The 2023/2024 UEFA Champions League (UCL) league matchday week one finished on Wednesday, and as usual the first game week of the competition didn’t let us down either. We witnessed spectacular finishes, emotional comebacks for certain clubs after a long absence, and enthralling matchups amongst elite teams.
That was not all.
We also saw goals, yellow cards, and red cards, all of which highlight how fiercely competitive the league would be this year.
Bethel Pedro, a football analyst, shares his view on this year’s UCL, with CrispNG.
“All the teams are still shaky so far, there has been no consistent team. Manchester City have won 7 games out of 7 this season but if you look well, you will notice that it’s not Manchester City of last season. They are finding it a bit hard to break down teams to and Haaland looks like a shadow of the player he was last season. He has not being clinical enough in front of goals this season like he was last season,” he said.
“Then Madrid also have been winning matches but they also struggle in the absence of Karim Benzema. Currently they play 4-4-2 formation with Vinicius and Rodrygo and that formation is not allowing them to have a man upfront and that’s why you see Bellingham getting on the scoresheet regularly because he is the one finding those pocket of spaces to attack in the opposition box, though they are somehow managing to adapt.
“Their local rivals (Barcelona) on the other hand are trying and they are showing signs of a strong team to play against unlike last season. Also the likes of Bayern Munich are shaky in German bundesliga too, Manchester United, same thing. And talking about United they are actually one of the most underrated teams in this season UCL mainly because of the way they have started the season and also the injuries too.
“Ac Milan, Inter Milan, Newcastle, Porto, Sevilla even Arsenal are underdogs to me. If any if teams aforementioned wins UCL this season, it will be a surprise to me. The teams I’m expecting to do something remarkable are Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester City. I also see Inter Milan as a threat.”
We examine how some of the teams got off to a fast start before making our predictions.
Newcastle were welcomed back to the UCL with a group consisting of Paris Saint German, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan. Had they got a more comfortable group, I would have tipped them go go all the way to round 16 atleast. With that in mind and the fact that the magpies have only six points from five Premier League games this season showing how bad they started the season, it would require miracles and much hard work to survive the group stage. They defended so very well against AC Milan but could not find the back of the net which is a big problem.
Defending have not always been much of a problem for Diego Simoene’s side rather finishing is. Last time out, Atleti fall out of what looked like a very comfortable enough group for them. They rallied domestically after that elimination, though, and finished just a point behind their neighbours Real Madrid. A 3-0 reverse at Valencia wasn’t the ideal preparation for Tuesday’s trip to Lazio where they squeezed a point in the 1-1 draw. The Colchoneros are likely to make it out of the group stage but its left for them to decide where they go from there.
Nobody expected that AC Milan would get to the semifinal of last season’s UCL considering the fact that they had to dig very deep to survive and make it out of their group. The achievement could well motivate Stefano Pioli’s team to go further this time around, though, providing they can escape the closest this season’s competition has to a group of death. The Rossoneri were flying domestically before a heavy derby defeat against Inter last time out in serial A, but could not get the quick response as they were expecting to get against Newcastle on Tuesday night where they were held to a 1-1 draw. They look like a team ready to cause problems this season.
Last season’s group stage saw Napoli dominate, scoring freely against Liverpool, Ajax, and Rangers. Their quick start also helped them win the Serie A championship with plenty of time left. They should have sufficient talent to advance further this season, but there has been a fair lot of change since the summer, as Rudi Garcia took over for Luciano Spalletti in the dugout and has presided over an adequate but unspectacular start. If they are consistent, then I believe they will have a memorable outing again this season.
Manchester United found themselves in a more welcoming group unlike their local rivals, Newcastle and that’s why I would say that they are likely to finish second in their group only if they don’t start their UCL season the way they have started their league. With all that is going on at the club with a handful of scandals, internal problems and injuries to some first team members, They have suffered Three defeats from five games and it’s a worrying statistic for them. The red Devils certainly doesn’t look like a team capable of making a dent in the knockout stages even though they star off well against Bayern Munich which are on of the favourites to go all the way and lift UCL this season but later lost the game on 4-3, Fortunately for United, it is only just game week one and this is arguably the most difficult fixture in the group.
Barcelona have failed to progress through the Champions League group stages in each of the past two seasons, but the La Liga champions have started their UCL campaign in style, beating Royal Antwerp 5-0 to end that unwanted record. The Blaugrana produced a complete performance, with their opponents having little chance.
Considering other teams in the same group with Barcelona, qualify would be a walk in the park for them and with the fine form in which Barcelona have started the season with (both in LaLiga and Europe), the form of Joal Félix, and the experience of Ilkay Gundogan who lifted the Champions league trophy with Pep Guardiola’se Manchester City last June, I rip Barcelona to get to at least the quarter finals of this season UCL.
Bayern Munich have always been at the top list of favourites to win UCL in most seasons usually finds it difficult to advance to semi finals even with their fine records of winning 17 of 18 group games. They’ll hope summer signing Harry Kane can help change that, though, and they have as well started this season on the right track with the a well fought for 3points in their opening game of the season against Manchester United in group A.
Last season’s losing finalists picked up seven wins in their last eight league games to make sure of another Champions League season, and have picked up where they left off. Simone Inzaghi’s team have four wins from four in Serie A, with Rafael Leao’s fruitless strike in a 5-1 derby win for the Nerazzurri the only goal Inzaghi’s men have conceded. Having a welcoming group that consists of Real sociedad, Benfica and Salzburg, I don’t see no reason why they will not top group D with ease. They have started the campaign with a 1-1 draw in Spain against Real Sociedad ( have in-form striker Lautauro Martinez to thank for the late equalizer in Spain) and I still believe the will survive the the group but I doubt if we are going to see another surprise from them.
Prior to the game against PSV Endhoven on Wednesday night, where Arsenal thrashed the Dutch visitors 4-0, a team they edged out in their Europa League group the previous season, Arsenal’s lengthy absence from the Champions League was a cause for concern.
Only a late equalizer from Joao Palhinha of Fulham prevented Mikel Arteta’s team from starting the league season undefeated as they have won four of their previous five games.
The Gunners may have the simplest group this year, and some have already pegged them as the fourth favorite to hoist the trophy at Wembley in May, but in champions league football, anything can happen. But I believe that they should be assessed after they play a later, tougher teams in the competition.
PSG has experienced a turbulent summer as a result of the departures of manager Christophe Galtier, Neymar, and Lionel Messi. Because of this, it may not be shocking that they have had a rather poor domestic start, but Luis Enrique is their new manager, and he has won this competition before so his experience. Additionally, they have Kylian Mbappe, who has seven goals in five league games and the talent to defeat any foe and they have started the season season on the right foot with a 2-0 win over Borrusia Dortmund on gameweek one. But frankly speaking, I think it’s going to be business as usual for PSG because Kylian Mbappe alone cannot carry the team on his young shoulder all the way to lift the UCL this season but who knows, after all, this is UEFA champions league and there’s always going to be surprises.
When they lost to Manchester City in the semi-final of the previous season, the 2022 champions appeared to be some distance behind them. but Jude Bellingham’s arrival may well have helped bridge that gap as his late winner secured the whole three points for the galácticos on Wednesday night against Union Berlin in their first game. The Englishman has now scored six times in as many games, with Carlo Ancelotti’s team winning all of them, while the less-heralded new striker Joselu has also delivered some important goals. Suddenly the loss of Karim Benzema looks like it might not affect them too much and if that’s the case, then getting a semi final finish at least shouldn’t be a problem for Anceloti’s men.
Manchester City lost a number of players from the team that defeated Inter in Istanbul in June, but they still don’t appear any worse for wear. While Kevin De Bruyne anticipates a period of injury-related absence, Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez, Aymeric Laporte, and Cole Palmer have all left the team. The Treble winners have a perfect record in the league despite having few opponents who have been able to challenge them thus far.
They seem to have picked up where they left off with this European campaign with their 3-1 win over Red star Belgrade making it difficult to bet against Manchester City replicating their treble triumph from the last season.
The holders already appear to be the team to defeat. They appear to have an extremely less strong Champions League group, and their Premier League campaign has started off flawlessly with five straight victories.
And that’s even with Erling Haaland not being at his best; against Red Star Belgrade, the City goal machine went scoreless. But you have a feeling the goals will start flying in once he locates his shooting boots.