The end of the international break in football usually signifies the beginning of the European competitions. Both Champions League and Europa League competitions begin next week, and a total of seven Premier League sides would tempt their fates during the first round of group stage.
We briefly review all the continental fixtures that will involve Premier League sides next week.
Chelsea vs Valencia – Tuesday, 17/09
Chelsea will begin their Champions League campaign with Valencia’s trip to Stamford Bridge. The Spanish side haven’t made the best of starts to their domestic campaign, but the same can be said about the Blues. Regardless, Chelsea would be favourites to win at home. The West London side are undefeated in their six European meetings with Valencia with three wins and three draws.
Prediction – A 2-1 Chelsea win
Napoli vs Liverpool – Tuesday, 17/09
Liverpool begin their Champions League defence with arguably their toughest game of the group stage. The Reds were grouped with the Naples side last season too, and they lost this game 1-0. The Italian side are a formidable opponent, especially at home. Furthermore, Liverpool’s away record in Europe during the last two seasons has been dubious at best. Hence, this should be an interesting contest and could go either way.
Prediction – A 1-1 draw
Olympiakos vs Tottenham – Wednesday, 18/09
Tottenham were the losing finalists in the last edition, and they should be qualifying from their group comfortably. They start their campaign with a trip to Greece, and the North London club should be winning this game comfortably. The Greek side have cleared three rounds of qualification to reach the main draw, and their recent European campaigns don’t bode well for their chances. However, they have caused upsets against other Premier League sides Arsenal and Manchester United in the past decade.
Prediction – A 1-3 win for Spurs
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Manchester City – Wednesday, 18/09
Once again, Manchester City will start their Champions League campaign as one of the favourites. Only time will tell whether they can achieve their European glory, but they would be confident of starting their challenge with a win. This is the third consecutive year that these two sides have been grouped together in this competition. Last season, City claimed a 9-0 aggregate over their opponents, including a 0-3 win in this fixture.
Prediction – A 1-3 win for Manchester City
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Arsenal – Thursday, 19/09
It should be a fascinating contest between a finalist and a semi-finalist from the last year’s competition. The Gunners boast of a far better squad, but a lot will also depend on the starting eleven picked up Unai Emery. The Bundesliga side have also lost some of their star players from the last season. Nevertheless, we expect an entertaining game of football between these two sides.
Prediction – A 2-2 draw
Manchester United vs Astana – Thursday, 19/09
Irrespective of the starting eleven picked up by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United shouldn’t be having any problems in defeating the Kazakh side at Old Trafford.
Prediction – A 3-0 home win
Wolves vs Braga – Thursday, 19/09
In the previous years, the likes of West Ham United and Burnley haven’t managed to handle the extra load of the Thursday night football. Can Wolves do better? Three points on the opening matchday could ease a lot of these doubts, and we expect them to get the job done against a much-inferior side.
Prediction – A 2-1 home win