Will Zenit be able to reach the Champions League playoffs, will Messi be able to score his first goal for PSG in European competition and who is the favorite of the tournament? On the main intrigues of the Champions League – in the material of RBC
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Photo: Richard Juilliart – UEFA / UEFA via Getty Images
Will Zenit get into the Champions League playoffs for the first time in five years
Zenit is the only club to represent Russia in the Champions League this season. The club from St. Petersburg got into a difficult group with two clear favorites – Chelsea and Juventus and strong Malmo, who beat Riga, Hick, Rangers and Ludogorets in qualifying.
In the first round, Sergei Semak’s team meets with the current Chelsea trophy holders. The main striking force of the Londoners is the best player according to UEFA last season, Jorginho, and Romelu Lukaku, who moved from Inter to the summer transfer window. Chelsea paid € 115 million for the Belgian, and the striker is already justifying the money spent on him – he scored a goal in the match against Arsenal and scored a double against Aston Villa.
The head coach of Londoners Thomas Tuchel called the match against Zenit the most important in the Champions League, and the blue-white-blue players note that at Stamford Bridge they “will have to defend more strongly and run twice as much”.
“We know perfectly well that this will be a difficult match, we understand that we will have to defend a lot and look for our chances in counterattacks,” said Zenit midfielder Malcolm. – It is absolutely certain that in London we will have to run twice as fast and more than today. But I am sure: we will have chances, and we will try to take advantage of them. “
Shortly before the flight to London, it became known that FIFA nevertheless lifted the ban and allowed Malcolm and his compatriot Claudinho to fly to London and take part in the European Cup meeting. However, the meeting will be missed by the other team leader Vilmar Barrios – due to the quarantine after playing in the qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, the defensive player will not be able to help the team in the first round.
The St. Petersburg team will have the greatest chances in the games against Malmo. The Swedish team is one of the cheapest starting line-ups and a nominal outsider in the group. The match against Malmo will be the first home game of the St. Petersburg club in this Champions League and will surely show whether the Russian champion will qualify for the first place in the playoffs since the 2015/2016 season.
The theoretical chances of clinging to points will be in the matches against Juventus. Turintsy, who lost Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer transfer window, cannot find their game yet. In the first matches of the new season, the team, to which head coach Masimilliano Allegri returned, scored only one point and after three rounds is in 16th place in the standings.
Messi or Ronaldo. Who will score more goals for the new club
The most high-profile transfers this summer were Lionel Messi’s transfer from Barcelona to PSG and Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United – Juventus sold the 36-year-old striker for € 15 million.
The Portuguese and the Argentine are the top scorers in the history of the Champions League. Ronaldo has scored 134 goals, Messi has almost 15 goals less – 120.
Unlike Messi, who spent only 25 minutes for PSG and did not score with effective actions, Ronaldo has already managed to score in the new season. In the first game after his return, the Portuguese scored a double against Newcastle. At the same time, the head coach of Manchester United, Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer, admits that Ronaldo may remain in reserve for the match of the first round of the Champions League against Young Boys.
“Let’s see what we do. And I have to let 19-year-old Greenwood and 36-year-old play, ”Solskjaer said at the pre-match press conference.
Messi, however, remained out of the application for the last PSG match in the championship before the Champions League – he and Neymar were given time to rest and recover from their matches in the national teams as part of the qualifying stage of the 2022 World Cup in South America. In the match against Club Brugge, both players will surely appear in the starting lineup.
In addition to Chelsea, PSG will fight to win the Champions League, which in the summer, in addition to Messi, signed Ashraf Hakimi from Inter, Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid, Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool and Junluigi Donnarummu from Milan.
Traditionally, among the favorites of the tournament, “Manchester City”, which fell into the same group with PSG. Pep Guardiola’s team signed Jack Grealish in the summer for a record € 117.5 million for an English footballer. Last season, the British stopped one step away from the trophy, losing in the final to Chelsea (0: 1).
Do not discount Bayern as well. In the summer, the Munich team was led by Julian Naggelsmann, who said his team “yearns for new success” following their Champions League triumph in the 2019/2020 season.
What matches to watch in the first round
In addition to the Zenit-Chelsea confrontation and the debuts of Messi and Ronaldo in the first round of the Champions League, there will be two long-awaited matches.
Liverpool will host Milan – the last time the teams met in the Champions League was in 2007, when the Italians, thanks to a double by Filippo Inzaghi, beat Liverpool 2-1 to win the title.
An equally interesting meeting will take place in Group E – Barcelona will host Bayern Munich, which they lost a year ago with a humiliating score of 2: 8.
On the eve of the match, former Munich general director Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recalled that game, calling it a “crazy dream.” “It was crazy. We all thought we were in a dream and would be woken up at some point. But no. I think that I have never experienced and will not experience anything like this. We were all in a trance. That victory made us believe that we can really win the Champions League. What Hansi Flick and the whole team did in Lisbon was something exceptional, ”said the German.