The biggest competition of European club football, the UEFA Champions League is all set to get underway on September 19. In the opening group stage fixture of the 2023-24 Champions League, Italian giants AC Milan will face Premier League outfit Newcastle United at San Siro. Reigning champions Manchester City, placed in Group G, will kick off their title defence on September 20 with a home game against Serbian side Crvena Zvezda.
As the Champions League group stage is all set to get underway, we take a look at the favourites and some of the top fixtures of this week.
Manchester City: With Erling Haaland continuing his sublime form, Manchester City are tipped to be a major contender for the Champions League title this season. During the last campaign, Pep Guardiola’s men managed to win four out of six group league fixtures, while drawing the remaining two. During last season’s Champions League, Manchester City overcame some big names like RB Leipzig, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. The Premier League outfit edged past Inter Mian in the summit clash to claim their maiden Champions League title.
Real Madrid: A 14-time Champions League winner, Real Madrid engraved their name on the coveted trophy last time in 2022 by defeating Liverpool in the final. The Spanish giants reached the semi-finals in the last edition but were defeated by the eventual champions Manchester City. Real Madrid are placed in Group C this time. They will have to battle past Napoli, Union Berlin and Braga to seal a place in the knockout stage.
Bayern Munich: Bayern Munich are the most successful German club in Champions League history with six titles to their name. Though, they have failed to showcase their brilliant Champions League form in the past few years. Bayern Munich’s last Champions League triumph came in 2020. In the 2022-23 season, the Bundesliga side reached the quarter-finals and got knocked out by Manchester City. With England’s prolific goal-scorer Harry Kane joining the side this summer, Bayern Munich are expected to emerge in a more dominant version this time.
Paris Saint-Germain (PSG): Despite roping in several big names in the past few years, PSG have time and again failed to claim the Champions League trophy. The French giants are placed in arguably the toughest group this season. PSG will face tough competition from teams like Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan and Newcastle United at the group stage. They will miss the services of Lionel Messi and Neymar as both superstars left the French capital this summer.
Top fixtures to look out on the first week of Champions League group stage:
Bayern Munich vs Manchester United: Manchester United and Bayern Munich are set to go head-to-head in a highly anticipated face-off to begin their journey in the Champions League. This will be a special fixture for Kane, who wrapped up his club career in English football this summer. The former Tottenham man will hope to make his Champions League debut for the German side on a positive note. The match will be played at Bayern Munich’s home ground Allianz Arena, on September 21.
PSG vs Borussia Dortmund: PSG will kick off their Champions League campaign with a high voltage clash against German side Borussia Dortmund on September 20. Considering the recent form of both teams, PSG are expected to emerge victorious at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
Lazio vs Atletico Madrid: Lazio suffered a humiliating 3-1 loss to Juventus in their last Serie A fixture. The Italian outfit will be desperate to return to winning ways in their Champions League opener against Atletico Madrid, scheduled to be played on September 20. The Spanish side are also coming off a defeat, losing 3-0 to Valencia in La Liga.