The UEFA Champions League’s group stage kicks off this Tuesday and Wednesday across the FOX family of networks, with a series of mouthwatering clashes between Europe’s best and biggest club teams. Here’s a look at 10 can’t-miss games and the storylines surrounding them. -- Jamie Trecker
PSV Eindhoven vs. Manchester United (Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2 p.m. ET, FS1)
It’s a return to old stomping grounds for Manchester United’s Louis van Gaal and new signing Memphis Depay. Depay transferred from the Dutch giants this summer and will give his old side an immediate chance to show them what they are missing (or, perhaps not) while former Netherlands boss van Gaal should be intimately familiar with his foes. Right out of the gate, this is a test for the expensively assembled and yet far-from-convincing United side, returning to the Champions League after a year’s absence.
Man Utd via Getty ImagesJohn Peters
Manchester City vs. Juventus (Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2 p.m. ET, FS2)
On paper this is a killer clash between Italy’s champs and a City side that has shown little evidence of possessing any European pedigree. In practice, City are likely meeting the Italians at exactly the right time: Juve have stumbled out of the gate in Italy, while the Sky Blues are sweeping aside all comers in England in a manner that suggests the title race might be over sooner than later. Reported City transfer target Paul Pogba will be the focus of all the attention, while Kevin de Bruyne is expected to get a run out as part of what may be Europe’s second-best attacking trident.
Getty ImagesPaolo Bruno
Roma vs. Barcelona (Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2 p.m. ET, FS1)
Roma are off to a good start in Italy and with the pickup of Edin Dzeko on loan, look a dangerous and surprisingly complete team. Mohamed Salah and Daniele de Rossi form a solid supply line for Dzeko and Gervinho, while on-loan Arsenal outcast Wojciech Szczesny is already showing a determination to prove Arsene Wenger wrong. But this is a stiff test for the Italians: Barcelona have the best attack of any side in Europe, and while their defense can be suspect, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez can carve you apart. You feel that if Barca give up a goal or two, they’ll just go out and score three.
AS Roma via Getty ImagesLuciano Rossi
Barcelona vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Tuesday, Sept. 29)
This is a potentially intriguing matchup. Leverkusen have not beat Barcelona in 14 years and were on the wrong end of a memorable two-legged beat-down in the 2012 quarterfinals. (Barca ran it up to 10-2 with Messi scoring an incredible five goals in a single game.) To say Leverkusen are smarting from that loss is an understatement; whether or not they can do much about it is another question entirely. They have some talent – Chicharito joined on loan from Manchester United and will be the key draw – but they are otherwise a rather average German side. Christoph Kramer and Karim Bellarabi have talent, but can they contain Barcelona?
Getty ImagesAlex Caparros
Porto vs. Chelsea (Tuesday, Sept. 29)
A game tinged with nostalgia as Jose Mourinho returns to the team he made his name at. Porto are not slackers – they have some talent, albeit aged, in Miguel Layun, Iker Casillas and Maxi Pereira. They also have some potential breakout players, with Porto taking gambles on Mexico’s Jesus Corona, Spain’s Cristian Tello and troubled Italian forward Dani Osvaldo. But this is not 2004, and even with Chelsea’s early-season struggles, this should be a happy homecoming for the Special One. Pedro, Eden Hazard and Willian are simply several cuts above anything Porto can offer.
Getty ImagesAlex Livesey
Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Manchester City (Wednesday, Sept. 30)
This is a tricky road test for Manchester City against a German side that is not half-bad. American Fabian Johnson, who should return from injury by this match, is starting to look like one of the better defenders in the Bundesliga, while Thorgan Hazard and Josip Drmic have been tough on opponents in the early going. Still, a City side with good reinforcements in the back and down the spine – Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi look a potentially rock-solid pairing – this should be the kind of game that the would-be champions win on the road. But given City’s spotty European history, take nothing for granted.
Getty ImagesMatthew Ashton - AMA
Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich (Tuesday, Oct. 20)
This game is likely to be the battle to decide Group F. Arsenal and Bayern share a long history, with the German champs eliminating the Gunners on the away-goals rule in 2013 after a complete Arsenal collapse at home. On paper, the Bavarians still have the edge: Thomas Muller is one of the best strikers in the world, Douglas Costa may be the buy of the season and Manuel Neuer is the planet’s best goalkeeper right now, bar none. Arsenal have talent, but their mystifying refusal to reinforce up top, where they are overly dependent on the lackluster Olivier Giroud, already has sent their fans into fits of anguish. Then again, so has the Gunners’ poor start to the English season.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesBoris Streubel
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Real Madrid (Wednesday, Oct. 21)
This is the marquee match of the Champions League group stage. There is power, money, history and passion on both sides of the ball. Zlatan, Cavani and Lavezzi against Ronaldo, James, Benzema and Bale. Do you really need to know any more? Get the popcorn now.
Real Madrid via Getty ImagesAngel Martinez
Manchester City vs. Sevilla (Wednesday, Oct. 21)
The match will be overshadowed by a certain other game on Matchday 3 (see: PSG vs. Real Madrid) but this could prove a critical game for the Citizens. Sevilla, back-to-back Europa League winners, have a heck of a team -- the kind that can cause City all sorts of problems. Anchored by Coke and steered by Ever Banega, Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Llorente, Sevilla can score big goals. Grzegorz Krychowiak is emerging as a premier defensive midfielder and Ciro Immobile is looking to restart what appeared to be a white-hot career after a dismal tenure at Borussia Dortmund. Sevilla are not a team any side want to face. The fact that this could be a must-win at home for City should only add to the drama.
Getty ImagesGonzalo Arroyo Moreno
Malmö FF vs. Paris Saint-Germain (Wednesday, Oct. 25)
Another homecoming, with prodigal son Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to the city where it all started. A youth prospect and budding star for Malmo, Ibra scored 16 goals here before making the first of what would prove to be a number of high-profile moves across Europe’s top clubs. Malmo got into the Champions League at the expense of Glasgow Celtic, and while they are basically cannon fodder in Group A, they did show some resilience and pride in the playoffs. Don’t expect them to make it easy on their former starlet.