By Samuel Opio
The anthem, the global superstars, the evening football to base your working week around is back!
The Champions League main tournament returns today, 115 days after Gareth Bale’s double for Real Madrid helped them beat Liverpool in the 2017-18 final.
It starts with a bang, with several big matches in this week’s opening round. Here are the ones we’re most excited about watching.
Two of European football’s great entertainers – and potential champions -meet, with arguably the best attacking players in world football, Liverpool Vs PSG.
Since the break-up of Real Madrid’s ‘BBC’ – Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo – and Barcelona’s ‘MSN’ – Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, the debate for the top strikeforce is wide open.
Neymar left Barcelona for PSG in the summer of 2017 for a world record £200m, joining £165.7m Kylian Mbappe and the club’s all-time top scorer Edinson Cavani in a fearsome front three.
But Liverpool is equally impressive, with Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah each scoring 10 Champions League goals last season – three of only four players to hit double figures in the tournament.
Paris St-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel’s two previous managerial roles have been identical to Reds boss Jurgen Klopp’s taking over Mainz in 2009, a year after Klopp resigned. And when Klopp left Dortmund in 2015, Tuchel was the man to replace him again. However, he slightly broke tradition this summer when he became PSG manager – a team Klopp has never worked for.
“There are so many narratives,” said Laurens. “Klopp against Tuchel – Tuchel facing his mentor really. I don’t think there’s anyone who knows Klopp as well as Tuchel. I don’t think anyone knows Tuchel as well as Klopp either. It’ll be fascinating to see how they set up tactically and play the game. The atmosphere will be amazing. I can’t wait for it.”
Laurens already knows how this year’s final will go. “This is PSG’s year,” he said. “This is Kylian Mbappe’s year, Neymar’s year and Gianluigi Buffon’s year.
“They will win the Champions League in Madrid against Juventus in the final, with Buffon winning his first and last – because I can see him retiring on that peak of his career, winning the only trophy he hasn’t won. “Juventus couldn’t win it with him and yet they’ll beat them in the final. There’s no debate – this is what’s going to happen.”