The first matchday of the Champions League promises a lot of excitement. Some favorites are still weak – it’s the chance for the underdogs. An overview of the eight preliminary round groups.
Group A: Bayern favorites, Man United in danger
Of course: At first glance, Bayern and Manchester United prevail in this group. Both have the most experience in the Champions League and their international class is undisputed. When you look into the details, however, United’s current crisis becomes apparent. Things are not going well for Dutch coach Erik ten Hag’s team, which is languishing in the lower midfield of the league.
After the deportation of Mason Greenwood (on loan to Getafe FC), Jadon Sancho has now also been sidelined because he fell out with the coach.
Galatasaray could strike in this group – the Turkish champions have strengthened again in the summer. The most spectacular transfer was the permanent signing of Argentine super striker Mauro Icardi from Paris Saint Germain. The second most expensive new signing for the yellow-reds is central defender Davinson Sánchez, who comes from Tottenham Hotspur came.
Group B: Anything seems possible behind Arsenal
With its new stars Declan Rice and Kai Havertz he strives Arsenal FC the English championship title and of course also wants to go far in the Champions League. The team is the top favorite in this group, which has an opponent that is difficult to predict in Sevilla FC. The Spaniards, where Sergio Ramos played, got off to a bad start to the season with three league defeats, but won 1-0 against Las Palmas in Ramos’ first appearance at the weekend. Winning goal scorer: Dodi Lukebakio.
With the PSV Eindhoven and the northern French from Lens, Sevilla has two roughly equally strong competitors in the expected fight for second place. Eindhoven started the season brilliantly: the club is already leading the Dutch table after four wins from the first four games, and they were in the Champions League qualification Glasgow Rangers In the second leg they were literally shot out of the stadium with a score of 5-1.
Group C: Union Berlin facing a big mission
SSC Napoli and Real Madrid as opponents in the preliminary group – Union Berlin faces an impossible mission in its Champions League debut. Realistically speaking, for the people of Köpenick it should be primarily about the experience of the premier class. From a sporting perspective, the fight for third place and the associated qualification for the Europa League knockout games seems realistic.
The main focus will be on the duel with the Portuguese club Sporting Braga, who had a mixed start to the season (two wins, one draw, two defeats in the league).
Group D: RB Salzburg calls for former coach Roger Schmidt
Real’s Sociedad San Sebastian
At RB Salzburg, Roger Schmidt once made his breakthrough into becoming an international-class coach. The Sauerland native is now in his second season in charge at Benfica Lisbon. The Portuguese go into this group as favorites together with Inter Milan – but they have to watch out for Salzburg in particular.
Of course, the RB players from Austria are now dominating their domestic league again – in the Champions League they are more of an outsider with the potential to surprise. Like in 2021/22, when they made it to the round of 16 for the first and only time.
San Sebastian – last season’s surprise team in Spain – suffered their first defeat of the season at Real Madrid (1:2) at the weekend – seems to have lost the flow of the previous season a bit overall.
Group E: A group full of misfits
Possibly the most balanced preliminary group. Atletico – equipped with a lot of experience – is currently no longer a top Spanish team, Lazio has made a real false start to the season.
Feyenoord and Celtic could be beneficiaries and approach the games on equal terms. Under successful coach Arne Slot, the Dutch became Dutch champions in a surprising and convincing manner and are going into the round with a well-rehearsed team.
Group F: BVB and Paris in the “group of death”
Paris St Germain
This time it is likely to be the “group of death”: BVB has caught opponents in the preliminary round with Paris, Milan and the upgraded Newcastle, all of whom want to qualify for the knockout round and have stated this as a clear goal. Everyone is seen on an equal footing and it will probably depend on the day’s form when it comes to the awarding of points in each individual game.
Paris suffered its first defeat of the season in a 3-2 defeat to Nice at the weekend – not everything is going well for the star ensemble. But with Dembélé, Mbappé, who is fit again, Kolo Muani and the two Portuguese Goncalo Ramos and Vitinha behind them, the team is brilliant offensively even without its former stars Messi and Neymar.
Group G: Leipzig against Hexenkessel and on artificial surfaces
Red Star Belgrade
Young Boys Bern
There are no discussions in Group G: City and Leipzig go into the preliminary round games as clearly favored teams. Belgrade and Bern are rated more at Europa League level and should have no chance if the two big ones do their homework to some extent.
Young Boys Bern is expected to play an outsider role with surprise potential, which is based on the Swiss champions’ pronounced home advantage. Because there is artificial turf in Bern’s Wankdorf Stadium – a completely unfamiliar surface for the professionals from the other teams.
Red Star Belgrade is also hoping for the games in its own stadium – and is particularly counting on its fans. A cauldron awaits the away teams in Belgrade.
Group H: The Champions League is back in Hamburg
No, it is not your own club that brings Hamburg back to the Champions League. They are far from that. But Shakhtar Donetsk makes it possible. The Ukrainians are moving to the Hamburg stadium for their home games in the group. If they want to reach the knockout rounds, they will have to overcome one of the two big favorites from Barcelona or Porto.
As the second outsider, FC Antwerp is on a level playing field and could fight for third place with Donetsk. The Belgian champions are trained by an old friend: Mark van Bommel sits on the bench. By the way, he made a bad mistake: he forgot to register left-back Sam Vines for the CL list. The American could not be nominated and is now missing from the Belgians.