Every year, the draws for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League (and for any round of the competition) generate a lot of expectation due to the different matches between the main teams in Europe that have finished in the last 32 after the previous rounds.
This season there are some teams that are not used to being in this tournament, such as Royal Antwerp, Lens, Union Berlin, or Real Sociedad, and they could do some potential upsets, just like they did in their respective leagues last season. Below is a brief analysis of each 2023-24 UEFA Champions League group.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 31, 2023
In this group, there are two clear favorites who, in addition to having won the competition on several occasions, have a history of facing each other in many final phases and even in a final (well-remembered, by the way): Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Despite this, Galatasaray have strengthened themselves very well for this season and could complicate the classification of one of the favorites. Copenhagen starts like the Cinderella of a group that is clearly difficult for the Danes.
Arteta’s Arsenal seems to be the rival to beat since, despite the end of last season in the Premier League, the London club proved to be a tough contender in the most competitive league in the world and this season brings reinforcements like Declan Rice or Kai Havertz. Sevilla is the other candidate to advance in the tournament.
However, the Andalusian club’s love story with the UEFA Europa League suggests that their destiny lies in playing that competition. The group is very even with PSV, who have had a very good start to the season, and RC Lens, who have had a project for a couple of seasons that allowed them to finish second, one point behind PSG in Ligue 1, and play in the Champions League.
The presence of Real Madrid already makes you automatically think about who will finish second in this group, with the current Italian champions, Napoli, being the most logical option. The Italians not only managed to keep most of their star players (with the exception of Korean center-back Kim Min Jae) but also signed quality players such as Raspadori or Lindstrom but their main loss was on the bench since manager Luciano Spalletti left the club after winning the league title.
For its part, Union Berlin bet on adding experience with Leonardo Bonucci, Kevin Volland and Ruben Gosens that can be useful in this type of tournament to which they are not used. The Berlin club had a great season last year and this season they have started on the right foot. SC Braga is already a regular in the Europa League and has experienced players like Joao Moutinho or Jose Fonte who can help them in the Champions League. However, they seem to be the team that is left empty-handed at the end of the group stage.
This one of the most even groups since there are four sides with close chances of qualifying for the next round. In other times, Inter Milan would be the favorite, but the Italians have lost several important players such as Andre Onana, Romelu Lukaku, Milian Skriniar, Marcelo Brozovic or Joaquin Correa that make them lose a certain degree of quality. Benfica are establishing themselves as the dominant team in Portugal once again and the very good management of the club is allowing them to have a good financial health that allows them to invest to be competitive in Europe.
Real Sociedad have chosen to maintain the base of the team that finished fourth in La Liga last season, but it seems to have a slightly short squad to play three competitions. Salzburg is a dangerous team that has been characterized as the place where some of the current stars of European football get to know themselves, so it is always a difficult opponent.
The favorite of this group is Atlético de Madrid who have decided to make small adjustments to their squad, maintaining the base that has already assimilated manager Diego Simeone’s philosophy. The Madrid club may still have a significant loss, which is that of Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, who could go to the Saudi Arabian league whose transfer window is still open, unlike the European one. Lazio have maintained a project for several years that has helped them improve their economic and sporting situation, allowing them to play again in the UEFA Champions League. The start of the season for the Roman club is hopeful and it may be the possible second place in the group.
Feyenoord, the current Dutch champion, had some significant losses such as Pedersen, Danilo or Kokcu, which may be less sensitive in the context of the Eredivisie, but mostly in the Champions League, making things a bit more complicated for them. Scottish Celtic had their biggest change on the bench as Australian Postecoglou left the club for Tottenham and was replaced by old Celtic acquaintance Brendan Rodgers. At first instance, the Scots are going to compete with the Dutch for third place and a place in the Europa League.
This is the group of death without a doubt. It might seem that PSG are the favorites and they are, although not with the distance that one might think since manager Luis Enrique’s team is in the middle of a new rebuild that has included the Spanish manager and many other players, focusing on Kylian Mbappe as the main star of the team and build the team around him. Dortmund have a young and talented team but they lost their main star, Jude Bellingham, lowering the team’s quality, something that has been seen in their hesitant start of the season.
AC Milan had several changes in the squad, but they keep their manager, Stefano Pioli, in his fifth season at the rossonero club, and their main stars such as Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez. Despite the fact that Maldini is no longer in charge of the sporting side of things, Milan have maintained a certain idea when it comes to signing since they have brought in a lot of young talent with the ability to strengthen the team such as Musah, Okafor, Luka Romero or Chukwueze.
Newcastle, far from making uncontrolled investments with Saudi money, have remained faithful to a project that already has them playing in the UEFA Champions League. Although the start of the season has not been good, it does not seem that Howe’s team was going to maintain this streak for a long time. In short, a group where anyone can beat anyone and that makes it almost unpredictable.
Without a doubt, Manchester City are the favorites of group G since, in addition to being the current champions, they have brought players who are strengthening a team that was already very complete and strong. The losses of Mahrez, Gundogan or Laporte have been cleverly covered with Gvardiol, Doku, Kovacic or Nunes.
Following the group’s order of favoritism, there is RB Leipzig, who continue in their line of signing young and talented players through their network of teams, taking advantage of them sportingly and then selling them for a lot of money (they received more than 200 million euros for three players in this summer), obtaining results that have them as a regular in the Champions League.
Red Star Belgrade is the absolute dominant team in the Serbian league, having won the last 6 editions of the competition, playing football that clearly surpassed that of their opponents. Despite the manager changes, the idea of the team has been maintained and now they are under the orders of Barak Bakhar, Israeli manager, who has just won 6 league titles in his country and who wants to implement his ideas in Belgrade. So far, the start of the season has been very good. Drawing a parallel with Red Star, Young Boys, the current Swiss champion, have won 5 of the last 6 Swiss leagues and in a convincing way, marking a considerable difference with the rest. However, their previous participation in the UEFA Champions League did not invite optimism. Serbs and Swiss will compete for third place.
At first glance, it seems that Barcelona is the one team that is going to take first place in the group. However, the Blaugrana team has only 19 registered players in the first team and, although they use some player from their youth teams like Yamal, it can be a very short squad to play three competitions.
For their part, both FC Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk, once competitive rivals in the Champions League, are not at a very favorable stage due to various off-the-pitch problems that have affected them in recent seasons. The dark horse of the group could be Royal Antwerp, who already surprised in the Belgian league last season and who can take advantage of the irregularity of the rest of the teams in the group to do something noteworthy in the tournament.
Paris 🆚 Dortmund
Bayern 🆚 Manchester United
Some mouth-watering games on matchday 1… 🤤#UCL
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 4, 2023