In Monaco, the initial stage of this seasons Champions League was decided, with some match-ups grabbing all the attention of fans. As its happened in recent years, competition levels have risen so much that the exciting games we used to see in the second round are now taking place in the first round.
Here are the five match-ups you cannot miss during the group stage of the upcoming Champions League:
Bayern Munich – Manchester City
The same exciting duel that took everyone by surprise last year will have a round two in the 2014/15 edition. Pellegrinis team closed the group stage last season in Munich, turning around a 2-0 scoreboard to bring home a 2-3 defeat, yet the Chilean coach admitted after the match he didnt know that one more goal (and his team had 30 minutes to have pushed for it) would have given them the first spot of the group. A small mistake that proved fatal since City entered the round of 16 drawing as a second seed team, and their matchup against Barcelona proved too strong for them.
This year theyll get a second chance against Peps team, who has already lost the German Super Cup and has yet to prove the addition of Lewandoski, Benatia and Xabi Alonso will make them stronger than they were last year.
Real Madrid – Liverpool
15 Champions League will be face to face for two teams that both revere and despise each other. The history between the Reds and the Whites goes way back, as they are two of the classic Champions League clubs, but in their latest bouts the Brits have proved stronger than the Merengues.
Thats exactly why the current European Champs want to make sure they get their payback. In 2008, the Reds –with Torres, Gerrard and Xabi Alonso at the peak of their careers– beat Real Madrid with an aggregate 5-0, including a pounding 4-0 at Anfield, that was tough to swallow for Real Madrid. In 1981, Liverpool also kept Real Madrid from lifting what could have been their seventh European cup. Those are the kind of things a club never forgets.
Real Madrid has signed Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez, hoping to further power their star-studded squad, while Brendan Rodgers has tried to fill Luis Suarezs void with the signing of Mario Balotelli. This matchup will be the best way for both teams to test their true potential early on in the season.
Barça – PSG
PSG had a moonshot dream of winning the Champions League two years ago, with Ancelotti as a head coach and Ibrahimovic having become the perfect leader of the squad. A last minute goal in their quarter-final first leg game of the Champions League by Matuidi to tie things 2-2 gave the Parisians room to believe. With Messi out due to an injury, Pastores first half goal at the Camp Nou put PSG well on their way to make their dreams a reality, but in the second half things changed. A limping Messi came onto the pitch and set up Pedro for the equalizer, giving the Blaugranas access to the next round on away goals difference.
Ibrahimovic has yet to lift a Champions League title and is hoping this is the right time for him. He has grown by leaps and bounds since he signed with the Paris outfit, and hell want to prove his worth against a team that didnt give him the chance to fully develop his talents.
Meanwhile, Barcelona has in front of them the perfect opponent to test their new attacking trio. Luis Suarez will be back in action in October, and ready to team up with Messi and Neymar. In front of them, Thiago Silva and Luis Gustavo will have to work overtime in order to stop the Cules.
Borussia Dortmund – Arsenal
The two squads met last season in the group of death. They shared that group with Napoli and Marseille, and things were so tight amongst the top three teams, that the spots in the round of 16 were decided on goal differential. Ultimately, both Borussia and Arsenal made it through, and kicked Napoli to the curve, and this year they will face off once again in what promises to be one of the most exciting match-ups of the first round.
Borussia continues their yearly debilitation process, with Lewandowski having taken the same route Mario Gotze took last year. However, theyve managed to keep Marco Reus and are in the cusp of signing prodigal son Shinji Kagawa. Arsenal, on the other hand, have brought in Alexis Suarez to further fuel their attack, and Wenger still has not given up in his attempt to sign Falcao.
This will be a great match to watch and enjoy for all soccer fanatics.
Atletico Madrid – Juventus
The team that was seconds away from entering the inner circle of Champions League winners in Lisbon this past May, will open up this years road to the final against the Italian champion. We still have to see how La Vecchia Signora kicks off their season under Allegri, since the team had shown enormous progress with Antonio Conte at the helm. The Italian side has managed to keep all their stars and has made some key signings such as Alvaro Morata and Patrice Evra, although Manchester United is still trying to convince Arturo Vidal to join Van Gaals men at Old Trafford.
On the other hand, Atletico Madrid has lost a ton of fire power, with Diego Costa, David Villa and Adrian leaving the team this summer, but Simeone punched back signing Mario Mandzukic, Antoine Griezmann and Raul Jimenez. It was expected for the Colchoneros to lose half of their starting lineup after a great season, but most of the players have remained loyal to the cause –Cholismo, that is– and stayed with the club.
The Juve-Atleti will be a great matchup to see if both teams can sustain their performances from last season.