UEFA Champions League 2023-24: Group previews and predictions

Thursday introduced 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 received 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 City can be closely favoured to succeed in the knockout levels after drawing RB Leipzig, Red Star Belgrade and Young Boys in Group G, whereas Real Madrid are bidding so as to add to their report 14 European Cup titles however should first see their manner by means of Group C towards Napoli, Braga and Union Berlin.

How will all of it play out? Mark Ogden (Groups A, B, C and D) and Julien Laurens (Groups 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

This is a bunch 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 thus lengthy with the previous Tottenham striker. Of course, United as a substitute opted to signal Atalanta teenager Rasmus Hojlund and the Denmark worldwide will get the prospect 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 skills 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 suffered group stage defeats towards each groups prior to now. But this group is all concerning the glamour of Bayern vs. United and a repeat of the 1999 Final, which United received 2-1 with two objectives in stoppage time in Barcelona.

It can 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’ United within the 2013-14 quarterfinals.

MUST-SEE MATCH: Bayern Munich vs. Manchester United

These two European giants have received 9 Champions League titles between them (Bayern six occasions, United three) and each season by which they play within the competitors, the target is to win it. However, the 2 groups are at completely different ranges of readiness. Bayern’s summer time transfer for Kane makes them a real menace to Manchester City’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 two video games towards Bayern can be an actual gauge of United’s capacity to compete towards Europe’s elite, making for intriguing TV at Old Trafford and the Allianz Arena.

PREDICTION: Bayern Munich, Man United, Galatasaray, FC Copenhagen

Bayern are more likely to dominate the group and might win each sport as they try to hammer dwelling 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 can be a priority for Ten Hag.

United’s hopes of development are more likely to hinge on their leads to Istanbul and Copenhagen. If they lose both of these video games, then it will likely be an actual battle to make it into the spherical of 16. Watch out 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 facet have had a gentle touchdown after being grouped with Sevilla, PSV Eindhoven and Lens.

Although 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 time.

If 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

Despite Sevilla’s lowly end in La Liga final season, they’re stacked with European pedigree, having received seven Europa League titles in simply 17 years. They have 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 considered one of their matches towards the Gunners, then high spot will come into play and that could possibly be important for the hopes of either side by way of 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 offers them the chance to spice up their data towards midranking opposition.

Sevilla would be the largest menace to Arsenal ending high, however neither PSV nor Lens have the energy or depth to problem. This can be Arsenal and Sevilla all the way in which, with the Premier League workforce probably to come back out on high.


Napoli, Real Madrid, SC Braga, Union Berlin

This appears to be one of many extra imbalanced teams, with Italian champions Napoli and Real Madrid more likely to be manner too robust for Braga and a Union Berlin facet 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.

Against such European heavyweights as Real and Napoli, it might appear that Braga and Berlin can be preventing it out for third spot within the group and the prospect 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 Real and Napoli, however it will likely be a troublesome group for the Bundesliga minnows. The huge query will deal with whether or not Real are able to bounce again from final season’s semifinal towards Manchester City by profitable the group, or if Napoli can upset former boss Carlo Ancelotti and high the group as a substitute.

MUST-SEE MATCH: Union Berlin vs. Real Madrid

There is valuable little romance within the modern-day Champions League, however when 14-time European champions Real Madrid go to the 22,000-capacity Stadion An der Alten Forsterei, it will likely be a kind of moments the Union Berlin followers will cherish endlessly.

A membership with roots within the previous East Germany, Union endured robust monetary occasions within the Nineteen Nineties and virtually suffered chapter on two events. They didn’t even play within the Bundesliga till 2019, which makes the prospect of going through Real Madrid within the Champions League a uncommon fairytale for the competitors.

PREDICTION: Real Madrid, Napoli, Braga, Union Berlin

Even although Real have misplaced Karim Benzema to Al Ittihad and Vinícius Júnior is more likely to miss the early stage of the group due to damage, they not often wrestle to do something aside from high their group. Napoli will push all of them the way in which and their formidable dwelling report will give them an opportunity of beating Real at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, however Real know the best way to navigate the group stage.

Braga’s better 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 might end high, thereby making it into the spherical of 16. Despite reaching final season’s closing earlier than shedding to Manchester City in Istanbul, Inter have misplaced goalkeeper André Onana and strikers Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku throughout the summer time switch window, making them far weaker than they had been 12 months in the past.

Benfica had been overwhelmed by Inter on the quarterfinal stage final season, however they’re the favourites to win the group. It will not be simple for the Portuguese champions, although, as a result of Salzburg have proved themselves to be a robust group stage competitor — particularly at dwelling — whereas Real Sociedad are additionally able to beating each workforce within the group.

Salzburg are more likely to be the workforce to observe due to their capacity to consistently unearth younger expertise to interchange 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 will likely be intriguing to see who emerges this time round.

MUST-SEE MATCH: Benfica vs. Inter

The Italian workforce eradicated Benfica on the way in which to the ultimate final season, however summer time departures have weakened Simone Inzaghi’s squad; this conflict will make clear whether or not Inter will 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 no less than one optimistic outcome towards Benfica to keep away from being dragged right into a scrap for second place.

PREDICTION: Benfica, Salzburg, Inter, Real Sociedad

Benfica’s current pedigree and the intimidating Estadio da Luz make them favourites to high the group, nevertheless it could possibly be shut all the way in which till matchday six with all groups being of the same degree.

Salzburg have proved to be a reliable outfit towards wealthier golf equipment from stronger leagues in current seasons whereas Real Sociedad’s success in ending fourth in La Liga highlights their high quality. If Inter are robust, they’ll make the highest two, however they appear 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 kind in current European campaigns has not been nice. They have began their season rather well domestically and if Diego Simeone could make this workforce play a extra attacking model in Europe, they are going to be laborious to beat.

Beyond them, issues are vast open. Celtic Park should be a fortress for Brendan Rodgers’ workforce to progress, however they will do it. Lazio have been poor in Serie A thus far this season, shedding their first two video games, and mentioned goodbye to their greatest participant, midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, in the summertime. However, 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 sport the way in which you need, both in Glasgow or in Rotterdam, it would not matter as you’re in for a deal with as two of the perfect atmospheres and units of followers in Europe attempt to “out-chant” one another. It can 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 the Spanish workforce ought to win. There can be difficult away ties, however they’re the strongest facet. Behind them, I fancy Celtic to seize second place with an ideal dwelling run and a stable efficiency away from dwelling.


Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Newcastle United

This is undoubtedly the toughest of this season’s Champions League group levels. It’s an excellent draw if you’re a impartial fan; a nightmare should 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 perfect participant on this planet, again of their ranks after one other summer time 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 time of transfers, they are going to be examined to the restrict by this group!

Milan should 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 thus far in 2023-24, and shedding Jude Bellingham to Real Madrid this summer time leaves a niche in midfield that they will wrestle to fill.

Finally, Newcastle have a champagne draw for his or her return after a 20-year absence. They don’t have anything to lose, and will compete with PSG and Milan for a spot within the final 16.

MUST-SEE MATCH: PSG vs. Newcastle United

This is a battle of groups with Middle Eastern house owners, as Saudi Arabia’s PIF-backed Newcastle tackle Qatari-owned PSG. Eddie Howe and his Newcastle gamers will not worry anybody and will imagine they’ve an opportunity, whereas PSG can be beneath large strain to not be upset by the underdogs.



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PREDICTIONS: PSG, Newcastle United, Milan, Borussia Dortmund

I anticipate a giant battle between PSG, Newcastle and Milan for the highest two spots. Dortmund are clearly behind the others, that means it is between Milan and Newcastle for second place — I fancy the Magpies regardless of their lack of expertise on this competitors.


Manchester City, RB Leipzig, Red Star Belgrade, Young Boys

If there have been a possible dream draw for Manchester City, it might 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 dwelling 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 City, playmaker Christopher Nkunku to Chelsea), they are not the power they was once. Then you have got Red Star Belgrade and Young Boys, two of the weakest sides on this draw.

City very a lot received the luck of the draw right here. Pep Guardiola will be capable to rotate his workforce simply, and the European champions might 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 City vs. RB Leipzig

Manchester City did not lose a single sport final season of their profitable marketing campaign, however the one time they had been a bit rattled was really in Leipzig, the place the house facet gave them a very good run for his or her cash and received a convincing draw. They had been then battered again in Manchester within the second leg, however let’s have a look at what occurs this time in Leipzig.

PREDICTIONS: Man City, Leipzig, Red Star, Young Boys

There isn’t any match for City on this group and there isn’t a match for Leipzig outdoors of City both. They will qualify simply for the final 16, leaving Red Star and Young Boys to battle for a spot within the Europa League.


What a distinction for Barcelona in contrast with a 12 months in the past! Last season, they received the hardest draw, with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. This time, they received one of many simpler teams and Xavi can be very pleased with 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. However, the Catalans can be hungry to point out that they will do higher within the competitors than final 12 months.

That mentioned, Porto also needs to be pleased with the draw, as they undertaking to be too robust for Antwerp and Shakhtar. For the Belgian champions, what a deal with to be there — they’ll get pleasure from each second after having waited 66 years since their final, and solely, look within the competitors. For the Ukrainians, it is one other likelihood to provide some pleasure, hope and assist to their followers and their folks.

MUST-SEE MATCH: Antwerp vs. Barcelona

It’s a real David towards Goliath. For their return within the high membership’s competitors, Antwerp are going through one of many largest golf equipment on this planet. The environment can be unbelievable 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 sport in Porto is perhaps a bit difficult, they are going to be too robust. Porto will end second with out an excessive amount of hassle and I believe Antwerp can end third and qualify for the Europa League. They have nice confidence and momentum, in addition to nothing to lose.

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