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Champions League Matchday 1 - Previews and how to watch Wednesday's matches on BT Sport
The Champions League returns and this year there are six British teams vying to win Europe’s elite club competition as the Old Firm join the party – and all the games are exclusively live on BT Sport.
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The Champions League is back and we’re all set for another thrilling campaign which features six British teams.
It’s the first time since 2007 that both Rangers and Celtic have appeared in the competition and they’ll be joined by Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs.
Plus, there’s plenty of other big games featuring Europe’s elite on Matchday 1, including Napoli vs Liverpool, Inter Milan vs Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid vs Porto.
Wednesday 7 September
Ajax vs Rangers, 5.45pm kick-off live on BT Sport 4
One of Ajax's line-up will be very familiar to Rangers fans.
Calvin Bassey arrived at Ibrox in 2020 and starred last season as Giovanni van Bronckhorst's men made the Europa League final before the 22-year-old opted to move to the Netherlands.
The Gers also lost Leon Balogun and Joe Aribo over the summer and suffered a chastening 4-0 Old Firm loss at the weekend, compounding the news before the derby that Tom Lawrence would be out for weeks after picking up a knee injury against Ross County.
Rangers are in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since 2010/11, and travel to Amsterdam knowing that they face a stern test.
Since losing the Dutch Super Cup 5-3 to PSV in late July, Ajax have won their first five Eredivisie games of the campaign, scoring 16 and conceding three.
Six of those strikes have come from Steven Bergwijn after his summer move from Tottenham, while Erik ten Hag's successor Alfred Schreuder has crucially managed to hang on to midfielder Edson Alvarez, who was subject to interest from Chelsea late in the transfer window and was keen to join the Blues.
Napoli vs Liverpool, 8pm kick-off live on BT Sport 2
It was this fixture in the 2018/19 season at Anfield that saw Alisson pull off a superb reflex save to deny Arkadiusz Milik at the death, preserving Liverpool's 1-0 lead in the final game of the group stage, which meant they progressed at Napoli's expense by virtue of goals scored.
The Reds of course went on to win the competition that campaign and came tantalisingly close to getting their hands on the trophy again in May this year, but were defeated by Real Madrid, who had Thibaut Courtois to thank for an extraordinary goalkeeping display.
Jurgen Klopp's men have largely looked off the pace this term and failed to score in the Premier League for the first time in nine months on Saturday during their goalless Merseyside derby draw.
However, former Fulham youngsters Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott have breathed new life into the side in recent weeks, while Darwin Nunez showed flashes of his brilliant best at Goodison Park on his return from a three-game red-card ban.
Napoli meanwhile sit top of Serie A after a major summer rebuilding job that saw Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, Kalidou Koulibaly, David Ospina and Fabian Ruiz all depart.
The average age of the squad has been brought right down, the new centre-back partnership of Leo Ostigard and Kim min-Jae looks solid and Georgia winger Kvicha Kvaratskhelia has four goals in five games since joining from Rubin Kazan and is a nightmare for defenders with his bottomless box of tricks. Liverpool, you have been warned.
Another reason for Neapolitans to cheer is the fact that their side have beaten Liverpool in their previous two meetings at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Can the Azzurri take that streak to three?
Tottenham vs Marseille, 8pm kick-off live on BT Sport 3 and Ultimate
Tottenham ensured Champions League qualification for the first in three years, achieving the feat at Arsenal’s expense on the last day of the 2021/22 Premier League season.
Spurs’ 2-1 win over Fulham moved them to within just one point of neighbours Arsenal at the end of the sixth round of Premier League fixtures, after the Gunners slipped up at Manchester United.
A further reminder of that rivalry will come in the unlikely form of Marseille, who have Sead Kolasinac, Nuno Tavares, Matteo Guendouzi and Alexis Sanchez on their books, with the on-loan Tavares particularly impressing this term as a marauding goalscoring wing-back as the team sit level on points with Paris Saint-Germain at the top of Ligue 1.
All four former Gunners are in contention to start for Igor Tudor's side in north London, with Dimitri Payet and Samuel Gigot the only two players unlikely to be at the Croatian's disposal.
Antonio Conte had the luxury of rotation at the weekend and could recall Ben Davies, Davinson Sanchez, Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perisic and Dejan Kulusevski to the starting line-up.
The north Londoners haven't gone six matches unbeaten at the start of a league season since 2016/17. Can they take that form into Europe and go one better than their 2018/19 run to the Champions League final?
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Sporting, 5.45pm kick-off live on BT Sport 1
Eintracht Frankfurt make their debut in the group stage of the Champions League, qualifying after beating Rangers in a dramatic penalty shootout to win the Europa League in May despite an underwhelming Bundesliga campaign.
They have started off sluggishly domestically this season as well, but back-to-back wins will have lifted Oliver Glasner’s mood.
Despite the loss of impressive winger Filip Kostic to Juventus, Frankfurt have made some eye-catching buys, with Mario Gotze and Jens Petter Hauge arriving at the Deutsche Bank Park from PSV and AC Milan respectively.
Sporting meanwhile reached the last 16 of the Champions League in 2021/22 before losing 5-0 on aggregate to Manchester City.
Ruben Amorim’s men are currently languishing in eighth in the Primeira Liga after five games having lost the hugely influential duo of Matheus Nunes and Joao Palhinha in the window to Wolves and Fulham respectively.
Atletico Madrid vs Porto, 8pm kick-off live on BT Sport 7
Atletico Madrid’s Champions League campaign last season ended explosively as they tried – and failed – to overcome Manchester City in the quarter-finals in a display which put dark-arts practitioners the world over to shame.
Diego Simeone’s side have made a mixed start to their 2022/23 LaLiga campaign and currently sit seventh, with their first European assignment this term coming against a Porto team third in the Primeira Liga.
The summer losses of Fabio Vieira, Vitinha and Chancel Mbemba were significant for the Portuguese side, but they can take comfort from the fact that they held out for a 0-0 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano last September.
Club Brugge vs Bayer Leverkusen, 8pm kick-off live on BT Sport 8
Belgian champions Club Brugge lost key attackers Charles De Ketelaere and Lois Openda to AC Milan and Lens respectively and are currently five points adrift of regular-season leaders Antwerp in the country’s top flight after seven games, although they do possess the league’s joint-top scorer, new signing Ferran Jutgla, who has five goals to his name after arriving from Barcelona.
Roman Yaremchuk, bought from Benfica, also netted on his debut this weekend 20 minutes after coming on for Carl Hoefkens’ men, who beat Cercle Brugge 4-0 at the weekend and face a Bayer Leverkusen side severely out of form following four defeats from five Bundesliga games this season and a humiliating German Cup first-round exit to third-tier side SV Elversberg.
Hoefkens has the backing of the board – for now – but summer purchases Adam Hlozek and Callum Hudson-Odoi will need to be key for Die Werkself to turn their form around.
Barcelona vs Viktoria Plzen, 8pm kick-off live on BT Sport 6
It’s an exciting time to be a Barcelona fan right now. After grave concerns that players would either not be registered or signed at all, those concerns have been allayed and Xavi can set about moulding the team into LaLiga title winners and European heavyweights once again.
Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha have taken to Spanish football like ducks to water, while Ousmane Dembele has also impressed since re-signing as a free agent and Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie are all proving valuable additions as the team sit second, two points behind reigning domestic and European champions Real Madrid.
Viktoria Plzen have the unenviable task of escaping a group containing Barca, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich, but arrive at the Nou Camp level on points with Slavia Prague at the summit of the Czech top flight and have a game in hand on their rivals.
Inter Milan vs Bayern Munich, 8pm kick-off live on BT Sport 5
Inter Milan will be looking to hit back immediately after losing 3-2 to city and title rivals AC Milan without the injured Romelu Lukaku.
The defeat is the Nerazzurri’s second in three matches and sees them slip to seventh in Serie A, with Wednesday giving them the opportunity to respond against their opponents in the 2010 Champions League final.
The Italian side were victors that day thanks to a Diego Milito double, but Bayern Munich will go into this game as slight favourites despite successive draws against Borussia Monchengladbach and Union Berlin slightly dampening their fast start to the campaign under Julian Nagelsmann.
Lukaku will again be absent due to a strained flexor in his right thigh – he is receiving treatment in Belgium for the issue – while Bayern will have Sadio Mane to select.
The Senegal star has acclimatised to German football instantly following the departure of Robert Lewandowski and along with the clinical Jamal Musiala, the Bavarians will again take some stopping.