What’s that I hear? Is that the UEFA Champions League anthem?
Yes. Yes it is. That trademark multi-lingual chorus means the greatest sports league in the world returns on Tuesday.
32 of Europe’s best begin the group stage in the season-long process to determine the club champion of European football, and it gets underway with some must-watch games.
Here’s the soccer you need to catch this week.
MONDAY, SEPT. 11
Haven’t caught a Huddersfield Town match yet? Here’s your chance. The surprisingly still-undefeated Premier League newcomers wrap up Matchweek 4 at West Ham, which is still looking for its first points of the year. 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
TUESDAY, SEPT. 12
Barcelona. Juventus. Let’s get Champions League started off right.
A rematch of last year’s quarterfinal (Juventus won 3-0 on aggregate) kicks off the group stage. Host Barcelona looks to fill the void left by Neymar’s departure to PSG with 20-year-old new signing Ousmane Dembélé, who joins up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez up front. They’ll try to do what they couldn’t last year by finding the net against Juventus’ stingy defense, while 23-year-old Argentine star Paulo Dybala leads the Italian side’s attack. 2:45 p.m. ET, FS2, Fox Soccer Match Pass
Over on FS1, you can catch 2017 Europa League champion Manchester United hosting Swiss side FC Basel in Group A. And if you want to keep an eye on the other concurrent games, Fox Soccer Match Pass is offering a free 7-day preview.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 13
If there’s a “Group of Death” in this year’s Champions League group stage, it’s Group H. England’s No. 2 from last year, Tottenham Hotspur, kicks off the CL season at their temporary home of Wembley Stadium against Germany’s Borussia Dortmund. American national team fans will have a special interest in this one, with 18-year-old star Christian Pulisic picking up playing time after the aforementioned Dembélé’s move to Barcelona. 2:45 p.m. ET, FS1, Fox Soccer Match Pass
It could be a vital three points for whoever wins that match, because they’re joined in Group H by two-time defending champion Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo and co. should cruise against APOEL FC, from Cyprus. 2:45 p.m. ET, FS2, Fox Soccer Match Pass
For a complete Champions League schedule, head here.
The start of Champions League also means the start of UEFA’s Europa League, essentially the NIT to UCL’s March Madness. Always played on Thursday after Champions League on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the winner of Europa league earns a berth to Champions League the following year.
After a disappointing fifth-place finish last year, England club Arsenal is here instead of UCL for the first time in 17 years, and not without plenty of drama. Alexis Sanchez is still on the squad, despite his reported wishes to be transferred to Manchester City last month. The Gunners host Germany’s 1. FC Köln in its Group H opener. 3 p.m. ET, FS1, Fox Soccer Match Pass
Other notable teams in action include Everton, Nice and Hoffenheim. The full schedule is available here.
Fridays tend to be slower around the soccer world, but there’s a relatively new trend in some of the European leagues to put a game on Friday night. More soccer on TV? I’m not complaining. It’s back to domestic play after the week of UEFA, and your options include a potential Premier League relegation battle preview between Bournemouth and Brighton and Hove Albion (3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports) and a Bundesliga showdown between Hannover 96 and Hamburger SV (2:30 p.m. ET, FS2), which are both off to hot starts.
Let’s stay stateside for one of the biggest games of the weekend, at least if you measure by attendance. The new Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be open to full capacity at 75,000+ when Atlanta United hosts Orlando City as they try to become the first expansion team to make the playoffs since the Seattle Sounders in 2009. Both previous games in this budding rivalry had some late drama. 4 p.m. ET, Univision, Facebook Live
It’s a busy soccer Saturday and you can’t really go wrong whatever you watch, but here are some other matches to prioritize:
Premier League: Watford vs. Manchester City, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports
Bundesliga: RB Leipzig vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach, 12:30 p.m. ET, FS2
La Liga: Atletico Madrid vs. Malaga, 2:45 p.m. ET, beIN Sports Connect
It’s always big when London foes Chelsea and Arsenal get together. Defending champion Chelsea has looked nearly unstoppable since a surprising season-opening loss to Burnley, while Arsenal has had quite the roller coaster past month. A win at their cross-town rivals could go a long way to righting the ship. 8:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold
Elsewhere: Welcome to Paris, Kylian Mbappé. The 18-year-old superstar scored in his Paris-St. Germain debut last week, but Sunday will be his introduction to the home fans at the Parc de Princes when PSG hosts Lyon. Oh yeah, and don’t forget about Neymar, either. 3 p.m. ET, beIN Sports Connect