Champions League Group Stage 1 (Tuesday): THE CHAMPIOOONSSS!!!

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THE CHAMPIOOONSSS is back! Alert the media, Champions League is back and so are Wag’s predictions for Tuesday’s games.

WOOOOOOO!!!! Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes. the best competition is finally upon us! The best of the best play each-other for Europe’s most prestigious trophy. This is the competition where the comeback stories come to life. This is the competition in which Cristiano Ronaldo thrives in. This is the competition Barcelona desperately need to lift the trophy for. This competition gets you out of your seat no matter who you support. This competition defines greatness.

It’s the CHAAAMPIIOOONNSS!! Time to see what this year’s competition has laid out for us! Defending champions Liverpool have grouped with Napoli yet again as Barcelona, Dortmund, and Inter are in the group of death in Group F. If you don’t remember who is in what group, look no further:

Already, we have some stellar games on Tuesday with Europa League Champions Chelsea making their Champions League return against Valencia. Napoli get’s another go at Champions League champions Liverpool as both teams are relieved not to be put in the group of death this season. However in this season’s group of death, Messi and Barcelona will travel to Dortmund to highlight Tuesday’s slate of games, but let’s get right to the numbers.

Tuesday Lines

Dortmund vs. Barcelona

PREVIEW
Ahhh, so it is you Group F. Giving us football fanatic’s a cracking game in the group of death to set the tone. Barcelona is having a unique start to their La Liga campaign as they are not sitting in the top 3 losing to Bilbao in the first game and giving away an equalizing penalty kick to Osasuna. Although they beat Valencia 5-2, Messi’s absent is being felt, but the god himself will be in the Barcelona squad on Tuesday. How about the Ansu Fati kid?!?! Dortmund has been solid in the Bundesliga so far, besides their 3-1 defeat to newly-promoted Union Berlin. However, they put on a show at home beating Leverkusen 4-0 over the weekend. This will be the first time former Barcelona man, and former super-sub, Paco Alcacer will face his old club after Dortmund’s exercised their option to sign him permanently last season. The two-storied clubs played last in 1997 with Barcelona advancing 2:0 (Agg. 3:1).

KEY STATS

  • Dortmund kept a clean sheet in every home group stage game last year, notably beating Atletico Madrid 4-0
  • Dortmund lost to Runner-ups Tottenham 0-1 (Agg. 0-4) in Round of 16
  • Barcelona haven’t lost a Group Stage game since 16/17 CL season

PREDICTION
Lionel Messi has been declared fit for Tuesday as the knees of Borussia Dortmund are shaking. The young core featured in Barcelona’s game against Valencia was a sight to see as De Jong and 16-year-old Ansu Fati dominated the first 20 minutes. To beat Dortmund at home is a tough task for the Catalans, but this will be Messi’s first game as his injury setback could prove to be a blessing in disguise with a refreshed minded Messi on the loose. And don’t forget about Busquets, Ter Stegen, Arthur, Suarez, De Jong, Ansu Fati, the list continues on and on.

Napoli vs. Liverpool

PREVIEW
Champions League winners Liverpool go head-to-head against a familiar face of Napoli as both teams get grouped for a consecutive year. Both teams successfully defended their home fixtures last season winning 1-0 as the ‘series’ evened out. Liverpool is nothing less than dominant in the Premier League so far scoring 3 goals a game in three consecutive games, scoring 15 goals in 5 games, and only conceding 4. Napoli bounced back from a heartbreaking defeat to Juventus by beating Sampdoria 2-0, thanks to a Merten’s brace. Napoli’s summer acquisitions of “Chucky” Lozano, Manolas, and Di Lorenzo all prove to be successful signings as all have stamped their name into the scorer’s sheet.

KEY STATS

  • Last fixture in Napoli, Napoli outshot Liverpool 16 – 4 (5 corners)
  • Napoli completed 151 more passes vs. Liverpool in that game
  • Liverpool are on a 10 game winning streak (Last loss in Barcelona)

PREDICTION
This is the fifth time these two teams meet in their history. Both Napoli and Liverpool have an incredible attacking force. They both have Champions League winning managers, but Ancelotti has three trophies compared to Klopp’s one. Napoli and Liverpool have great defenders in Van Dijk and Koulibaly. But the winning streak Liverpool is on is hard to bet against, especially after the way Salah and Mane were able to silence the outside noise against Newcastle on Saturday. I think Liverpool is going to win this game with ease!

Chelsea vs. Valencia

PREVIEW
Chelsea and Valencia are paired together for the third time in the Champions League group stages. Both teams have been previously paired in a Champions League group in 2007 and 2011 with Chelsea resulting on the winning side of all matchups. Valencia isn’t in the best form this season having to wait for three La Liga games to record their first victory of the season. But then they got pummeled by a Messi-less, and young, Barcelona team 5-2. On the positive side for Valencia is that Kevin Gameiro continues to be deadly in front of the net. The Blues are on a roll with the babies of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, and their new buddy Fikayo Tomori thrashing the Wolves 5-2. Funny how both teams were part of a 5-2 scoreline, just on opposite ends of the results. Chelsea is on the rise with this young striking force leaving Valencia speechless as they will have no idea how to contain this group.

KEY STATS

  • Valencia has never beaten Chelsea in their 6 game history
  • Chelsea won the last home fixture vs. Valencia 3-0
  • Tammy Abraham (Chelsea) has scored 7 goals in 3 games

PREDICTION
Tammy Abraham is the story of Chelsea with his incredible scoring record. The skinny kid who brought Aston Villa back to the Premier League is showing Chelsea that he bleeds blue and has always bled blue. The fact that these youngsters are owning their opportunity that they have been dreaming about ever since being a ball boy for Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, and Michael Ballack should be a big concern for visiting Valencia. These kids are playing with a lot of heart that Valencia will struggle to cope with.

Ajax vs. Lille

PREVIEW
Champions League semi-finalist Ajax had a little trouble in their Play-off game vs. Apoel, but squeezed in a 2-0 victory to secure their Champions League spot. Ajax will be partaking in this journey without stars De Jong and De Ligt, but seem to be transitioning well as Ajax won both of their league games 4-1. Dusan Tadic providing goals in both their fixtures, with Hakim Ziyech and adding Quincy Promes to the attacking mix will be Ajax’s hope to return to the Champions League semi-final. Lille dipped into their money bags and acquired Renato Sanches and American Timothy Weah, but both are struggling to find playing time. Instead, Victor Osimhen is their best chance for any offensive attacking.

KEY STATS

  • Osimhen (Lille) scored 5 goals in the last 5 matches
  • Ajax scored 8 goals in their last 2 matches

PREDICTION
I think we can all agree that Ajax’s football philosophy is exciting, effective, and exceptional. I don’t think losing De Ligt and De Jong will put a huge dent into Ajax’s upcoming success. They have proven that in the first 2 league games. Lille and Osimhen are a team that has some disciplinary issues, also not to forget that this is the first time Lille is in the Champions League since 2012. This also has the potential to be a very open game.

Benfica vs. RB Leipzig

PREVIEW
Benfica returns to the Champions League after a disappointing Europa League campaign (Frankfurt knocked them out πŸ™‚ ) to face off against Leipzig in the unpredictable group G. Timo Werner and Leipzig are off to a solid start in their Bundesliga campaign only dropping points after a 1-1 draw against Bayern. Though it’s been a tough schedule to start the season for Leipzig as Benfica have been terrifying in their league. Benfica beat Sporting 5-0 in the Supertaca Final only to be followed by these score lines: 5-0, 2-0, 4-0, 2-0 not including their 2-0 loss to FC Porto. Benfica has conceded two goals and scored 18 through their first six games this season.

KEY STATS

  • Benfica lost 1 home game in 15 home games
  • Leipzig has 1 away loss in 13 away games
  • Timo Werner 5 goals / Pizzi 6 goals

PREDICTION
I don’t think I have ever seen oddsmakers place both money line odds at +165. That is a good way to tell a gambler to flip a coin to decide the bet. Timo Werner and Pizzi are both in good form to start their season but Ruben Dias and his line of defense are nothing short of class. Haris Seferovic and Pizzi will be on the prowl to snag Benfica 3 points from Leipzig.

Wag Out!

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