Europe’s elite competition is welcome back with open arms by us fans and opening night provided plenty of drama. From Barcelona flailing hopelessly against Bayern to USMNT striker Jordy Pefok coming off the bench and scoring a last-gasp winner for Young Boys against Manchester United. On our focus of English players and it was a lax pass from Jesse Lingard that directly led to Pefok turning the game on its’ head, whilst the one that got away for the Three Lions Jamal Musiala starred for Bayern and a Chelsea side that featured Mason Mount and Reece James edged out Zenit.
Turning attentions to what awaits us this evening and there are two English players in action as well as two teams. Starting with Kieran Trippier whose Atletico Madrid side welcome Porto to the Wanda Metropolitano. Both Atleti and Porto made it out of the groups last time around but they fell short against eventual champions Chelsea. Atleti went out in the round of sixteen whereas the Portuguese giants went one step further, having knocked off Juventus in dramatic fashion after extra time. This will certainly be a message to the wily Diego Simeone about what can be expected tonight and when they travel to Portugal later this year. Trippier was the subject of a lot of interest regarding a return to England but Atleti and Simeone himself were very keen to hold on to him. His side are La Liga favourites and as well as that, Atleti could cause some real damage in the Champions League.
The other English player in action tonight for a non-English side is Jude Bellingham. The young midfielder has gone from strength-to-strength whether it be for the national team or Dortmund, even with fellow countryman Jadon Sancho departing Germany. Sancho along with Haaland was the key for Dortmund going forward so to see Bellingham, who is not normally a particularly attacking attacker, contribute to two goals already this season as well as having two disallowed is quite something. Marco Rose’s men visit Turkey to play Besiktas in one of the early kick-offs, a side who are unbeaten in their last six, four of which were wins and they’ve conceded just once in that run. It’ll be a tough task for Dortmund but with Bellingham in great form and Haaland up front who was of course named as the best forward of last year’s Champions League.
Now moving on to the two English sides taking part tonight and they both have pretty tough fixtures. Man City have Kyle Walker, John Stones and Phil Foden amongst their ranks but only Walker has featured thus far this season and so it remains to be seen whether the other two will get a run out tonight. Manchester City fell at the final hurdle last season on their mission to win an inaugural Champions League title and a new-look RB Leipzig is their first opponent as they try to right that wrong. Manager Julian Nagelsmann, centre-half Dayot Upamecano and most recently, Marcel Sabitzer have all traded Leipzig for Bayern whilst Upamecano’s partner in crime Ibrahim Konate is now a Liverpool man. A mini rebuild has taken place under American coach Jesse Marsch and this has shown with the rocky start to this season.
Man City lost to Spurs on the opening day but have looked fairly comfortable since, even without a recognized centre forward. Five wins and one draw was how Man City sailed through their group last season whilst Leipzig advanced ahead of Manchester United but it was another English team, Liverpool, that eliminated Leipzig. A home tie against Leipzig is pretty tough but they are yet to properly gel under Jesse Marsch and so Foden and co will be confident that they can get off to a winning start, the Man City man being reportedly in contention to return to the XI.
Finally then to Liverpool and they will be without one Englishman in Harvey Elliott following his gruesome injury against Leeds United on the weekend. It’ll be a rematch of that famous Champions League final for the Reds as they welcome AC Milan to Anfield. There may be no Elliott for Liverpool which is a shame given how well he had started this season, but there is still some English representation on the field for both sides in fact. Milan will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the top of the pitch but former Chelsea centre-back Fikayo Tomori is in line to start. He enjoyed a successful loan spell at the San Siro to the point where the club couldn’t not make his stay permanent. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been one of the best players in the Premier League so far this season and he has silenced his doubters to full effect. Alongside him in the Liverpool side could be Jordan Henderson although his minutes are being managed, maybe Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could enter the fray too!