The 2023-24 Champions League group stage is underway, and matchday one is wrapped up as Manchester City kicked off their title defence, whereas Arsenal, Barcelona and Newcastle United return to the competitors. After an exciting first spherical, we requested our writers Gab Marcotti, Mark Ogden and Julien Laurens to reply a few of our burning questions.
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Who are the gamers that impressed on matchday one?
Marcotti: Goalkeeper Ivan Provedel, not only for his late goal-scoring heroics, however as a result of he stored Lazio within the sport with a string of saves in opposition to a dominant Atletico Madrid. Shoutout to Barcelona loanee João Félix too, after all, Man City midfielder Rodri (is there something he cannot do?) and Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard, who’s rapidly turning into top-of-the-line on the earth in his place.
Ogden: Aside from the plain — Man City’s Julián Álvarez, Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham and Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala — I’m going to go along with Red Star Belgrade forwards Cherif Ndiaye and Osman Bukari. Bukari scored the opening purpose in a 3-1 defeat in opposition to Manchester City on the Etihad and taking part in as a ahead in opposition to Pep Guardiola’s aspect is a thankless job, however the duo’s tempo and motion was a relentless threat. Their partnership may but see Red Star sneak a second spot in Group G and a spot within the spherical of 16.
Laurens: Felix. After two video games for Barcelona, in opposition to Real Betis and Antwerp, he has two Man of the Match awards. On his Champions League debut for the Blaugrana in opposition to Antwerp on Tuesday, he contributed two objectives and an help. He is glad, free from the defensive restrictions he had underneath Atletico coach Diego Simeone. If he can maintain this stage by means of the season, Barcelona will probably be good.
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Who are the most important threat to Man City’s title defence this marketing campaign?
Marcotti: Other than the plain (accidents, refereeing, Guardiola doing one thing foolish like dropping Erling Haaland and taking part in Éderson up entrance), there’s no person shut to City proper now. You have to think about what these groups are going to appear like within the spring. I feel Barcelona have an distinctive keeper (Marc-André ter Stegen) who can dominate video games and a ton of firepower up entrance … if Xavi picks the best guys in the best sport. As for PSG, they could have the very best ceiling of all of the contenders, it is only a query of whether or not Luis Enrique can get a tune out of them and make them greater than the sum of their elements.
Ogden: Even Guardiola’s nice Barcelona groups had been unable to win back-to-back Champions League titles, so let’s not hand the trophy to City but. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona all have their faults, however additionally they have the gamers, coaches and superclub mentality to beat City within the latter levels of the competitors. But it’s only down to these three — no person else comes shut.
Laurens: I like what Xavi is doing with this Barcelona workforce, in addition to Inter’s continuity underneath Simone Inzaghi and likewise what Enrique is constructing at PSG, however until one thing dramatic occurs, no person will probably be ready to beat Pep and City.
After 20 years, it is the primary time that neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo are within the competitors. Who do you assume can fill the void they’ve left?
Marcotti: I do not know that anyone can fill the void, however I’d think about PSG’s Kylian Mbappé is greatest positioned to accomplish that. Why him and never Haaland? Because he is extra charismatic and since he is requested to carry the workforce greater than Haaland does. He has a brand new supervisor, a bunch of latest teammates, and many others. So I suppose it is on him. But, actually, we want to assume lengthy and onerous earlier than we point out anyone in the identical breath as Messi and Cristiano.
Ogden: Mbappe, Haaland and Bellingham are the plain candidates to be dominant gamers, however this is hoping that the post-Messi/Ronaldo period is a return to specializing in nice groups fairly than particular person gamers. Neither Messi nor Ronaldo may obtain their nice feats with out world-class teammates alongside them, however the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema by no means acquired the credit score they deserved. It’s a workforce sport, so let’s have fun the collective once more.
Laurens: They won’t ever get replaced. It’s unattainable. Instead of getting two GOATs, we can have a number of younger stars with Mbappé, Erling Haaland, Vinicius, Bellingham, Jamal Musiala, Gavi, Pedri, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Victor Osimhen and a pair extra. That will virtually fill the void.