 year old has certainly delivered up to now. With sterner tests to come including the Merseyside derby after the international break – Everton fans will be praying long may it continue.
Thomas Partey – Arsenal
A deadline day arrival at the Emirates after the Gunners had toyed with the idea of the move for some weeks.
Eventually Arsenal met the release clause for the midfielder after much conjecture and perhaps looking at other targets including Houssem Aouar and Jorginho from Chelsea.
The 27 year old arrived on a £45 million deal from Atletico Madrid after suffering a disappointing time in the Spanish capital. Partey is a combative midfielder with lots of ability, who impressed across the two legs in the Champions League quarter finals last season against Liverpool.
Arsenal fans will be looking forward to seeing their new man in action after the international break.
Kai Havertz – Chelsea
The biggest monetary move in the window, Chelsea who were extra busy this summer in terms of incomings, confirmed the signing of one of the hottest properties in European football from Bayer Leverkusen.
Havertz signed for a deal rising up to £71 million and has enjoyed a reasonable start to life in the Premier League without setting the world alight.
The Blues, and Frank Lampard will want and perhaps expect more from the 21 year old, but given time it is extremely likely the Germany international will deliver.
Despite the difficult financial circumstances cited across football, this summers spending has shown little sign of relenting as numerous clubs continue to splash the cash in search of a successful campaign.
With Premier League clubs spending already surpassing the £750m mark there has certainly not been the reduction many expected. Chelsea have been the biggest spenders to date, the deal to bring Kai Havertz to London from Bayer Leverkusen the largest outlay of the summer.
As the transfer window enters its final week we’ve had a look at the five deals we could still see in the Premier League before the October 5 11.00pm deadline passes.
Jadon Sancho – Borussia Dortmund – Manchester United
The Old Trafford clubs interest in the England man has been widely spoken of in recent weeks with the 20 times English champions reportedly having bid of £91.3m rejected by the players club Borussia Dortmund.
With the interest showing no signs of subsiding this is a deal that could run and run, however, earlier in the window Dortmund stated they wouldn’t sell the 20 year old this summer.
Even if they were willing to sell their star, the Yellow & Blacks have set an asking price of over £100m – a fee United have been reticent to even come close to.
Ousmane Dembélé – Barcelona – Manchester United
It’s United again, however, a lot depends on the Sancho deal for this one. Should Ole Gunner Solskjær fail to add his number one target the Norweigan could turn his attention to Barcelona’s Dembele.
The talented French forward has long been linked with a loan move away from the Camp Nou, and United could provide the way out before the deadline.
Dembele is currently not being used at Barca, who boast a wealth of attacking talent, including Ansu Fati – who has surpassed Dembele in the pecking order.
Houssem Aouar – Lyon – Arsenal
The Lyon captain impressed plenty in the latter stages of the Champions League as he lead the Ligue 1 side to a famous victory over Manchester City.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is reportedly a huge fan and is desperate to land another midfielder before the window closes next week, with Aouar his number one target.
There has been little movement on the deal to date but there could be time for a late move for the 22 year old.
Rhian Brewster – Liverpool – Sheffield United
Much has been made of the prospected future at Liverpool of the goal scoring 20 year old who impressed whilst on loan at Swansea City last season.
Although now it seems with a wealth of high quality players in front of him at Anfield, Brewster’s future may in fact lie elsewhere, with numerous clubs looking at snapping up the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup Golden Boot Winner.
Many expected Liverpool to allow the youngster to leave on loan this summer, however it seems a permanent deal with a buy-back clause looks more likely at this moment.
Dele Alli – Tottenham Hotspur – Anywhere
One time regarded as a pivotal part of the Spurs setup, it seems more and more likely Alli’s future could well be away from he New White Hart Lane.
Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho has seemingly not taken to the attacking midfielder in recent months and has outcast him from almost every matchday squad, including a depleted Carabao Cup line-up this week against Chelsea.
In terms of suitors there are plenty who would benefit from a in form Alli. PSG were linked for a while but nothing has materialised, there could well be a host of Premier League clubs making tentative enquiries before next weeks deadline.
Liverpool continue their title defence on Sunday with a trip to Stamford Bridge on Sunday where they will face a new look Chelsea side.
Jurgen Klopp’s Reds will be looking for a more assured performance from his side after they were involved in a thrilling if a little nervy, opening day clash with newly-promoted Leeds United.
Liverpool came out 4-3 winners thanks in the main to a hat-trick from Mohamed Salah, the Egyptian will be hopeful of continuing his form at his old employers on Sunday afternoon.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea were perhaps second best for much of their first game of the season against Brighton & Hove Albion. Despite a lacklustre performance, the Blues came out on top as 3-1 winners as summer signings Timo Werner and Kai Havertz both made their Chelsea debuts.
However it seems unlikely, albeit Lampard’s side remain a little top heavy and Liverpool have shown possible defensive frailties in recent fixtures.
The clash will also bring together two managers who have been having somewhat of a public spat over transfer fees, although the Blues boss is making most of the noise.
The pairs differing opinions follow a pitch-side argument during Liverpool’s 5-3 victory in July. Lampard showing his displeasure at the awarding of a free-kick, which was subsequently scored by Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Mo Salah’s performance last week was of the very highest order and makes him the important player for the Red’s ahead of Sunday’s encounter. Not just a hat-trick but Salah was sublime throughout and look at his sharpest best.
Timo Werner showed moments of his ability on Monday night and Chelsea fans will be excited from what they have seen from their new man. The German forward was widely expected to join Liverpool so this will be an interesting match-up.
Liverpool report with almost a clean bill of health bar Kostas Tsimikas who is still unavailable after testing positive for COVID-19 on international duty.
The Reds do have their very latest signing Thiago Alcantara available, although he is unlikely to feature having been with the club less than 72 hours.
Chelsea expect to have Werner available after picking up a knock against Brighton. However the Blues could still be without Ben Chilwell, Christian Pulisic, Thiago Silva and Hakim Ziyech.
Expect an attacking match between two entertaining sides but the Premier League champions to come out on top 3-1
The first week of Premier League fixtures has passed and we got a look in into some of the new talents that will be on offer during the season. In this article I’ll go over some of the more impressive debuts team by team.
Newcastle United – Jeff Hendrick and Callum Wilson
Newcastle have done some tidy business this summer, and two of their signings scored both goals in a comfortable win over West Ham United.
Hendrick was impressive all round with his work rate and passing from midfield, his efforts were rewarded with an emphatic strike to seal their win in the dying minutes. Callum Wilson caused issues with his forward runs and looked fairly decent up front with Andy Carroll.
His goal really showed off his poachers instinct and how crucial he could be for the Toon this season. Getting the first goal helped the team push on and he could be that man for them this season.
Arsenal – Willian and Gabriel Magalhaes
Wow. What a debut for these boys.Arsenal wanted some Brazilian flair and they certainly got it. Gabriel made a fairly slow start to the game, looking shaky on the ball and not full of confidence. He soon, however, grew into the game and even scored from a corner just after the break.
His defensive prowess shined through further as he made himself difficult to get past and was calm and composed in possession. He certainly looks value for money in Arteta’s system.
The catalyst to their goals against Fulham was of course Willian, who grabbed three assists in his first match as a Gunner. After making the switch from Chelsea on a free many fans questioned the decision, few probably would’ve held the same opinions after this game. The winger was unplayable and Arsenal fans will be hoping for more of the same.
Everton – Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure, James Rodriguez
This midfield really could be something special for Everton this season. After all the issues they had in the middle of the park last year they could have really struck gold this time around.
Doucoure and Allan offered ways to frustrate Spurs and broke up play very well. Doucoure offered an outlet throughout the pitch with a more box to box display, whilst Allan was superb as a defensive anchor.
The team looked more solid as a unit with them playing and with their technical ability (very underrated aspects of their game) they were able to transition with greater effect.
The biggest name was of course James Rodriguez. A player Everton wouldn’t have dreamed of signing five/six years ago, but he was certainly what they’d hoped for. Technically gifted and fantastic in possession, his vision and talent was clear to see – he was even close to getting a goal on a couple of occasions.
Carlo Ancelotti looks to have built an impressive first team, whether they have the depth to compete is yet to be seen.
Leicester City – Timothy Castagne
Castagne was superb at Atalanta last season, and he made a great start in the Premier League too as he contributed heavily to their 3-0 win over West Brom.
Castagne scored the opening goal of the game and was a threat throughout the game offering a great outlet from full-back. He looks like a player that will adapt well to the league and is an exciting addition to what is a talented attacking Leicester team.
Wolves – Fernando Marcal
Fernando Marcal was part of the Lyon team that impressed so much in the Champions League last season, and his defensive rashness made it a strange choice for Nuno to start him at Left-wing-back. He played best at the left of a back three last season.
The Brazilian gave an assured and defensively solid performance and his side strolled to a 2-0 win over Sheffield United. With Jonny out injured Wolves would’ve been reassured with this performance, and Marcal’s experience could prove very important in such a young side.
Chelsea – Timo Werner
The hype surrounding Timo Werner has been no secret, the striker was superb during his time at RB Leipzig and plenty of fans are excited to see him perform in the Premier League.
Whilst he didn’t score on debut, he was lively and caused Brighton all sorts of issues with his pressing and direct runs in between their centre- backs.
He even won the penalty that Jorghino scored to give them the lead, and continued to look a constant threat. He’ll be a useful player to press teams back as his pace will force opponents to take caution. Out of the debutants he was the real bright spark as Kai Havertz flattered to deceive.
He’ll come good in front of goal and this was a good start for him.