New starts for Messi, Ronaldo

September 14, 2021 Sports
The 2020-21 UEFA Champions League gets underway tonight with holders Chelsea among 32 teams aiming for the final in Saint Petersburg. Matchday 1 offers some world-class clashes.

Following his arrival in Paris this summer, Lionel Messi can play his first game for his new side when they kick off away to Club Brugge on Wednesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo could play his first European game for Manchester United since a 2-0 defeat in the 2009 final against Messi's Barcelona. Ronaldo leads Messi 134-120 in the competition's all-time scorers list.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, however, said he will carefully manage Ronaldo's playing time.  "It's not impossible to leave him out. He is 36. Mason (Greenwood) is 19 so it's the same, I have to manage his minutes and I have to manage a 36-year-old's minutes as well," he said.

Ronaldo, who scored a brace on his second debut in Saturday's 4-1 win against Newcastle, was included in the 22-man squad.

Chelsea return to the fray with a home game against Russian champions Zenit, whose Gazprom Arena will stage this season's UEFA Champions League final.

Barcelona face Bayern again, without Messi, after year of upheaval and change. "We need change from top to bottom," Gerard Pique said but even he could not have predicted what followed as Barcelona, without Lionel Messi, reunite with Bayern Munich on Tuesday, a year on from the defeat that changed everything.

After the 8-2 loss by Bayern in the Champions League quarter-finals, Pique said Barca needed change of all kinds, "not just players and coaches, but structurally", insisting "new blood" was needed. "We are not able to compete in Europe," he said.

Amazingly, Matchday 1 brings only the third competitive meeting for AC Milan and Liverpool. The first was Liverpool's shoot-out success in the 2005 UEFA Champions League football: the 'Miracle of Istanbul', in which the Reds hauled back a 3-0 deficit to triumph. Milan fans, though, will remember the last encounter more fondly, the Rossoneri beating the Reds 2-1 in the 2007 decider in Athens.