2023/24 UEFA Champions League: Matchweek 1 preview

2023/24 UEFA Champions League: Matchweek 1 preview

Just over three months after Manchester City hoisted that iconic trophy in the air in Istanbul, UEFA Champions League action returns with the first round of group stage games promising thrilling action.

Here is a full preview of all 16 matches on Tuesday and Wednesday as all 32 teams swing into action in Europe’s elite competition.

2023/24 UEFA Champions league week one fixtures (Twitter/X)
2023/24 UEFA Champions League Week One fixtures (Twitter/X)

AC Milan v Newcastle United

Newcastle makes a return to the Champions League after a 20-year exile and they do so under dicey circumstances, away at AC Milan who are seven-time winners of this competition and semi-finalists last season.

Both teams could use a good start in what is a difficult Group F, also hosing PSG and Dortmund.

Sandro Tonali’s return to San Siro is an interesting subplot as the Italian midfielder left Milan to join Newcastle in the summer transfer window for a record fee.

Sandro Tonali returns to Milan as a Newcastle player (IMAGO)
Sandro Tonali returns to Milan as a Newcastle player (IMAGO)

AC Milan are slight favourites for a win in what is one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday but Newcastle are no small fry and will pose a challenge so this one might just be too close to call.

Young Boys v RB Leipzig

The other early kickoff on Tuesday sees high-flying RB Leipzig travel to Bern, Switzerland to take on Young Boys.

The visiting Germans are widely expected to start their campaign in Group G with an easy win, especially with how well they’re playing in the Bundesliga.

Xavi Simons will be key to whatever result they secure on matchday one as the young Dutchman already has three goals and four assists for Leipzig this season.

Xavi Simons is an important player for RB Leipzig (IMAGO)
Xavi Simons is an important player for RB Leipzig (IMAGO)

Paris Saint Germain v Borussia Dortmund

PSG appeared to have toned down its desire to win the Champions League for the first time after numerous disappointments but they start yet another campaign on Tuesday with a home game against Borussia Dortmund.

The French champions are hoping that the offseason reshuffling of their lineup will produce a more balanced team that is less centred on individuals. 

Kylian Mbappe, PSG’s primary offensive threat, is still on the team and will likely spearhead the attack against Dortmund who have struggled to replace the departed Jude Bellingham and have also been weak defensively so far this season.

Kylian Mbappe is PSG's focal point (IMAGO)
Kylian Mbappe is PSG’s focal point (IMAGO)

A PSG win should be routine but the Parisiens’ poor start in Ligue 1 leaves doubts going into this Group F clash against Dortmund.

Barcelona v Royal Antwerp

Barcelona begin their 2023/24 Champions League campaign in Group H at home to debutants Royal Antwerp but the Catalans are still getting accustomed to their temporary home which is the Montjuic stadium while Camp Nou remains under construction.

FC Barcelona are one of the favourites to win the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League (IMAGO)
FC Barcelona are one of the favourites to win the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League (IMAGO)

Anything other than an emphatic Barcelona win would be underwhelming and quite frankly inconceivable as Xavi’s team have started La Liga like a house on fire.

Lazio v Atletico Madrid

Lazio and Atletico haven’t played each other since they met in the 2011/12 Europa League as Simeone’s Atletico team won both games.

Now the Argentine manager brings his Atletico side to the Stadio Olimpico where he represented Lazio for many years as a player.

Atleti are slight favourites based on the quality of players and pedigree but Maurizio Sarri also has Lazio playing some good football and an upset may yet be on the cards here.

Manchester City v Crvena Zvezda

The reigning Champions League holders Manchester City begin their title defence with an easy home game against Serbian club Crvena Zvezda also known as Red Star Belgrade.

Pep Guardiola’s team are expected to run riot in this Group G encounter, producing a typical European night at the Etihad Stadium.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Porto

Ukrainian champion Shakhtar will be playing their Champions League home games in Hamburg, Germany, this season because of the ongoing political tensions with Russia. 

They host Porto who are unbeaten in five Portuguese league games since losing the season-opening Super Cup to Benfica.

This is a close Group H game that could swing either way.

Feyenoord v Celtic

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has set a goal for his team to remain in Europe after Christmas which means they have to start with a positive result away at Feyenoord in Group E.

When compared to its opponents, the Scottish champions face a significant obstacle after being placed in the same group as Atletico Madrid, Lazio, and Feyenoord. 

Tuesday’s group-stage matchup between Celtic and Feyenoord in Rotterdam will see both teams looking to snap a 10-game losing streak.

UCL Matchweek one Tuesday fixtures
UCL Matchweek one Tuesday fixtures

Real Madrid v Union Berlin

Los Blancos are by far the most successful team in Champions League history and they begin the quest for title number 15 with a game against debutants Union Berlin on Wednesday in one of two early kickoffs.

Real Madrid should win easily at Santiago Bernabeu and are expected to finish top of Group C ahead of Napoli and Braga as well.

Galatasaray v Copenhagen

The other early kickoff on Wednesday sees Galatasaray welcome Copenhagen as the Turkish giants return to Champions League football.

A win is crucial for either side as Group A also houses Manchester United and Bayern Munich so it would be great to start on the front foot if they aim to advance.

Arsenal v PSV

Arsenal makes a return to Champions League football for the first time in seven years by welcoming PSV to the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

The Gunners are up there as one of the very best teams in the world based on their performances from last season coming into this one. They are the clear favourites for a win.

Bayern Munich v Manchester United

The biggest match of round one sees Bayern Munich welcome Manchester United to the Allianz Arena with the Germans as the overwhelming favourites against the underperforming visitors.

Bayern Munich are expected to win this Group A clash but write Manchester United off at your own peril.

Braga v Napoli

Napoli led by Victor Osimhen are on the hunt for a great Champions League campaign, looking to surpass their quarter-final finish last season.

They begin away at Braga in Group C where they will also go against Real Madrid and Union Berlin.

Real Sociedad v Inter Milan

Inter Milan were finalists last time out and are still reeling from that narrow defeat to Manchester City in Istanbul but they must now put that behind them and go in search of another final.

The Nerrazurri are going away to Real Sociedad in what promises to be a tricky game in Group D.

Benfica v Salzburg

The other game in Group D sees Benfica welcome Salzburg to Estadio Da Luz as they start their Champions League campaign.

Benfica made it to the quarter-finals last season and were unbeaten in the group stages, they are expected to win this one with relative ease.

Sevilla v Lens

RC Lens secured a historic qualification for the Champions League after a great season in Ligue 1 but their horrible start to this one is a sharp contrast.

They visit Sevilla who are also not in good form but the Europa League holders are still expected to beat Lens on Wednesday night.

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