Sports

Champions League predictions: Group stage matchday 1

These are the champions! Die Meister! Die Besten! Les grandes équipes! The champions!

That’s right, the UEFA Champions League is back and football fans around the world are already struggling to get the iconic anthem out of their heads.

Manchester City are the defending champions in 2023/24 after completing their historic treble with victory in the final over Inter in Istanbul. Pep Guardiola’s side are among the favourites again this year, though European giants Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona will hope their summer transfer business can power them to glory this season.

But before anyone starts dreaming of next year’s final at Wembley, the group stage must first be navigated. Here are 90min’s predictions for the first matchday of the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League.

Tuesday 19 September

Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Erling Braut Håland

City are looking to retain the UCL this year / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Three Premier League sides are returning to the Champions League this week after various periods of absence but it’s Newcastle who have been given arguably the biggest billing of the English teams.

The Magpies open their first UCL group stage campaign since 2002/03 in the iconic surroundings of San Siro as they take on an AC Milan side that was just battered 5-1 by Inter in the Derby della Madonna. It’s one of two games kicking off at 17:45 on Tuesday alongside Youngs Boys vs RB Leipzig.

Paris Saint-Germain continue their perennial quest to win a first Champions League with an enticing encounter with Borussia Dortmund. There was drama of a niggly nature when they met in the last 16 in 2019/20 as PSG completed a comeback and mocked Erling Haaland’s meditation celebration.

Kick-off Time (BST)

Fixture

Group

Prediction

17:45

Young Boys vs RB Leipzig

G

0-2

17:45

AC Milan vs Newcastle United

F

1-0

20:00

Paris Saint-Germain vs Borussia Dortmund

F

3-2

20:00

Manchester City vs Crvena Zvezda

G

4-0

20:00

Lazio vs Atletico Madrid

E

1-2

20:00

Feyenoord vs Celtic

E

3-0

20:00

Barcelona vs Royal Antwerp

H

2-0

20:00

Shakhtar Donetsk vs Porto

H

2-2

Holders Man City start their defence of the title against Crvena Zvezda – AKA Red Star Belgrade – at the Etihad. The atmosphere will likely be more sedate in Manchester than it will be at Rajko Mitic Stadium in mid December for the return fixture.

Barcelona finally burst into life with a comprehensive victory 5-0 over Real Betis at the weekend, which should be the perfect preparation before their home clash with Belgian outfit Royal Antwerp. Manager Xavi has lost four of his eight Champions League games but an easier group this time around should help the legendary midfielder improve that poor personal record.

Wednesday 20 September

Jude Bellingham

Bellingham’s Real Madrid journey continues in the Champions League / Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/GettyImages

Jude Bellingham has all sorts of Champions League records to his name having broken through at such a young age with Dortmund. Having since moved to Real Madrid, the England international will get his first taste of UCL football at the Bernabeu against Union Berlin in one of Wednesday’s early kick-offs.

Arsenal‘s last game in Europe’s premier club competition was a second 5-1 defeat to Bayern Munich in their 2016/17 last 16 tie but such a result is far from expected when they host Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven. The Gunners are fancied for the win at the Emirates, like they were before a 1-0 victory over the same opposition in last season’s Europa League.

Kick-off Time (BST)

Fixture

Group

Prediction

17:45

Galatasaray vs Copenhagen

A

2-0

17:45

Real Madrid vs Union Berlin

C

2-0

20:00

Braga vs Napoli

C

0-3

20:00

Benfica vs Salzburg

D

2-1

20:00

Real Sociedad vs Inter

D

1-2

20:00

Arsenal vs PSV Eindhoven

B

2-0

20:00

Sevilla vs Lens

B

1-0

20:00

Bayern Munich vs Manchester United

A

3-1

Manchester United are facing problem after problem right now, but the next puzzle for Erik ten Hag to attempt to solve is a trip to Bundesliga heavyweights Bayern Munich, now new and improved with Harry Kane up front. Off the back of a 3-1 defeat to Brighton at Old Trafford, the Red Devils may lose again by a similar scoreline.

Elsewhere, there will be eyes on Sevilla, who rarely take the competition seriously and instead focus on the Europa League, with the Spaniards taking on French side Lens. Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia will also be hoping for a fast start when Napoli travel over to Portugal to face Braga.

READ 90MIN’S FULL MATCH PREVIEWS HERE

Source link
#Champions #League #predictions #Group #stage #matchday

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button