- UEFA Champions commences on Tuesday with four new clubs in the 32-team field
- Final set for 29 May in Istanbul, scene of Liverpool's famous 2005 comeback win
- FIFA.com previews the campaign, including a stellar Barcelona-Juventus match-up
It was just 57 days ago that Bayern Munich secured their sixth European crown in Lisbon, in the process completing the treble of German Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and UEFA Champions League for the second time in seven years. With the group phase of Europe’s premier club competition kicking off on Tuesday 20 October, FIFA.com looks ahead to the 2021 edition.
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D||Group E||Group F||Group G||Group H|
|Atletico Madrid||Monchengladbach||Marseille||Liverpool||Krasnodar||Dortmund||Juventus||Man United|
|Salzburg||Real Madrid||Man City||Midtjylland||Chelsea||Zenit||Barcelona||Leipzig|
|Lokomotiv||Shakhtar Donetsk||Porto||Atalanta||Sevilla||Club Brugge||Ferencvaros||Basaksehir|
|Bayern Munich||Inter Milan||Olympiacos||Ajax||Rennes||Lazio||Dynamo||PSG|
Path to the final in Istanbul
Matchday 1: 20/21 October
Matchday 2: 27/28 October
Matchday 3: 03/04 November
Matchday 4: 24/25 November
Matchday 5: 01/02 December
Matchday 6: 08/09 December
Round of 16
First legs: 16/17 & 23/24 February
Return legs: 09/10 & 16/17 March
First legs: 06/07 April
Return legs: 13/14 April
First legs: 27/28 April
Return legs: 04/05 May
The final will be played at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, where the 2020 decider should have been played. St. Petersburg, originally scheduled to host the 2021 final, will now do so in 2022. With a capacity of some 70,000, the Istanbul venue stages Turkey’s home games and has been used by the capital’s clubs, including Galatasaray, Basaksehir and Besiktas, over the years.
In 2005, the legendary final of the Champions League between Liverpool and AC Milan also took place there. Popularly known as the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’, it witnessed the Reds overturning a 3-0 half-time deficit to eventually prevail on penalties.
Standout clashes of group phase
The group stage has thrown up some mouth-watering duels between teams of the highest calibre, perhaps none more so than Barça-Juve. The Group G showdown, scheduled for 28 October and 8 December, will pit Lionel Messi and Co against Cristiano Ronaldo and counterparts. In Group A, defending champions Bayern face Spanish heavyweights Atletico Madrid in their opening game, while the clashes between Real Madrid and Inter Milan, Liverpool and Ajax, and Manchester United and last year's beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain should have football fans everywhere licking their lips.
Lewandowski vs Suarez
Bayern's Robert Lewandowski top-scored in the last edition with 15 goals and was named 2020 European Footballer of the Year. Now, the Polish striker can go head-to-head with another formidable marksman in the shape of Luis Suarez in his side’s opening game. The Uruguayan, who netted his 150th La Liga goal at the weekend, will be keen to lay down a marker against the reigning champions following his recent move to Atletico.
Sergio Ramos will start his 17th successive Champions League campaign against Shakhtar. "You start every season from scratch,” said the 34-year-old Real Madrid captain. "You have to live every triumph and every title as if it were your first.”
Four teams will make their debuts in the Champions League proper this week: Basaksehir, Krasnodar, Rennes and Midtjylland.
"The connection I have with Marseille will last forever," Mathieu Valbuena tweeted shortly after his current club Olympiacos were drawn alongside Olympique de Marseille in Group C. The 36-year-old, who played almost 250 times for OM between 2006 and 2014, made such an impression there that the club did not use his No.28 jersey in 2015. It should be an emotional reunion for the player and his former employers on Wednesday.