Expect the Unexpected – The UEFA Champions League returns

Goal has teamed up with Nissan to get you closer to the action than ever before as our team of club correspondents welcome you behind the scenes of th

The 2015-16 season saw the football world turned on its head. 

They said there could be no more shocks. Globalisation, unprecedented TV deals and the stockpiling of talent like never before had made the stuff of fairytales all but extinct from the modern game. 

But Leicester City refused to buy into it. And so did Portugal. First the Foxes claimed perhaps the most unlikely league title in European football history and then, just weeks later, a Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal stunned hosts France at Euro 2016.

European football is once again ready to Expect the Unexpected and the UEFA Champions League will provide the great setting against which the most romantic of scriptwriters will be itching to plot yet more heroic surprise endings.

The competition kicked off on Tuesday with a Barcelona masterclass as they swept Celtic aside 7-0 while PSG played out a competitive 1-1 draw with Arsenal in Paris. 

Anderson Talisca returned to Lisbon to haunt his former club, Benfica, with a last-minute equaliser for his new club, Besiktas, and belting rain meant Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City had to wait an extra 24 hours to kick-off their quest for glory.

Wednesday sees Leicester make their bow, in Brugge, while reigning champions Real Madrid begin their hunt for a 12th UCL crown by hosting Sporting in the Spanish capital. 

Tottenham, meanwhile, return to the group stage to welcome Monaco to London and Italian heavyweights Juventus face off against the reigning Europa League champions, Sevilla.

And Goal has teamed up with Nissan to ensure you join us every step of the way. We’ll be taking you closer to the action than ever before as our team of club correspondents provide unprecedented access to the Champions League.
 
From PSG and Barcelona to Manchester City and Real Madrid, our eye witnesses will bring you an exclusive Instagram story throughout Tuesday to welcome you behind-the-scenes of the biggest stage of all. Also, stay tuned to the Goal International Facebook page for all the best VIP Matchday footage.

Koscielny plays down Wenger's title drought at Arsenal

The Gunners have not claimed the Premier League crown since 2003-04, but their French defender insists an iconic manager has still achieved plenty

Laurent Koscielny says Arsene Wenger has “built men” at Arsenal, with it important that his work outside of trophy chasing is acknowledged.

The Gunners have lifted the FA Cup on two occasions in recent years, but their Premier League title drought has now reached the 13-year mark.

Giroud: We all hope Wenger signs

Another attempt at ending that barren run is being pieced together at present, with Arsenal currently sat eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea in fourth.

Expensive Squads Arsenal

Every effort will be made to close that gap over the coming months, but Koscielny has called for less emphasis to be placed on a title drought at the Emirates Stadium and more credit to be given to Wenger for keeping the club in contention while building for the future.

“You may say that we haven’t won the title for a long time, but he has not just built players, he’s built men too,” the France international told Arsenal Player.

“Every player who has played for Arsenal has grown here and has become a man. It’s a big number [of players]. For me and the others, it’s a good opportunity to be with him and learn from him.

Arsene Wenger Arsenal 2017

“He’s passionate about football. He loves football and he loves to watch his team play well with the ball. That’s why he’s here again after 20 years.

“Along with a lot of people, he’s helped this club grow with a new stadium, a new training ground, and he built the platform for us to compete for the Premier League and Champions League every year.”

Alexis: I’m really happy at Arsenal

Wenger may not get too many more opportunities to establish domestic dominance, with his current contract at Arsenal running down.

No extension has been agreed as yet to a deal due to expire in the summer, with uncertainty shrouding the future of a man who has spent over 20 years in the Gunners dugout.

Giroud joins Ozil in calling for new Arsenal deal for Wenger

The Gunners’ German playmaker says his future rests on his manager agreeing fresh terms, but he is not the only one hoping to see the Frenchman commit

Olivier Giroud has added his voice to those calling for Arsene Wenger to be handed a new contract at Arsenal.

The Frenchman has spent 20 years in charge of the Gunners, but there is a chance that the 2016-17 campaign will be his last.

Giroud: I understand China temptation

Wenger is due to reach the end of his current deal in the summer, and no fresh terms have been agreed as yet.

Uncertainty regarding the leadership of the club is having a knock-on effect further down the chain, with Mesut Ozil admitting that his own future will be shaped by that of his current boss.

As he keeps Arsenal hanging on an extension to a deal set to expire in 2018, the World Cup winner said: “I want to be clear on what Wenger is doing.

“The club knows that I am, above all, here because of Arsene Wenger – who signed me and whose trust I have.

My goal was better – Giroud

“The club also knows that I just want to be clear on what the manager will do.”

Ozil is not the only one waiting on developments in those talks, though, with Giroud eager to see his fellow countryman commit to the club.

He said: “We hope that the boss will sign a new contract because we all want to keep going with this squad.

“It [would] be nice news for the team and the club. From my side, obviously it’s a good thing because I feel very good at Arsenal.”

Giroud recently signed a new long-term contract at Emirates Stadium and believes keeping Wenger on board will help Arsenal to continue pushing for major honours.

Giroud and Europe’s most decisive players

He added: “I really want to carry on to win the league, and to always improve myself.”

Arsenal currently sit fourth in the Premier League table, eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

'You never know!' – Giroud open to future China move

The France striker says he sees why so many players have been lured to the Far East but says his ambition will ensure he stays in England for now

Olivier Giroud says he could end up moving to China in the future, but insists he wants to be a Premier League champion with Arsenal first.

My goal was better than Mkhitaryan’s – Giroud

The Frenchman has won the FA Cup twice with the Gunners since making the switch from Montpellier in June 2012, but glory in the league has thus far evaded him.

There has been a big influx of talent making the move to China with the likes of Oscar, Axel Witsel, Carlos Tevez and John Obi Mikel among those to have transferred in January.

However, Giroud – who recently extended his contract at Emirates Stadium – is keen to prioritise winning further honours with Arsenal, regardless of how tempting an offer may arrive from China.

“Honestly, from my point of view I will tell you that I can understand,” Giroud told reporters when asked about the recent big-money moves to China.

“But if you asked me if I want to go now I will tell you no.

Mesut Ozil’s luxurious €35 million mansion

“The Premier League is my main target, but once I have won the title one day, why not, you never know.”

Giroud has scored 10 goals in 20 appearances in all competitions this term for Arsenal, who currently sit fourth in the Premier League – eight points behind leaders Chelsea ahead of Sunday’s encounter with Burnley.

My goal was better than Mkhitaryan's – Giroud

Both players scored in similarly outrageous style within the space of a few days – a situation that the Frenchman described as “crazy”

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud joked that his scorpion kick goal was better than Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s effort for Manchester United.

Ozil called out over wage demands by Labour leader Corbyn

Giroud scored a stunning effort against Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day, flicking out his left boot and sending the ball over goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey in off the crossbar.

Mkhitaryan scored in similarly astonishing fashion at home to Sunderland less than a week prior and his effort saw him claim Goal of the Month for December.

However, Giroud believes his was the pick of the pair.

“Actually, they were teasing me, saying that the Mkhitaryan one was better!” he said in a Q&A video with Sky’s ‘Soccer AM’.

“It’s crazy that two similar goals were scored in one week. I don’t know if I got inspired, it’s destiny.

“He did very well as well, but I think mine is better! But to be serious it was funny in the dressing room, we were all surprised by what happened.”

Giroud has scored seven goals in the Premier League this season as Arsenal sit fourth in the table, eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea.