What to watch for in today’s games
ACTION kicks off today, as Real Madrid begin their defence of the trophy and Leicester City make their debut in the competition (all kick-offs 2:15am local time): Group E Tottenham Hotspur (ENG) vs Monaco (FRA) at London The match will be played at Wembley, which the visitors may appreciate due to the fact they were thrashed 4-1 in the Europa League at White Hart Lane last season. Spurs are playing at England’s national stadium while they build a new stadium next to their current home. Wembley hosted the finals of the competition in both 2011 and 2013. The hosts made an ultimately failed bid for the Premier League title last year with a thrilling young side led by England internationals Harry Kane and Dele Ali. Their highly rated Argentine coach Mauricio Pochettino is regalvanising the side who won 4-0 away at Stoke City at the weekend. Kane ended his goal drought scoring the fourth for Spurs and his first in 10 games for club and country. Monaco go into the tie in a buoyant mood as goals from Djibril Sidibe, Adama Traore, Fabinho and Kamil Glik powered them to a 4-1 win at Lille on September 10. They travel to London as French table-toppers after spending the summer beefing up their defence and cutting off dead wood.
Group F Real Madrid (ESP) vs Sporting Lisbon (POR) at Madrid Real begin their quest to become the first club to retain the trophy in the Champions League era with an intriguing home tie against Cristiano Ronaldo’s first club. Ronaldo’s winning penalty in the final shoot-out against Atletico Madrid clinched Real a record 11th title last season. The Portuguese star made a goalscoring return in his first appearance since limping off in the Euro 2016 final 1-0 win over France in September 10’s 5-2 defeat of Osasuna. Ronaldo’s boyhood club turn up at the Santiago Bernabeu in good shape after a 3-0 win over Moreirense at the weekend maintained their perfect start to the Portuguese season. Under Jorge Jesus they are back in the group stage after losing to CSKA Moscow in the play-offs last season.
Group G Club Brugge (BEL) vs Leicester City (ENG) at Bruges, Belgium After their fairytale Premier League title triumph last season, Leicester begin their maiden Champions League voyage with the short trip to Belgium to face Club Brugge at the Jan Breydelstadion. This will be the Foxes’ first European game since a 3-1 defeat to Red Star Belgrade condemned them to a first-round exit in the UEFA Cup in September 2000. However, for their manager Claudio Ranieri this is the start of a sixth Champions League campaign with a sixth different club. Leicester come into the game on the back of a 4-1 defeat at Liverpool, but Michel Preud’homme’s side also lost at the weekend, going down 1-0 at Waasland-Beveren on September 9. Club Brugge are the only Belgian club ever to have reached the European Cup final, losing 1-0 to Liverpool at Wembley in 1978.
Group H Lyon (FRA) vs Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) at Lyon, France Dinamo will be looking for revenge after suffering a 7-1 whipping at home by Lyon in 2011-12, the French club’s biggest victory in the European competition. Lyon, who went as far as the semi-finals in 2010, lost all three home group stage games last season. They have since moved into an impressive new stadium, but coach Bruno Genesio has a selection headache at the moment with several key players, including forward Alexandre Lacazette (thigh) and striker Nabil Fekir (knee), on the injury list. A 3-1 loss at home against Bordeaux at the weekend would not have helped morale ahead of the clash with Dinamo, the most successful Croatian club, but who have never progressed beyond the group stage. –
Leicester fans hope their Foxes can show up to play with the big boys in their Champions League debut.