The 2023/24 UEFA Champions League group stage draw, despite having both winners and losers, promises some blockbusting encounters!!!
The 2023/24 UEFA Champions League group stage draw was made on Thursday, August 31, 2023 at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. It features some exciting fixtures, with some teams winners and others losers.
In Group A; Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Galatasaray and Copenhagen face each other. In Group B; Arsenal will slug it out with Sevilla, PSV and Lens.
Group C features Real Madrid, Napoli, Sporting Braga and Union Berlin. Inter Milan, Benfica RB Salzburg and Real Sociedad make up Group D.
In Group E; Athletico Madrid will come up against Feyenoord, Lazio and Celtic. Group F is the “Group of Death”; involving PSG, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan and Newcastle.
In Group G; defending champions Man City have been pitted up against RB Leipzig, Red Star Belgrade and Young Boys. While Group H comprises of Barcelona, FC Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Royal Antwerp.
In this post, FootballOrbit looks at the winners and losers from the draw.
Losers: Manchester United
Manchester United were absent from the Champions League last season, but are now back after a huge transformation under Erik ten Hag.
But they have been handed a nightmare group stage draw on their return. The Red Devils will face Bayern Munich, Galatasaray and Copenhagen.
Bayern have recently added the very prolific Harry Kane to their front line. Galatasaray fans have a reputation in Europe as being one of the most fanatic in the world, they attach high importance to European competitions, and Galatasaray is known as the Conqueror of Europe by their fans.
Furthermore, Copenhagen went unbeaten at home against Man City, Sevilla and Dortmund in the group stage last season.
Arsenal return to the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2016/17. Mikel Arteta’s side have been handed a relatively easy draw in Group B.
The Gunners will hugely fancy their chances of reaching the knockout stages as they face Sevilla, PSV and French side Lens — who are back in the group stage for the first time in 20 years.
Losers: Union Berlin and Sporting Braga
Last season’s Bundesliga surprise packages, Union Berlin, will be taking part in the Champions League for the first time ever.
Portuguese side Sporting Braga ended last season in third place and a return to the Champions League after 11 years, as well as club records for points (78), wins (25) and goals (75)
But both sides have been unfortunate to be drawn in Group C against record 14 times European champions Real Madrid and Napoli — who won the Serie A and were arguably the most best team in Europe last season.
Ultimately, Union Berlin and Braga will now be vying for at least a third place finish.
Winners: All the teams in Group D
Last season’s runners-up Inter Milan are joined in Group D by Benfica, RB Salzburg and Real Sociedad. All four teams will believe that they have a fair chance of progressing to the knockouts.
Inter Milan reached last season’s final, having battled their way out of a tough group featuring Bayern and Barcelona. Now, they face a rematch with Benfica, who they dumped out in the quarter-finals, winning 5-3 on aggregate.
RB Salzburg regularly reach the group stage, but have reached the knockout stage only once before (2022).
Moreso, Real Sociedad are making their return to Europe’s top competition for the first time in 10 years and will look forward to a memorable campaign.
Winners: Athletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid embarrassingly crashed out at the group stage last season, and even missed out on the Europa League altogether.
This time around, Diego Simeone’s side will fancy their chances of topping Group E, where they will face Feyenoord, Lazio and Celtic.
Losers: All the teams in Group F
This season’s “Group of Death” is Group F; featuring PSG, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan and Newcastle United.
While PSG looked like outright favourites, their maddening inconsistency in the Champions League will give their tricky opponents hope.
Dortmund fumbled when it mattered most last season — inexplicably losing the Bundesliga title on the final matchday; AC Milan cannot be ruled out; while Newcastle — returning after a 20-year absence — won’t be pushovers.
Expect blockbusting clashes from this group!!!
Winners: Manchester City
Man City and Pep Guardiola would have heaved a huge sigh of relief after being handed a rather straight forward draw. They will come up against Red Star Belgrade, Young Boys and RB Leipzig.
Effectively, the defending champions are already through to the round of 16.
Barcelona have embarrassingly failed to go beyond the group stage in the last two seasons.
Xavi’s men faced Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in the same group last year and finished behind both.
This season, Barca have been handed a relatively easy draw in Group H alongside FC Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Royal Antwerp. Apart from Porto, there isn’t much for them to worry about.
Shakhtar are unsettled as the war in their home country, Ukraine, rages on. They currently occupy a temporary home in neighbouring Poland.
Belgian champions, Antwerp are making their first appearance in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the first time ever.
What you need to know….
The group stage kicks off on Tuesday, 19th of September and comes to an end on Wednesday, 13th of December 2023.
The 2023/24 Champions League final is on Saturday, Ist of June 2024. The final will be played in London at Wembley Stadium, which hosted the 2011 and 2013 finals.
Furthermore, this season’s UEFA Champions League is the 69th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament, and the 32nd season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League.
Change in format
This season will be the last edition with the current format of 32 teams participating at the group stage, after UEFA had announced that a new expanded format would be introduced from next season.
From the 2024/25 season, there will be an increase from 32 teams in the group stage to 36. The biggest change will see a transformation from the traditional group stage to a single league phase including all participating teams.
Every club will now be guaranteed a minimum of 8 league stage games against 8 different opponents (4 home games, 4 away) rather than the previous six matches against three teams, played on a home-and-away basis.
The top eight sides in the league will qualify automatically for the knockout stage, while the teams finishing in 9th to 24th place will compete in a two-legged play-off to secure their path to the last 16 of the competition.
Moreso, similar format changes will also be applied to the UEFA Europa League (8 matches in the league stage) and UEFA Europa Conference League (6 matches in the league stage) and both will also include 36 teams in the league phase.