Sunday 16 December 2018

Kick-off times have changed and a new Irish TV set-up kicks-in as the Champions League returns

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp walks past the Champions League trophy after defeat in last season's final
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp walks past the Champions League trophy after defeat in last season's final
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

The UEFA Champions League explodes back into action this week and there are some notable changes to look out for as Europe's big-hitters lock horns once again.

The traditional 7.45pm kick-off time for Champions League matches is no more, with most games now kicking of at 8pm aside from four matches each week that have a 17.55 kick-off time. This allows viewers to watch two matches on one night, with Tottenham and Barcelona among the teams handed the early time slot this week.

There are also some changes to the television set-up, with RTE showing one game on a Tuesday night and the recently launched Virgin Media network showing a 17.55 kick-off on Tuesdays.

Virgin will also screen the Wednesday matches on their subscription channel, with eirSport still showing Champions League games on their platform thanks to their tie-in with BT Sport in the UK.

Here is your guide to the games featuring the English clubs on Matchday 1 of the Champions League.

TUESDAY

INTER MILAN v TOTTENHAM (17.55)

Tottenham drew the shortest of straws when they were paired with Inter Milan from pot 4 and Spanish champions Barcelona, with their first big test of the competition at the San Siro pivotal to their hopes of progress.

After finishing fourth in Serie A last season under coach Luciano Spalletti, optimism is high for 2010 European champions Inter after qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in seven years.

Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan was a high profile signing for Inter ahead of this season, while Ivan Perisic will be a key man once again after the Serie A club fended off transfer interest in their Croatian World Cup hero.

One to watch: Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Tottenham’s talisman has looked below his best for several months and is showing real signs of fatigue, but Spurs cannot afford to rest him. They need him to shine in Italy.

Verdict: A scoring draw will suit Tottenham.

LIVERPOOL v PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN (20.00)

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Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool are hoping to go one better than last year’s Champions League final defeat, starting tonight at Anfield against Paris Saint-Germain. Photo: Getty Images
 

A blockbuster of a game will fire the starting gun on Liverpool’s first Champions League game since their painful defeat in last May’s final final against Real Madrid, with new PSG boss Thomas Tuchel appreciating he needs to deliver success in this competition to satisfy his paymasters.

Unai Emery was ousted from his position as PSG boss after he failed to crack their European glass ceiling, yet inheriting a forward line of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani ensures he will have no scoring problems this season.

While PSG dominate the French league, they need to confirm they have the big-game mentality to handle the pressure that goes with nights like this at Anfield.

One to watch: Kylian Mbappe (PSG)

This teenager lived up to his billing as the rising star of the game as he carried France to World Cup glory last summer and he will want to add Champions League gold to his already impressive list of winners’ medals.

Verdict: A thrilling draw at Anfield.

Also playing: Club Brugge v Borussia Dortmund, Monaco v Atletico Madrid, Barcelona v PSV Eindhoven (17:55), Red Star Belgrade v Napoli, Schalke v Porto, Galatasaray v Lokomotiv Moscow

WEDNESDAY

MANCHESTER CITY v LYON (20:00)

After a summer of intense transfer speculation that included a collapsed move to Liverpool, Nabil Fekir is still Lyon skipper he will get a chance to showcase his talents to an English audience.

There may be even more interest in the form of Memphis Depay, with the Dutch winger who failed to shine under two managers at Manchester United regain his form and sparkle since his move to Lyon a little over a year ago.

With Shakhtar Donetsk and Hoffenheim also in Group F, this game at the Etihad Stadium could be a contest to decide who claims in the pool and top seeding for the knock-out phase.

One to watch: Memphis Depay (Lyon)

After his struggles under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, Depay scored an impressive total of 19 goals in Ligue 1 last season.

Verdict: City to have too much for Lyon.

YOUNG BOYS v MANCHESTER UNITED (20:00)

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho
 

There were wild scenes of jubilation as Young Boys qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history with a play-off win against Dinamo Zagreb and now this game against United is being hailed as one of the biggest in the club’s history.

Champions of Switzerland for the first time in 32 year last season, the exit of coach Adolf Hutter (yes that really is his name) to Eintracht Frankfurt was a hammer blow to Young Boys, with new boss Gerardo Seoane already achieving his first aim by getting into the Champions League group phase.

Young Boys have won only one of their six previous fixtures against English clubs, with their 3-2 first leg win against Tottenham in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League play-offs first leg counting for little as they were hammered 4-0 in the return match at White Hart Lane.

One to watch: Paul Pogba (Man United)

All eyes have been on the French international since his World Cup win with France in the summer and he has struggled to live up to his billing so far. United need him to shine in the Champions League.

Verdict: A comfortable night for United.

Also playing: Ajax v AEK Athens (17:55), Benfica v Bayern Munich, Shakhtar Donetsk v 1899 Hoffenheim (17:55), Real Madrid v Roma, Viktoria Plzen v CSKA Moscow, Valencia v Juventus

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