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Top clash after top clash

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The 2023-24 Champions League draw was conducted on August 31 at the Grimaldi Centre in Monaco. With several new teams coming into the tournament after a long time, we were blessed with some mouth-watering clashes. As usual, there is a ‘Group of Death’ and some other groups with three strong teams that are in the race to qualify for the round of 16.

And it is here the top clashes will play an essential role in determining who makes it out of their group. The matchday 1 of the Champions League group stage will begin on September 19 and end on December 13, 2023.

The first leg of the round of 16 will take place between February 13-21, 2024, and the second leg scheduled between March 5-13, 2024. The first leg of the quarter-finals will take place between April 9-10, 2024, followed by the second leg a week later between April 16-17, 2024.

The semi-finals will occur between April 30 and May 8, 2024, with the final on June 1, 2024, at the New Wembley Stadium. So, without further ado, here are the top 2023-24 UEFA Champions League group stage clashes.

Bayern Munich vs. Manchester United 

198-99, 2000-01. 2001-02, 2009-10, 2013-14 and now 2022-23. Over the years, Bayern Munich and Manchester United have given us some breathtaking games. From the injury-time goals of Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær in the 199 final to Arjen Robben’s brilliant goal in 2010, the game has always lived up to its hype.

However, due to Manchester United’s drastic downturn in form for the past decade, the two teams have not played each other since 2014. The last season was underwhelming for Bayern Munich as they were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. They did manage to win the league for the 11th time after Borussia Dortmund lost on the last day.

The Bavarian took strict action over the summer, firing CEO Oliver Kahn and Sporting Director Hasan Salihamidzic. Bayern also added a world-class striker in Harry Kane, which they had been sorely lacking in the previous season.

On the other hand, Manchester United also strengthened the team by adding Rasmus Hojlund, Mason Mount, and Andre Onana to the team and are also exploring options to sign Sofyan Amrabat.

However, Bayern Munich have a far better and more settled squad at the moment, and with the addition of Harry Kane, they have filled the last remaining jigsaw puzzle. In addition, they have also agreed on a deal worth €40 million to sell Ryan Garvenberch to Liverpool. This will allow them the funds to go and sign Joao Palhinha from Fulham.

FootTheBall predicts Bayern Munich to win both the home and away legs against Manchester United.

 

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Napoli vs. Real Madrid 

Group C of the Champions League paired Serie A champions Napoli, 14-time winners Real Madrid, SC Braga, and debutants Union Berlin. Out of this, the clash between Napoli and Real Madrid will give us some of the best-attacking displays in this year’s tournament. Both teams played an attacking brand of football that leaves large spaces down the pitch, allowing the other team to counterattack.

It is a game where both teams have the same weaknesses and have the same strengths that can be used to exploit those weaknesses. Last season, Napoli broked their three-decade title drought by winning the Serie A. One of the main reasons was the duo of Victor Osimhen and the Georgian sensation Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who combined for 67 goals and assists and helped Napoli destroy any competition in the league. While center-back Min Jae Kim has gone to Bayern Munich, Napoli have made signings all across the squad in a bid to increase their squad depth.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, are coming into the new season with vigor, especially after failing to defend their La Liga and Champions League crown/. However, their season was marred by long-term injuries to Eder Militao and Thibaut Courtois. They have signed Kepa Arrizabalaga on loan to cover for Courtois and have added Jude Bellingham and Arda Guler to strengthen their attack.

Both teams look equally good on paper, but Real Madrid are a different beast in the Champions League.

FootTheBall predicts a home win for Real Madrid, while the game at Napoli’s stadium will be a draw.

Group F

Group F is undoubtedly the Group of Death with Paris Saint Germain, Borussia Dortmund, seven-time champions AC Milan and Newcastle United. All four teams are stacked with talent, and it is almost impossible to predict which two teams will progress through to the next round.

Paris Saint Germain have played every season in the Champions League since the 2012-13 season and, despite losing Lionel Messi and Neymar, boast the strongest squad in the group. And they also have managed to retain the services of Kylian Mbappe. PSG have also signed Ousmane Dembele, Lucas Hernandez, and Manuel Ugarte to the ranks. This signals a new approach by the French club as they look to move away from star signings and instead focus their target on young players who could become superstars of tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund have smartly invested the money that they earned from the sale of Jude Bellingham by signing last year’s Bundesliga top-scorer Niclas Fullkrug, Bayern Munich midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, and Felix Nmecha. This has made them a more rounded squad necessary for a long season across multiple tournaments.

On the other hand, AC Milan are trying to build on a season where they finished fourth in Serie A and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. And like Dortmund, they made good use of the funds received from the sale of Sandro Tonali to buy Christian Pulisic, Samuel Chukwueze, Yunus Musah, Tijjani Reijnders, Ruben Loftus Cheek, and Noah Okafor. This has dramatically improved the depth of the squad, as is evident by the strong start the team has made in the Serie A this season.

And finally, there is Newcastle United, who have returned to the Champions League after a hiatus of 19 years. Since their takeover by their Saudi owners, the Magpies have made rapid progress and finished fourth in the Premier League to get Champions League qualification. The team is packed with brilliant players all across the pitch. However, experience is the one thing they sorely lack, which can come back to haunt them. This was evident in their recent 2-1 homeless against Liverpool, where they conceded two late goals from Darwin Nunez despite playing with a man up for the last 70 minutes.

And experience is what will decide the outcome of the group. For the Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund clash, FootTheBall predicts a home win for Madrid and a draw at Dortmund’s stadium. For the Real Madrid vs. Newcastle game, Madrid are primed to take all six points. AC Milan and Newcastle United will win their home legs against each other. Dortmund will have home wins over Milan and Newcastle and draw the away legs to finish second behind Real Madrid.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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