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  1. Soccer

Champions League - Football: Wednesday preview

Eight more teams begin their 2022-23 Champions League group stage campaign on Wednesday night, with Rangers visiting Ajax among the highlights.

Rangers make their long-awaited return to Europe's elite competition with a trip to the Netherlands in the early kick-off, while two sets of titans clash on Italian shores.

Rangers ready to roll back the years

WhatAjax v Rangers, Champions League Group A
WhereJohan Cruifjj ArenA, Amsterdam
When17:45, Wednesday 7th September 2022
How to watchBT Sport 3
OddsAjax 9/20, draw 15/4, Rangers 11/2

Saturday's "very disappointing" performance in the 4-0 Old Firm hammering at Celtic on Saturday led Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst to call on his side to reflect, but will the midweek switch from league to cup - and a chance to hit reset - prove a blessing or a curse as the club lays foundations for its European campaign?

Not since the 2010/11 season has the blue half of Glasgow been able to roar its side on against the continent's best, and though the Champions League's return to Ibrox will have to wait until next Tuesday's visit of Napoli, Gers can add to the celebrations with a strong performance - and result - in their opener in Amsterdam.

Ajax have undergone significant personnel changes since winning all six of their group stage matches last season - manager Erik ten Hag was Manchester United-bound at the end of term, as were Antony and Lisandro Martinez, while Sebastian Haller swapped the Netherlands for Germany with Borussia Dortmund.

That being said, the Dutch side have won five from five in the Eredivisie, with new recruit Steven Bergwijn - a familiar face for Premier League fans following his time at Tottenham - netting twice in last weekend's 4-0 thumping of Cambuur.

For Rangers, Tom Lawrence missed the weekend's action through a knee injury and is expected to be sidelined for weeks, while three centre-backs remain out of contention in Ben Davies, John Souttar and Filip Helander; Kemar Roofe and Ianis Hagi are also absent.

Jon McLaughlin's error to gift Celtic their fourth goal on Saturday is not expected to cost him a starting spot, with veteran stopper Allan McGregor, who started Rangers' last Champions League match in 2020, likely among the substitutes.

Rangers have fared well one in the Netherlands so far this season, having beaten PSV Eindhoven 1-0 in the playoff round second leg.

Inter aiming to replicate domestic strength


What


Inter Milan v Bayern Munich, Champions League Group C

WhereSan Siro, Milan
When20:00, Wednesday 7th September 2022
How to watchBT Sport 5
Odds

Inter 14/5, Bayern 4/5, draw 16/5


Milan is the place to be for premium Italian football, with the San Siro duo ruling the roost in last year's Serie A.

Defending champions Inter lost out in a bitter contest with rivals AC, falling into second place by just two points, but over a decade has passed since the Nerazzurri's finest hour in modern times: victory in the 2010 final over Bayern Munich.

And it is with a repeat of said encounter that Simone Inzaghi's men open their European jaunt this term, and after a mixed start to the new domestic campaign, the fixtures only get tougher.

Beaten in the Derby della Madonnina despite taking an early lead through Marcelo Brozovic, Inter have now lost two of their last three league games and sit a modest seventh in Serie A, and will be praying that home advantage will be made to count against their German opponents given that Barcelona lie in wait on matchday three and four.

Similarly though, Bayern, who are unbeaten but have drawn their last two league games, will be looking to kickstart a resurgence.

Last season saw Inzaghi navigate through a group of arguably less troublesome nature, as two wins over Sheriff Tiraspol and four points against Shakhtar Donetsk counterbalanced double defeats to Real Madrid, earning them a spot against eventual finalists Liverpool in the last 16.

Romelu Lukaku started brightly on his return to Italy, but has since been struck down by injury, but Lautaro Martinez - holding the fort in his absence - can be backed at 2/1 to find the net anytime for the hosts.

WhatNapoli v Liverpool, Champions League Group A
WhereStadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples
When20:00, Wednesday 7th September 2022
How to watchBT Sport 2
OddsNapoli 12/5, draw 14/5, Liverpool 1/1 


Sitting second in the Italian league standings, Napoli have built well on their third-placed finish last time out and make their return to the Champions League group stages after a three-year absence.

Last season's runners-up Liverpool are the opponents, a team with whom the Neapolitans have plenty a recent clash from which to draw experience.

The pair traded wins in the group phase of the 2018/19 tournament, before Liverpool earned a 1-1 draw in Italy to take four points off them the following year.

But this time, the Reds' return to Stadio Diego Armando Maradona comes at an opportune moment for Luciano Spalletti's men, who have just returned to winning ways following draws against Fiorentina and Lecce in late August.

Main man Khvicha Kvaratskhelia netted for the fourth time this season as Napoli inflicted a first loss of the campaign on Lazio, briefly reaching the league summit before team-to-beat Atalanta regained top spot by putting Monza to the sword.

Given Liverpool’s recent struggles - Jurgen Klopp's side are yet to win away in three Premier League away assignments - the time may come again for Kvaratskhelia to shine, especially given that a facial injury forced Hirving Lozano from play at the weekend.

The Georgian is priced at 10/1 to close the scoring on Wednesday evening.

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