A look at what’s happening in the Champions League on Wednesday:
Spare a thought for the Club Brugge defense as it must cope with Paris Saint-Germain’s attacking armada of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. The superstars could start together for the first time since Messi’s arrival from Barcelona last month. Messi warmed up with a hat trick for Argentina in World Cup qualifying last week, taking him past Pelé and onto 79 goals. While PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino has no worries in attack, he has a big decision to make in goal between new signing Gianluigi Donnarumma or Keylor Navas. Donnarumma helped Italy win the European Championship with his heroics against England in the final, but Navas was among the best goalies in Europe last season and has often saved PSG. After Club Brugge, PSG's next Champions League opponent in two weeks will be Manchester City, which opens against Leipzig. Having been the dominant English force of the past decade, with five Premier League titles, success in Europe for City is long overdue. This season will be the club’s 11th in succession in the Champions League but last season aside when Pep Guardiola's team lost the final to Chelsea, it has only reached the semifinals on one other occasion. Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden could be involved for City after both returned from injury to be unused substitutes in Saturday's win at Leicester.
Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid has twice come oh-so-close to winning the Champions League, only for Real Madrid to edge them in the final. But the return of Antoine Griezmann to a squad that dethroned Madrid last season for the Spanish league title gives Simeone his most talented attack since taking over Atlético a decade ago. Griezmann joins former Barcelona striker Luis Suárez, young Portugal forward João Félix, Argentine forward Ángel Correa and versatile Spain midfielder Marcos Llorente. The first step toward another title run will be beating Porto at home in a very competitive Group B that includes Liverpool and AC Milan, who meet at Anfield.
Go to a Borussia Dortmund game this season and you're sure to be entertained. Under new coach Marco Rose, Dortmund has scored 13 goals and conceded nine in just four Bundesliga games. Saturday's 4-3 win at Bayer Leverkusen epitomized Dortmund's style — explosive in attack, vulnerable in defense — as Dortmund equalized three times before striker Erling Haaland secured the win with a penalty. That style may not work as well in the Champions League, starting with a potentially tough away trip to unbeaten Turkish league leader Besiktas, which is back in the group stage for the first time in four years. Portuguese champion Sporting Lisbon hosts Ajax to begin its ninth appearance in the group stage and first since 2017-18. Ajax is in the group stage for the fourth straight time.
Real Madrid’s opening match at Inter Milan is on paper its toughest of Group D, which also includes Shakhtar Donetsk and Sheriff Tiraspol. Even though Kylian Mbappé did not come to Spain, Carlo Ancelotti has succeeded in reviving an attack that had shown signs of stagnation in the final months of Zinedine Zidane’s tenure. Vinícius Júnior has found his scoring touch to add to the speed that opens up more space for Karim Benzema to do damage. Gareth Bale will be out because of injury, as will be midfielder Toni Kroos and defender Ferland Mendy. As usual, Shakhtar brings a squad relying heavily on imported talent from Brazil and it showed its credentials by eliminating Monaco 3-2 on aggregate in qualifying. Sheriff takes the Champions League to a new frontier. It plays in the Moldovan league but is based in the breakaway, pro-Russian region of Transnistria, which is a self-proclaimed independent country but isn't recognized by any member of the United Nations.