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Live blogging the Champions League


The Champions League is back and our reporters are currently wringing out their wet things (Mitch Phillips at Chelsea)/basking in the evening sunshine by the River Manzanares (Iain Rogers at Atletico) and undergoing all climactic variations in between.

Tonight’s first tranche of eight matches includes a repeat of the very first Champions League final, with AC Milan visiting Marseille, plus the European debut of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka for Real Madrid, with the Spaniards visiting Zurich.

We also have Manchester United at Besiktas, Wolfsburg hosting CSKA, Atletico at home to APOEL, Bayern Munich visiting Maccabi Haifa and Juventus against Bordeaux.

We’ll have every goal as they go in here, plus a few bits of commentary from me, and our reporters if the comms hold up, along the way.

Who will win the battle between Ibra and Eto’o?


Boy, the Champions League is back with a bang. How much juicier can you get than holders Barcelona at Inter Milan in their first game?  

If the Spanish champions against their Italian counterparts wasn’t enough, we’ve got the added spice of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o playing against their former clubs at the first possible opportunity following their extraordinary close-season swap deal.

Champions League draw … Kaka, Ibrahimovic back to Milan


The draw for the group phase of the 2009-10 Champions League has just finished in Monaco and it’s thrown up a couple of groups to savour especially.

Real Madrid getting drawn in Group C means they will face AC Milan … and that means a return to the San Siro for Kaka, who made the switch over the close season. Likewise, Barcelona’s big signing Zlatan ibrahimovic will be on his way back to Milan, after Inter joined the holders in Group F.

Selling Robben is good business but is it good sense?


If reports in Spain are correct and Real Madrid have agreed to sell Arjen Robben to Bayern Munich for 25 million euros, that would seem to be an excellent piece of business for the Spanish club.

Real paid a king’s ransom to take Robben from Chelsea a couple of years ago — when £24 million pounds was a lot more in euros than it is now — and I think it’s fair to say that he didn’t quite make the impact the fans were hoping for.

Vukcevic takes his shirt off, lets the side down


Has there ever been a more stupid and pointless sending off than  Simon Vukcevic’s dismissal for Sporting against Fiorentina in the Champions League play-off round on Tuesday night?

The 23-year-old Montenegro striker, booked for getting involved in a petty squabble with an opponent after 12 minutes, then scored after 58 minutes to put Sporting level at 1-1 after Fiorentina had taken an early lead.

Arsenal v Celtic in play-offs. Is this what Platini wanted?


The draw for the Champions League final qualifying round raises the question whether Michel Platini and UEFA have done the right thing by giving teams from Europe’s less heralded leagues a better chance of reaching the money-spinning group stage.

On one hand, restructuring the qualifying campaign has opened the group stage doors to Latvian champions Venstpils, Cypriots APOEL Nicosia, Hungarian title holders Debrecen and Moldovans Sheriff Tiraspol.

City’s spending spree makes sense in battle for fourth place


There’s been a fair bit of speculation, here and elsewhere, about whether Manchester City could actually win the Premier League title but a more realistic goal is a top four finish. That being the case, the summer spending spree seen by some as being brash and uncoordinated is actually very shrewd.

Look carefully, and what City have managed to do, with the recruitment of Gareth Barry from Aston Villa and Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure from Arsenal, is to weaken two of their rivals for fourth place.

Too big to go down, too small for the Champions League


Champions League qualifying has begun so the new football season in Europe is well and truly underway.

But while Mogren of Montenegro celebrate their victory over Hibernians of Malta in the first qualifying round last week, spare a thought for those famous European sides who are unlikely to grace the competition even in a qualifying tie, let alone the group stage.

Benitez spends big, but does Johnson fit the bill?


Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez fought long and hard for greater control of the Anfield club’s transfer funds and first through the door since he agreed his new contract is Portsmouth’s Glen Johnson. He didn’t come cheap, either.

At a reported 17 million pounds, Johnson is an expensive acquisition for a player who never quite made it at Chelsea, and has only recently found success in the England team after raiding down Portsmouth’s right hand side last season.

Notts County v Juve in the Champions League? Maybe…


Notts County might have been in the wilderness for many years now but they have never been far from the footballing consciousness.

Remember the great Glen Campbell hit of the 1960s “Wichita Lineman” which opens with: “I am a lineman for the county”.