Thursday noticed the hotly anticipated draw for the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League group stage, and what a doozy. Manchester United have been drawn towards Bayern Munich in Group A, whereas Paris Saint-Germain obtained arguably the hardest quartet in Group F, with Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan and Newcastle United standing between them and a spot within the spherical of 16.
– Full draw: Man United, Bayern Munich meet in UCL group
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)
Holders Manchester Metropolis shall be closely favoured to succeed in the knockout levels after drawing RB Leipzig, Purple Star Belgrade and Younger Boys in Group G, whereas Actual Madrid are bidding so as to add to their report 14 European Cup titles however should first see their approach by means of Group C towards Napoli, Braga and Union Berlin.
How will all of it play out? Mark Ogden (Teams A, B, C and D) and Julien Laurens (Teams E, F, G and H) have assessed every group, breaking down the narratives, choosing the must-see matches and predicting which groups will advance to the final 16.
Bayern Munich, Manchester United, FC Copenhagen, Galatasaray
It is a group that’s loaded with field workplace fixtures and headline-grabbing personalities, with Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane heading again to England to face Manchester United, a membership linked for therefore lengthy with the previous Tottenham striker. After all, United as a substitute opted to signal Atalanta teen Rasmus Hojlund and the Denmark worldwide will get the possibility to face his first membership, FC Copenhagen, after the Danish champions had been additionally paired with United and Bayern in Group A.
Turkish champions Galatasaray full the group and with the attacking abilities of Mauro Icardi, Dries Mertens and Wilfried Zaha of their squad, they are going to be a harmful outsider to observe.
United will definitely be cautious of Copenhagen and Galatasaray having been suffered group stage defeats towards each groups prior to now. However this group is all in regards to the glamour of Bayern vs. United and a repeat of the 1999 Remaining, which United received 2-1 with two objectives in stoppage time in Barcelona.
Will probably be about Kane vs. Hojlund, coach Thomas Tuchel vs. Erik ten Hag and a renewal of a serious European rivalry that has been on maintain since Bayern eradicated David Moyes’s United within the 2013-14 quarterfinals.
MUST-SEE MATCH: Bayern Munich v Manchester United
These two European giants have received 9 Champions League titles between them (Bayern six occasions, United three) and each season wherein they play within the competitors, the target is to win it. Nonetheless, the 2 groups are at completely different ranges of readiness. Bayern’s summer season transfer for Kane makes them a real menace to Manchester Metropolis’s crown this season, however United are nonetheless in transition beneath Ten Hag and nonetheless look a way wanting being a Champions League winner once more.
The 2 video games towards Bayern shall be an actual gauge of United’s capacity to compete towards Europe’s elite, making for intriguing TV at Previous Trafford and the Allianz Area.
PREDICTION: Bayern Munich, Man United, Galatasaray, FC Copenhagen
Bayern are prone to dominate the group and will win each recreation as they try and hammer house their credentials. The drama will come within the race for second spot and though United ought to have sufficient to qualify with Bayern, their inconsistency shall be a priority for Ten Hag.
United’s hopes of development are prone to depend on their ends in Istanbul and Copenhagen. In the event that they lose both of these video games, then it is going to be an actual battle to make it into the Spherical of 16. Be careful for Galatasaray, although, as they’re greater than able to springing an upset.
Arsenal are again within the Champions League for the primary time in six years and Mikel Arteta’s aspect have had a gentle touchdown after being grouped with Sevilla, PSV Eindhoven and Lens.
Though Sevilla have turn out to be the perennial Europa League winners – final season’s success earned them a spot among the many seeded groups in Pot 1 – they completed twelfth in La Liga, whereas neither PSV nor Lens received their respective leagues. PSV made it by means of to the group stage with a cushty win towards Rangers within the qualifiers, however they’re unlikely to pose a menace to Arsenal, regardless of a 2-0 win towards the Gunners within the Europa League group stage final October.
And whereas Lens narrowly missed out on the Ligue 1 title final season, ending only a level behind champions Paris Saint-Germain, they’ve misplaced final time period’s 21-goal high scorer, Loïs Openda, to RB Leipzig this summer season.
In the event that they play to something like their potential, Arsenal ought to win Group B comfortably and earn themselves a spot among the many seeded groups for the Spherical of 16 within the second half of the season.
MUST-SEE MATCH: Sevilla vs. Arsenal
Regardless of Sevilla’s lowly end in La Liga final season, they’re a workforce that’s stacked with European pedigree having received seven Europa League titles in simply 17 years. They’ve by no means been in a position to translate that success into Champions League glory, however there isn’t a doubt that they’ve the pedigree to battle it out with Arsenal for high spot within the group.
If Sevilla can win one in every of their matches towards the Gunners, then high spot will come into play and that could possibly be important for the hopes of each side when it comes to going deep into the competitors.
PREDICTION: Arsenal, Sevilla, Lens, PSV
Arsenal have developed into one of many strongest groups within the Premier League beneath Mikel Arteta and whereas they nonetheless lack top-level European expertise, this group provides them the chance to spice up their data towards mid-ranking opposition.
Sevilla would be the largest menace to Arsenal ending high, however neither PSV nor Lens have the energy or depth to problem. This shall be Arsenal and Sevilla all the best way, with the Premier League workforce more than likely to come back out on high.
Napoli, Actual Madrid, SC Braga, Union Berlin
This appears to be one of many extra imbalanced teams, with Italian champions Napoli and Actual Madrid prone to be approach too robust for Braga and a Union Berlin aspect making the membership’s debut within the competitors. Braga completed a distant third behind Benfica and Porto within the Primera Liga final season, however they had been nonetheless in a position to edge out Sporting for Portugal’s closing Champions League spot. Union Berlin, in the meantime, completed fourth within the Bundesliga simply 4 years after being promoted to Germany’s high division for the primary time.
Towards such European heavyweights as Actual and Napoli, it could appear that Braga and Berlin shall be combating it out for third spot within the group and the possibility to drop into the knockout levels of the Europa League.
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U.S. ahead Brenden Aaronson, on mortgage at Union from Leeds United, will get a style of top-level Champions League high quality when he faces Actual and Napoli, however it is going to be a troublesome group for the Bundesliga minnows. The large query will deal with whether or not Actual are able to bounce again from final season’s semifinal towards Manchester Metropolis by successful the group, or if Napoli can upset former boss Carlo Ancelotti and high the group as a substitute.
MUST-SEE MATCH: Union Berlin vs. Actual Madrid
There may be treasured little romance within the modern-day Champions League, however when 14-time European champions Actual Madrid go to the 22,000-capacity Stadion An der Alten Forsterei, it is going to be a kind of moments that the Union Berlin followers will cherish without end.
A membership with roots within the outdated East Germany, Union endured powerful monetary occasions within the Nineteen Nineties and nearly suffered chapter on two events. They didn’t even play within the Bundesliga till 2019, which makes the prospect of going through Actual Madrid within the Champions League a uncommon fairytale for the competitors.
PREDICTION: Actual Madrid, Napoli, Braga, Union Berlin
Although Actual have misplaced Karim Benzema to Al Ittihad and with Vinícius Júnior prone to miss the early stage of the group due damage, they not often wrestle to do something aside from high their group. Napoli will push all of them the best way and their formidable house report will give them an opportunity of beating Actual at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, however Actual know easy methods to navigate the group stage.
Braga’s larger European expertise ought to give them the sting over Union Berlin within the race for third spot.
This group is vast open and any of the 4 groups may end high, thereby making it into the Spherical of 16. Regardless of reaching final season’s closing earlier than shedding to Manchester Metropolis in Istanbul, Inter have misplaced goalkeeper André Onana and strikers Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku through the summer season switch window, making them far weaker than they had been 12 months in the past.
Benfica had been crushed by Inter on the quarterfinal stage final season, however they’re the favourites to win the group. It will not be straightforward for the Portuguese champions, although, as a result of Salzburg have proved themselves to be a powerful group stage competitor — particularly at house — whereas Actual Sociedad are additionally able to beating each workforce within the group.
Salzburg are prone to be the workforce to observe on account of their capacity to always unearth younger expertise to exchange the gamers they’ve moved on. Sadio Mané, Erling Haaland and Benjamin Sesko have all come by means of the Salzburg system earlier than leaving for larger golf equipment, so it is going to be intriguing to see who emerges this time round.
MUST-SEE MATCH: Benfica vs. Inter
The Italian workforce eradicated Benfica on the best way to the ultimate final season, however summer season departures have weakened Simone Inzaghi’s squad; this conflict will make clear whether or not Inter might be aggressive once more this 12 months.
Inter’s historical past as three-time winners and their proud historical past will guarantee they’re beneath intense strain to emerge from the group, however they might want to get at the very least one constructive end result towards Benfica to keep away from being dragged right into a scrap for second place.
PREDICTION: Benfica, Salzburg, Inter, Actual Sociedad
Benfica’s latest pedigree and the intimidating Estadio da Luz make them favourites to high the group, nevertheless it could possibly be shut all the best way till matchday six on account of all groups being of the same stage.
Salzburg have confirmed to be a reliable outfit towards wealthier golf equipment from stronger leagues in latest seasons whereas Actual Sociedad’s success in ending fourth in La Liga highlights their high quality. If Inter are robust, they are going to make the highest two, however they give the impression of being to have misplaced too many key gamers in the summertime.
This is without doubt one of the most fascinating teams on this draw. Atletico Madrid have to be the favourites, although their type in latest European campaigns has not been nice. They’ve began very well their season domestically and if Diego Simeone could make this workforce play a extra attacking fashion in Europe, they are going to be exhausting to beat.
Past them, issues are wide-open. Celtic Park should be a fortress for Brendan Rodgers’ workforce to progress, however they’ll do it. Lazio have been poor in Serie A to this point this season, shedding their first two video games, and mentioned goodbye to their greatest participant, midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, in the summertime. Nonetheless, Feyenoord additionally misplaced their playmaker, Orkun Kökcü, and their lack of expertise on this competitors could possibly be a problem.
MUST-SEE MATCH: Feyenoord vs. Celtic
Take this recreation the best way you need, both in Glasgow or in Rotterdam, it would not matter as you might be in for a deal with as two of the most effective atmospheres and units of followers in Europe attempt to “out-chant” one another. Will probably be a particular ambiance whether or not it is at Celtic Park or at De Kuip.
PREDICTION: Atletico Madrid, Celtic, Feyenoord, Lazio
I imagine this can be a group that the Spanish workforce ought to win. There shall be tough away ties, however they’re the strongest aspect. Behind them, I fancy Celtic to seize second place with an awesome house run and a stable efficiency away from house.
Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Newcastle United
That is undoubtedly the toughest of this season’s Champions League group levels. It is a very good draw in case you are a impartial fan; a nightmare when you’re a fan of any of those 4 groups. With Milan in Pot 3, there was at all times a threat of a stacked group, and that is it!
PSG needs to be slight favourites as a result of they’ve Kylian Mbappé, the most effective participant on this planet, again of their ranks after one other summer season of questioning whether or not he’d be leaving. Luis Enrique is making an attempt to make his PSG squad play like a correct workforce and after a summer season of transfers, they are going to be examined to the restrict by this group!
Milan are usually not far behind them after good recruitment in the summertime — Christian Pulisic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Yunus Musah and Samuel Chukwueze are all nice additions — and their semifinal run in final season’s competitors. Borussia Dortmund have struggled to this point in 2023-24, and shedding Jude Bellingham to Actual Madrid this summer season leaves a spot in midfield that they will wrestle to fill.
Lastly, Newcastle have a champagne draw for his or her return after a 20-year absence. They don’t have anything to lose, and can compete with PSG and Milan for a spot within the final 16.
MUST-SEE MATCH: PSG vs. Newcastle United
It is a battle of groups with Center Jap house owners, as PIF-backed Newcastle tackle Qatar-owned PSG. Eddie Howe and his gamers will not worry anybody and can imagine they’ve an opportunity, whereas PSG shall be beneath large strain to not be upset by the underdogs.
PREDICTIONS: PSG, Newcastle United, Milan, Borussia Dortmund
I anticipate an enormous battle between PSG, Newcastle and Milan for the highest two spots. Dortmund are clearly behind the others, which means it is between Milan and Newcastle for second place — I fancy the Magpies regardless of their lack of expertise on this competitors.
Manchester Metropolis, RB Leipzig, Purple Star Belgrade, Younger Boys
If there was a possible dream draw for Manchester Metropolis, it could most likely be very near the one they really obtained in Monaco on Thursday night time.
The holders will face RB Leipzig, whom they destroyed final season of their last-16 house tie, with Erling Haaland scoring 5 objectives. Leipzig are nonetheless a very good workforce, however after shedding their two greatest gamers (defender Josko Gvardiol to Man Metropolis, playmaker Christopher Nkunku to Chelsea), they don’t seem to be the pressure they was. Then you will have Purple Star Belgrade and Younger Boys, two of the weakest sides on this draw.
Metropolis very a lot obtained the luck of the draw right here. Pep Guardiola will be capable to rotate his workforce simply, and the European champions may qualify for the final 16 very early. Even for Leipzig, this can be a good draw contemplating the extent of the opposite two groups within the group. The Germans will fancy massively their possibilities to advance.
MUST-SEE MATCH: Man Metropolis vs. RB Leipzig
Manchester Metropolis did not lose a single recreation final season of their successful marketing campaign final 12 months, however the one time they had been a bit rattled was truly in Leipzig, the place the house aspect gave them a very good run for his or her cash and obtained a convincing draw. They had been then battered again in Manchester within the second leg, however let’s examine what occurs this time in Leipzig.
PREDICTIONS: Man Metropolis, Leipzig, Purple Star, Younger Boys
There is no such thing as a match for Metropolis on this group and there’s no match for Leipzig exterior of Metropolis both. They’ll qualify simply for the final 16, leaving Purple Star and Younger Boys to battle for a spot within the Europa League.
What a distinction for Barcelona in comparison with a 12 months in the past! Final season, they obtained the hardest draw, with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. This time, they obtained one of many simpler teams and Xavi shall be very proud of who they’re going through.
Porto are at all times a very good workforce to play towards and Portuguese groups have not been enjoyable for Barcelona. Nonetheless, the Catalans shall be hungry to point out that they’ll do higher within the competitors than final 12 months.
That mentioned, Porto must also be proud of the draw, as they challenge to be too robust for Antwerp and Shakhtar. For the Belgian champions, what a deal with to be there — they are going to take pleasure in each second after having waited 66 years since their final, and solely, look within the competitors. For the Ukrainians, it is one other probability to offer some pleasure, hope and assist to their followers and their individuals.
MUST-SEE MATCH: Antwerp vs. Barcelona
It is a true David towards Goliath. For his or her return within the high membership’s competitors, Antwerp are going through one of many largest golf equipment on this planet. The environment shall be unimaginable and it’s a simply reward for his or her fantastic Belgium title final season.
PREDICTIONS: Barcelona, Porto, Antwerp, Shakhtar Donetsk
Barcelona will high this group simply. If their away recreation in Porto could be a bit tough, they are going to be too robust. Porto will end second with out an excessive amount of bother and I feel Antwerp can end third and qualify for the Europa League. They’ve nice confidence and momentum, in addition to nothing to lose.