By: Rania Elhilali
The 2023-24 Champions League season is upon us. It all kicks off on Tuesday with the opening match of AC Milan going up against Newcastle United, who have qualified for the first time in 20 years. With Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund filling out just that group, it is easy to imagine how this year’s edition of the Champions League could see some serious competition.
This season of UCL football will definitely carry some spectacular goals and upsets with all the teams in the mix. Beautiful football is upon us.
It all begins with Group A:
Group A: Bayern Munich, Manchester United, FC Copenhagen & Galatasaray
Under the leadership of Thomas Tuchel, Bayern Munich will look to fly past the group stages and into the round of 16 with their new signing, Harry Kane. Meanwhile, Manchester United will look for answers to recent Champions League struggles with their recent signing Rasmus Hojlund, who will come face-to-face with his past team FC Copenhagen. Out of Turkey, Super Lig champions Galatasaray will be the team to watch in Group A, looking to cause some havoc with the likes of Dries Mertens, Mauro Icardi, Wilfried Zaha and Hakim Ziyech.
Group B: Arsenal, Sevilla, PSV Eindhoven & Lens
Arsenal come back into the Champions League after six years and look comfortable under Mikel Arteta’s leadership and star-studded team. Sevilla enter Champions League play on the heels of glorious success in the Europa League, yet in La Liga they currently sit in 17th place as they struggle under the recent departure of goalkeeper Yassine Bounou to Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal in the summer transfer window. Nonetheless, Sevilla will look to draw from past victories in hopes of leading them through to the round of 16. Lens, who looked spectacular last season in Ligue 1, finishing second by only a single point to Paris Saint Germain. Still, similar to Sevilla, the summer sales of Seko Fofana and Lois Openda have hit the French side hard as they sit at the bottom of the Ligue 1 table. Filling out the group as a potential wild card, PSV Eindhoven came into the Champions League season sitting at the top of the table in Eredivisie. They showed us recently that they can create chaos in the Champions League playoff, as they beat the Rangers 7-3 on aggregate.
Group C: Napoli, Real Madrid, SC Braga & Union Berlin
With Vinicius Junior likely to miss the first few games due to injury, Real Madrid will rely on recent signing Jude Bellingham if they want to reach the heights they have reached in the past in the Champions League. With a championship in 2022 and semi-final appearances in 2021 and 2023 as recent proof, Real Madrid’s experience in the Champions League speaks for itself – Carlo Ancelotti’s side should have the edge over Napoli. Nevertheless, Napoli continue to look strong, carrying the energy from winning the Serie A for the first time in 33 years last season. With the Italian champions and Spanish juggernaut likely to find themselves battling it out for first and second at the Santiago Bernabeu and Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, the other two teams in the group will likely be battling for third. SC Braga will search for answers with their signing of Joao Moutinho, while Union Berlin will strive to find a level beyond their fourth-place finish in the Bundesliga.
Group D: Benfica, Inter Milan, FC Salzburg & Real Sociedad
All four teams in Group D have open doors, as this group has the potential for any team to finish at the top and make it to the round of 16. Benfica will look for revenge against Inter having lost to them in the quarterfinals last season. Inter Milan will push forward to the door with recent signings of Yann Sommer, Marko Arnautovic and Alexis Sanchez powering an already formidable side. FC Salzburg, meanwhile, will be the team to watch in Group D. The squad carries a lot of young talent who are ready to emerge into the Champions League spotlight. Rounding out the group is Real Sociedad, who finished fourth in La Liga last season, landing them a spot in group D. They will look to create a couple of upsets with the help of loanees Kieran Tierney and Andre Silva.
Group E: Atletico Madrid, Celtic, Feyenoord & Lazio
Atletico Madrid look to be the favourites in Group E, as they started the La Liga season in top form. Building on that momentum, Diego Simeone will search for a better European campaign in this season's Champions League. The top team in the Scottish Premiership, Celtic will look to improve from last season’s Champions League after not winning a single game. The more likely runner-ups for the group, however, are Feyenoord. The Dutch side looks strong, yet like the trending theme in this year's Champions League, Feyenoord falls under the boat of teams who have lost a vital player in the summer transfer window. They will look for answers without their star playmaker Orkun Kokcu. The fourth team in the group shares a similar story. Lazio finished second in Serie A last season, but enter the UCL having lost Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in the summer and looking out of form this season, as they sit at 15th place in Serie A with three points.
Group F: Newcastle, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund & Paris Saint-Germain
Also named the group of death, this group features a superb mix of teams and football playing styles. Newcastle returns to the European stages after a 20-year absence and will look to create some almost fairytale-like upsets in their return to the Champions League. AC Milan and the newest arrivals of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Yunus Musah, Samuel Chukwueze and Christian Pulisic will look to recreate last season's semi-final run. Possibly the least likely group winners but still no pushover, Borussia Dortmund have not looked in their best form in Bundesliga as of late and the transfer of Jude Bellingham to Real Madrid has left the midfield open and ready to be dominated by Kylian Mbappe and company. PSG, with their French striker leading the way, will look to dominate the group.
Group G: Manchester City, RB Leipzig, Crvena Zvezda &Young Boys
2022 Champions League winners Manchester City will face RB Leipzig, who they defeated during last year's UCL campaign. Leipzig still have gas in the tank just not enough after losing two of their best players Josko Gvardiol and Christopher Nkunku, they will look to battle it out for second. The third battle of third will be between Red Star Belgrade (Crvena Zvezda) and Young Boys. Crvena Zvezda will hope to make it past the group stages as it has in fact been 31 years since they made it to the last 16. Young Boys will look to remain unbeaten in this season's campaign, though that will be a tough feat in this group.
Group H: FC Barcelona, Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk & Royal Antwerp
Barcelona come into the campaign with the La Liga title in their hands, yet the quality to play at the European stages will always remain a question. Last season’s send-off to the Europa League serves as a reminder of the recent Champions League struggles Barcelona has come face to face with. However, with the recent signing of Ilkay Gundogan, who lifted the Champions League trophy with his former club Manchester City last season, Barcelona seem to be the favourites in Group H. Porto will look to play its favoured vibrant style of football in hopes of finishing second, though Shakhtar Donetsk will look to improve from last season’s UCL campaign where they finished third and found themselves in the Europa League. Lastly, Royal Antwerp come into the UCL campaign on a high after claiming their first league title in 66 years with a goal from Toby Alderweireld, who will look to lead them to more glorious moments.
Intermission Sports will have you covered as the Champions League continues.