C1: The return of the champions

Make way for serious things. More than three months after Chelsea’s second Champions League coronation, the group stage of the biggest European competition is back tomorrow with a Sevilla-Salzburg and a Young Boys-Manchester United in raising the curtain. While waiting to feast again on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a quick overview of what the C1 offers us this year.

Chelsea: where is the defending champion?

Since their success in the final against Manchester City last year, Chelsea have not been idle. With two flashy recruitments (Romelu Lukaku and Saúl Ñíguez), the Blues have further strengthened their workforce and filled their main weakness – the number 9 position – by repatriating the top scorer of the selection, while starting their season on the hats of wheels: a trophy gleaned in the European Supercup against Villarreal, and a current status of co-leader in the Premier League with ten points on the clock (just like Manchester United and Liverpool). Chelsea, favorite? In any case, we will have to get up early to get rid of Édouard Mendy, N’Golo Kanté and Jorginho, all three rewarded for their major European campaign 2020-2021 by being elected respectively best goalkeeper, best midfielder and best player. short of the last edition.

French clubs: hopes and despair?

Unhappy finalist in 2020 against Bayern and eliminated at the gates of the final by Manchester City last season, Paris Saint-Germain is approaching this 2021-2022 Champions League campaign with the profile of a serious outsider. A status reinforced by a five-star transfer window, from the transfer of Achraf Hakimi to the free arrival of Lionel Messi. To the point of having, on paper, the best team in Europe? Very likely. The first obstacle that the group stage represents should only be a formality for PSG in a group A (which also includes Manchester City, FC Bruges and RB Leipzig) where the first two places seem already locked. A picture that necessarily contrasts with that of LOSC. Reigning French champions, the Mastiffs have been sticking their tongue out since the start of the season (twelfth in Ligue 1 with a small victory in five days), despite a trompe-l’oeil victory in the Champions Trophy against a revamped PSG. What if the glimmer of hope in Lille came from his group (the G, along with Wolfsburg, Sevilla and RB Salzburg) looking like the Europa League?

Is Unai Emery the next former Parisian coach to win the C1?

Carlo Ancelotti and Thomas Tuchel have at least three points in common: they are professional football coaches (yes), made a stint on the bench of Paris Saint-Germain and won the C1 after leaving the city of light (in 2014 with Real Madrid for the Italian, in 2021 with Chelsea for the German). What if a third thief were added to this list? Winner of the last Europa League by beating Manchester United in the final, Unai Emery’s Villarreal will indeed play the C1 this season, without having to put on the costume of outsider or favorite. But the performance of the Yellow Sub – who only fell on penalties against Chelsea in the European Supercup – proved that the latter could upset the order established at the top of European football. The first step is to get out of Group F (Atalanta, Manchester United and Young Boys) alive. See you on May 28, 2022 at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg?

The group that will make us sweat: group B (Milan, Atlético, Liverpool, Porto)

One group, four teams, fifteen crowns and twenty-five cumulative finals: numbers to read once the back of the neck is thoroughly wet and the index 50 sunscreen spread all over the body. The draw made on August 26 was generous for football fans, a little less for the crazy quartet making up this group of death and who will have to tear themselves away at each meeting in order to reach the knockout stages. Between AC Milan, which is making its comeback in the competition after seven years of absence, Atlético de Madrid of a found Antoine Griezmann, Liverpool and the armada led by Jürgen Klopp or the tricky FC Porto, to launch betting on this hen is akin to a suicide mission. And yet, two teams will remain on the floor at the end of the sixth day. Scary.

Three French people to watch closely

Valentin Rosier (Besiktas) : revealed on the side of Dijon between 2016 and 2019, Valentin Rosier has since left France for a little more exotic championships. Transferred for five million euros to Sporting CP, he stayed there for two years without winning before flying to Turkey where he joined Beşiktaş on loan. The right-back quickly asserts himself as an essential element in the eyes of Sergen Yalcin, his coach: 33 games, all as a holder, a pawn and seven assists for the player trained in Rodez. Performance sufficient to convince the Turkish club to keep its 25-year-old Frenchman. It’s up to him to shine as much in C1 as in mode from now on.

Jordan Lefort (BSC Young Boys) : a year and a half after leaving Amiens to join the Young Boys of Berne on loan (before being definitively sold for one million euros six months later), Jordan Lefort has come a long way. At 28, the left side was crowned Swiss champion and is now preparing to discover the Champions League. Entrance ? The Manchester United of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes. Copious. What if this meeting would reveal it to the whole world?

Oumar Solet (RB Salzburg) : if he has never been able to assert himself in Lyon, of which he has only worn the jersey twice in Ligue 1, Oumar Solet has not lost his footing by joining Red Bull Salzburg. The former French international U20 has found a club that leaves room for young people and he is now thriving. Its 192 centimeters combined with a good quality ball at the foot – attests to it his assist three weeks ago against Brøndby in C1 play-offs – allowed the native of Melun to quickly settle in the hinge of the Austrian club. An opponent of choice for Burak Yılmaz and Lille who will cross his path in the group stage.

By the way, what channel is it happening on?

For those who missed the info, we rewind. For the period 2021-2024, it is not one, not two, but three broadcasters who will have the honor of broadcasting the matches of the Cup to the big ears. Canal + and RMC Sport will thus co-broadcast all the matches of the competing French clubs (i.e. a minimum of twelve matches this season), while beIN Sports will offer all the other C1 matches, from the first day of the group stage until the final. Note that the latter will also be available unencrypted on TF1. Capiche?

By Fabien Gelinat

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