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Champions League 2019-20 matchday 1: Defending champions Liverpool and 5-time winners Barcelona open their respective campaigns

ANALYST
Preview
17 Sep 2019, 01:53 IST

Liverpool v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg
Liverpool v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg

The 28th season of the UEFA Champions League, European club football's blue riband competition, kicks off with matchday 1 fixtures featuring six former champions. Defending champions Liverpool renew acquaintances with SSC Napoli, and five-time winners Barcelona travel to Borussia Dortmund in early marquee match-ups.

The other former winners in action on the first matchday are Internazionale, Benfica, Chelsea and Ajax. Here is a brief preview of the teams in action on matchday 1.

Group F: Internazionale (Italy) vs Slavia Praha (Czech Republic)

2010 winners Internazionale rejoice in Madrid
2010 winners Internazionale rejoice in Madrid

Serie A leaders and three-time European winners (1964-65, 2010) Internazionale of Italy open their 14th campaign in the Champions League against Czech champions Slavia Praha. This would be the first competitive meeting between the two sides.

Inter have won three of their four games against Czech clubs. Slavia, meanwhile, have won three and lost seven of their previous 12 games against Italian clubs and have not scored in their last five games against clubs from Italy.

This is Slavia's second campaign in the Champions League group stage. They finished third in their only previous outing in 2007-08. Slavia striker Abdulla Yusuf Helal could become the first-ever player from Bahrain to play in the Champions League.

Group G: Olympique Lyonnais (France) vs Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia)

Olympique Lyonnais
Olympique Lyonnais

This is Lyon's 17th campaign in the Champions League, with their best outing in the competition being a semifinal exit against Bayern Munich in 2009-10. Last season, the French side were eliminated by Barcelona in the Round of 16.

Lyon lost both their previous games against Zenit in the 2015-16 Champions League group stage. In four previous Champions League campaigns, Zenit have not progressed beyond the Round of 16.

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Group E: SSC Napoli (Italy) vs Liverpool (England)

Liverpool are the defending champions in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League
Liverpool are the defending champions in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League

Defending champions Liverpool renew their rivalry with Serie A side SSC Napoli for the second time in as many group stage campaigns in the Champions League. Last season, Liverpool lost 0-1 at Napoli and beat the Italian side by a solitary goal at Anfield to scrape through to the Round of 16 on superior goal difference.

In four previous games against Napoli, Liverpool have won twice, drawn once, and lost once. Liverpool are on a tear in the domestic scene, having won all five games of the season, and would hope to hit the ground running as they launch their European title defence.

Group E: Salzburg (Austria) vs Genk (Belgium)

Salzburg
Salzburg

This is Salzburg's second season in the Champions League group stage following their third-place finish on their tournament debut in 1994-95. Salzburg would meet Genk for the first time in a competitive fixture.

Genk are in the group stage of the Champions League for the third time, following 4th place finishes in their two previous outings - in 2002-03 and 2011-12 respectively.

Group F: Borussia Dortmund (Germany) vs Barcelona (Spain)

Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund

Both Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona are Champions League group stage regulars, but are meeting for the first time in the competition.

Last season, BVB were eliminated by Tottenham Hotspur in the Round of 16 while 5-time winners Barcelona squandered a three-goal first-leg lead to lose against eventual winners Liverpool in the semifinals.

Barca captain and talisman Lionel Messi is all set to play his first game of the season. The diminutive Argentinian has the most group-stage goals by any player in Champions League history.

Group G: Benfica (Portugal) vs Leipzig (Germany)

Benfica
Benfica

One of the newest clubs in Europe, Bundesliga frontrunners RB Leipzig (founded in 2009) are playing in the Champions League group stage for the second time, after finishing third in their debut campaign in 2017-18.

This is the first competitive meeting between the two clubs. In 52 previous games against German clubs, 1961-62 winners Benfica have won 15 and lost 22 times.

Last season, Benfica finished third in their group and ended their European campaign with a 4-4 away goals defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League quarterfinals.

Group H: Chelsea (England) vs Valencia (Spain)

Chelsea players celebrate the club
Chelsea players celebrate the club's 2018-19 Europa League title

Europa League winners Chelsea return to the Champions League group stage after a season's hiatus.

The 2012 winners open their campaign against Spanish side Valencia, against whom they have won thrice and drawn thrice in six previous meetings.

Last season, Valencia were eliminated in the group stage and lost to Arsenal in the semifinals of the Europa League.

Group H: Ajax (Netherlands) vs Lille OSC (France)

Ajax rejoice after eliminating three-time defending champions Real Madrid in the Round of 16 last season
Ajax rejoice after eliminating three-time defending champions Real Madrid in the Round of 16 last season

Last season's surprise semifinalists Ajax open their Champions League campaign against French side Lille OSC.

This would be 4-time winners Ajax's first competitive meeting with Lille, who are back in the competition after a gap of seven years.

Following the departures of their inspirational captain Matthijs de Ligt and the impressive Frenkie de Jong in the transfer window, Ajax would seek to discover new heroes as they plot their journey through the group stage.

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