The UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw has been made for the final time in its current format and the competition is set for some intriguing early encounters.
From heavyweight clashes between former winners, to debutants looking to mix with the elite, the group stage could provide some gripping drama.
We’ve decided to look at five fixtures to look forward to in the 2023/24 Champions League group stage.
Champions League Group Stage Draw – Five fixtures to look forward to:
Group A: Manchester United vs Bayern Munich
Group A has thrown up arguably the biggest clash of the group stage, as former champions Manchester United and Bayern Munich meet.
In a rematch of the classic 1999 final that saw Manchester United score twice in stoppage time to stun the Germans and snatch victory from the jaws of the defeat, it is a contest sure to capture the interest of the watching world.
Bayern Munich vs. Manchester United 🔥
What a tie! pic.twitter.com/6set9RxxoU
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 31, 2023
Bayern made a disappointing exit to Manchester City in last season’s competition, having breezed through a perceived ‘Group of Death’ featuring Barcelona and Inter Milan with six straight wins. Thomas Tuchel’s side have strengthened with the marquee arrival of Harry Kane from Tottenham and the forward’s return to England adds another narrative to this one.
Kane will hope to fill the goalscoring void felt since Robert Lewandowski’s departure and his arrival at the Allianz makes Bayern one of the favourites, as the Bavarians seek a seventh European crown.
Group C: Napoli vs Real Madrid
Napoli take to the European stage as Italian champions for the first time in more than three decades, with the city still celebrating the club’s drought-breaking Scudetto.
When Napoli first won Serie A in 1987, the side were dumped out of the European Cup in the first round by Real Madrid the following season. The two teams meet at the first hurdle once again, albeit in a four-team group stage, and it promises to be a must-watch showdown.
Real Madrid v Napoli is going to be fun 😈 pic.twitter.com/WGpsMc1URr
— GOAL (@goal) August 31, 2023
Luciano Spalletti has departed as manager and Kim Min-jae has headed to Bayern Munich, but key duo Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia remain, ready to torment European defences once again. Exciting winger Jesper Lindstrom has also been added to the Italian’s attacking threat.
Meanwhile Real Madrid have a new star of their own, in the form of Jude Bellingham. Four goals in three La Liga appearances indicate the 19-year-old is coping pretty well with the pressure of being the club’s latest Galactico. Did we really expect anything less?
Group E: Atletico Madrid vs Lazio
Electric atmospheres are at the ready in Group E, with each of Atletico Madrid, Lazio, Feyenoord and Celtic sure to raise the decibel levels in what could be an open race for qualification.
Atletico Madrid have forged a reputation as Europe’s top shithouses under Diego Simeone, but is that reputation starting to shift? Since returning from the mid-season World Cup last season, Atletico have scored comfortably more goals that both Barcelona and Real Madrid, while taking the joint-most points in La Liga.
Atletico Madrid really beat Rayo Vallecano 7-0 with less possession. Only Diego Simeone 😅 pic.twitter.com/frsOUDCgY1
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 29, 2023
A clash with Lazio, the club where Simeone spent four seasons as a player, will be a special one for the Argentine.
Group D: Benfica vs Inter Milan
Benfica and Inter Milan each sprung surprises in last season’s competition, with a free-scoring Benfica side having topped a group containing PSG and Juventus before bowing out in the quarter-finals.
Inter escaped from last season’s ‘Group of Death’ at Barcelona’s expense and went on to reach the final, losing narrowly to Manchester City after a campaign built on defensive strength.
Each have seen key figures leave during the summer window, but will hope their replacements can ensure another strong season on this stage.
Inter have re-signed veterans Alexis Sanchez and Marko Arnautovic to provide support for fellow recruit Marcus Thuram in attack, while Benfica have brought back an old favourite of their own in Angel Di Maria. The Portuguese champions also broke their transfer record to sign Turkey midfielder Orkun Kokcu from Feyenoord.
Group F: Newcastle vs … everyone?
Newcastle are back in the big time for the first time in more than two decades and Eddie Howe’s team could hardly have been handed a more difficult draw.
Group F has been filed as the Group of Death for this season’s competition, as Newcastle meet a reloaded Paris Saint-Germain, German giants Borussia Dortmund and seven-time winners AC Milan.
1 – Newcastle United will face each of Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan for the first time in their competitive history. Arrived. pic.twitter.com/aWQjOFwkok
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 31, 2023
Each time Newcastle have been to this stage the Magpies have produced memorable moments, from Faustino Asprilla’s hat-trick against Barcelona to Craig Bellamy’s dramatic late-show at Feyenoord.
A difficult draw, no doubt, but this is what the Champions League is all about and St James’ will savour every second of what is to come. Howay The Lads.