15 September 2023
5 major talking points at the start of the UEFA Champions League
The stars. The anthem. All the football quality you could wish for. Yes, your favourite kinds of Tuesdays and Wednesdays are back. Before you settle in to enjoy all the midweek action (available live on Showmax Pro in South Africa, Lesotho and Mauritius, courtesy of SuperSport), here are some of the major talking points going into this season’s UEFA Champions League.
Don’t take your eyes off Group F
There’s always one “group of death” every UEFA Champions League draw. Group F definitely gets that title this year, with four of the biggest five leagues in Europe.
PSG were the team from the seeded first pot in the draw, but their run of 11 straight knockout appearances might be under threat now that they’ll have trickier fixtures than in the past. They’re also still coming to grips with the departures of Lionel Messi and Neymar.
Dortmund came heartbreakingly close to the Bundesliga title last season, and in Sebastien Haller, they have a striker that has an impressive scoring record in the tournament.
AC Milan are the second-most successful team in the competition’s history with seven titles, and are experiencing somewhat of a renaissance under manager Stefano Pioli.
Newcastle are the Premier League’s representative in this group after impressing all and sundry with their fourth place finish last season and it will be fascinating to see how they get on in such esteemed company,
Can anyone stop Manchester City?
For years, Manchester City were racking up domestic trophies for fun but were famously falling short on the continental stage.
Now that they’ve finally picked up a UEFA Champions League title, is this going to be a case of a flood following a drought?
Last season, Erling Haaland was brought in as the supposed final piece of Pep Guardiola’s jigsaw and the Norwegian didn’t disappoint, with a glut of goals in all competitions. He also seems to have started this season where he left off, which is ominous for all the rest.
The one possible question mark around the 2023/24 Manchester City vintage could be around some of the players that they’ve lost in the off-season. Both Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez were key contributors in the UEFA Champions League and while the squad has plenty of possible replacements, not all of them have the proven pedigree on this stage that those two had.
Throw in Kevin de Bruyne’s injury struggles and maybe, just maybe, there are enough chinks in City’s armour for someone to exploit this season.
One last hurrah for Carlo Ancelotti?
With the Brazilian national job on the horizon, could this be the last opportunity for Caro Ancelotti to shine in the UEFA Champions League?
He will always go down as one of the great managers in the competition’s history with two titles at AC Milan followed by two more titles over two spells at Real Madrid.
This time last year, Real were the defending champions and they ended up making it as far as the semi-finals before their dreams were ended by a superb, rampant Manchester City side.
This season, Ancelotti has the addition of Jude Bellingham, who has already made a huge impact in LaLiga, at his disposal. If he can shine on the Champions League stage too, you wouldn’t rule out a 15th title for Los Blancos.
The return of Arsenal and Manchester United
They used to be ever-present stalwarts in this tournament and now, after a rebuilding hiatus, two of England’s biggest club have returned to the ultimate European tournament.
For Arsenal, it’s been six-and-a-half years since their last game of the tournament. Mikel Arteta’s young side have been a breath of fresh air in the Premier League and they are sure to bring more entertainment to fans and neutrals alike with all the attacking talent at their disposal.
Erik ten Hag’s rebuild at Manchester United currently seems behind Arsenal’s one, but the club took important forward steps last season with their Carabao Cup win and third-place finish. They haven’t been given an opportunity to ease their way back into this tournament with an opening game against Bayern Munich. A win against them could be a kickstart to their season.
Bayern boosted by Harry Kane
After securing their 11th successive Bundesliga title, Bayern Munich have looked to take the next step in the UEFA Champions League by investing heavily in Harry Kane.
Bayern didn’t bring in a proper replacement for Robert Lewandowski, who left for Barcelona last season, and Kane fits the bill as a marquee striker who scores regularly.
Since winning the tournament in 2020, the German outfit have kept falling at the quarter-final hurdle. Kane could be the catalyst to get them past that stage as he looks to end his famous lack of winners’ medals.
About Showmax Pro
Showmax Pro is a streaming service available for Showmax subscribers in Africa that bundles the Showmax entertainment offering with music channels, news and live sports streaming from SuperSport.
Subscribers can live stream the latest seasons of the English Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, UEFA Europa and UEFA Conference leagues, as well as FIFA World Cup qualifiers, every game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup and more. Subscribers in selected regions can stream the UEFA Champions League.
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