The UEFA Champions League 2023-24 kicks off tomorrow, and not only will Cristiano Ronaldo will be absent this season, but also Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema. The former Real Madrid men are now playing in Saudi Arabia, and the World Cup winner now plies his trade for Miami in the USA. The stud forwards this season would seem to be Kilyan Mbappe, Erling Haaland, Harry Kane, and Robert Lewandowski — Forgive me if I missed anyone (and please name him in the comments)!
EPL’s Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham have been replaced this season by Man United, Arsenal and Newcastle, who join title-holders Man City. Italy on the other hand will be represented by league winners Napoli, the two Milano city rivals, and Lazio. Juventus will not appear in UCL for the first time in 11 years as they placed 7th in the league last season and were banned from continental football for one season anyway for breaking financial fair play rules. Spain returns with the usual suspects Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla, but this season they are also joined by Real Sociedad.
UCL officially enters its last season in the current format (32 teams in 8 groups). The top two of each group advance to UCL’s knockout stages, and third place drops into the Europa League knockout stage. I hope you are ready for the ride as this will be a long and information-packed article covering all the groups.
All groups have been previewed by NMA staff under one stream article for your ease of access. Also see the rules of UCL fantasy. If you have not joined NMA’s mini league yet, then please do; we look forward to more challengers!
In addition to this piece, I also highly recommend reading every word of DTuron’s article on how to succeed at fantasy UCL which was published one year ago. Why? Because he was the 2021-22 season’s global winner!
Bayern - Man United - Copenhagen - Galatasaray
Bayern Munich hosts a wounded Man United on Wednesday in the most-anticipated clash of UCL MD-1. Bayern’s new signing Kane has scored four goals and made one assist in four Bundesliga matches this season. Bayern drew 2-2 with Bayer Leverkeusen this Saturday after the international break, so both those clubs remain at the top of the Bundesliga table with 10 points.
Man United has lost three of five EPL matches this season, putting head coach Eric Ten Hag in a difficult position (or no position at all) if the result in Munich is negative. Man United is currently sitting in 13th place in the EPL.
Galatasaray returns to UCL after a short absence. The Turkish giants are at the top of the Super Lig table jointly with Rizespor having played one match less. On Saturday, Galatasaray defeated Samsunpor 4-2 in the domestic league.
UCL opponents Copenhagen are at the top of the Danish Superleague after drawing with chasers Nordsjaelland 2-2 on Saturday. The match will be scheduled to be played early on Wednesday.
Sevilla - Arsenal - PSV - Lens
After claiming the spot designated for Europa League winners, Sevilla start yet another UCL campaign by hosting French outfit Lens. Similar to last season, Sevilla started their domestic league campaign on a poor note losing all three matches against Valencia, Deportivo Alaves and Girona. They will play against Las Palmas on Sunday ahead of UCL MD-1. Sevilla is currently at the bottom of La Liga with zero points.
Lens is not fairing any better, having lost four and drawn one in Ligue-1 to share the bottom of the table with Lyon on 1 point.
Group favorite Arsenal will host PSV Eindhoven. Arsenal had a strong start in EPL, winning four and drawing one so far to sit fourth.
PSV added to a perfect domestic record on Saturday by defeating Nijmegen 4-0. The Dutch outfit tops the Eredivisie with 12 points from four matches ahead of the trip to London.
Napoli - Real Madrid - Braga - Union Berlin
Napoli started the season with two wins in Serie-A followed by a loss against Lazio and a draw Saturday away to Genoa. Napoli remains in 4th place after the draw, but with several matches to be played on Sunday, Napoli could drop a few spots by the end of the weekend. The Italian champions will open their UCL campaign away against Braga. The Portuguese outfit lost their Saturday domestic match 1-3 to Faranse. Braga sits in 7th place in Liga Portugal, having won twice, drawn once and lost twice.
Real Madrid plays Real Sociedad in domestic action on Sunday; Sociedad is also a UCL participant this season. On Wednesday, Madrid faces German outfit Union Berlin. The Spanish giants have won four of four La Liga matches and are temporarily placed second behind Barcelona.
Union Berlin is on a two match losing streak domestically after falling to RB Leipzig before the international break and Wolfsburg 1-2 on Saturday. The German newcomers are 8th in Bundesliga with two wins and two losses.
Benfica - Inter - Salzburg - Real Sociedad
At first sight, this group may look like a straight forward one with Benfica and Inter going through easily, but Salzburg has caused trouble within the group stage in recent years, and Real Sociedad will be looking to represent Spain well in this campaign.
MD-1 features Benfica vs Salzburg. The Portuguese champions defeated Vizela 2-1 away on Saturday in preparation to host their Austrian opponents. Benfica is second in Liga Portugal, only one point behind Porto after five game-weeks. The visitors are on top of the Austrian Bundesliga, having won six before drawing Saturday 2-2 against Sturm Graz.
Before traveling to Spain, Inter wrought havoc upon city rival AC Milan, winning 5-1 on Saturday. Inter sits atop Serie-A with full marks after four game-weeks. Inter shows no signs of slowing down heading to face La Liga’s 10th place Real Sociedad. The Spanish club has drawn three and won once domestically, and play Real Madrid on Sunday.
Feyenoord - Atletico Madrid - Lazio - Celtic
Feyenoord qualified to the UCL by winning 2022-23 Eredivisie. As a result, Ajax placed third behind PSV Eindhoven to find no berth in the UCL this season. Feyenoord is still performing well domestically, sitting in second place behind PSV after defeating Heerenveen 6-1 on Saturday. That’s a warning for UCL visitor Celtic, currently at the top of the the Scottish Premiership after defeating Dundee 3-0 on Saturday before flying to the Netherlands.
Another featured clash in MD-1 takes place within this group when Lazio hosts Atletico Madrid. The Italians had a poor start to the season, losing three and defeating only Napoli. The most recent defeat was on Saturday 3-1 against Juventus. The poor results put Lazio in 15th place in Serie-A after Sunday’s matches. Atletico Madrid lost on Saturday 3-0 against Valencia, the first loss this season. The capital club sits 7th in La Liga after two wins, one draw and one loss.
PSG - Dortmund - Milan - Newcastle
PSG is starting a new UCL campaign without Neymar, Lionel Messi or Marco Verratti this season. Star power has definitely dimmed for the Parisians, and with Mbappe’s summer drama, they started off poorly with two draws. They returned to winning ways against bottom-feeders Lens and Lyon only to be defeated this Friday 2-3 by Nice.
Visiting Dortmund will be eager to exploit PSG’s form on the back of a 4-2 win against Freiburg on Saturday. The Germans’ record does not have any losses so far this season, but they sit in 7th place in Bundesliga with two wins and two draws.
AC Milan had a fine start this season winning three of three before playing rival Inter Milan on Saturday, a 1-5 hammering down to third place.
Newcastle has struggled with a difficult starting fixture schedule in EPL. After displaying a strong attack in GW-1, defeating Aston VIlla 5-1, the Magpies lost three consecutive (Man City, Liverpool and Brighton). They returned to winning ways on Saturday though, defeating Brentford 1-0 to keep the promise of an entertaining match in Milan.
Man City - RB Leipzig - Crvena zvezda - Young Boys
The UCL title holders start their defense against Crvena zvezda (aka Redstar Belgrade). Man City won Saturday’s match 3-1 against West Ham to extend a perfect season start to five wins and remain at the top of the EPL.
The Serbs suffered a 1-2 loss against Cukaricki. Despite that, they remain 2nd in Serbia’s Super Liga with five wins and two losses.
RB Leipzig will start the UCL campaign by visiting Young Boys in Bern. The Germans are in strong form so far this season, with the most recent 3-0 win against Augsburg coming on Saturday. Leipzig sits in third place with Stuttgart, Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg, having won three and lost one so far. Hosts Young Boys are trailing FC Zuerich in Switzerland’s Super League by one point. They won their most recent match on Friday 1-0 against Neuchatel Xamax.
Barcelona - Porto - Shakhtar Donetsk - Antwerp
Barcelona starts the UCL campaign against newcomer Antwerp after a big win this weekend against Real Betis. Barcelona has dropped only two points this season — a 0-0 draw in the opening La Liga week against Getafe. With the win on Saturday, Barcelona claimed top spot in La Liga pending Real Madrid’s result on Sunday.
The ever-competitive Jupiler League (Belgium) currently has its top ten teams all within three points of each other, and Antwerp is in 5th at the moment with three wins, two draws and a loss. On Friday, Antwerp won 3-0 against Westerlo in preparation for travel to Spain.
The Ukraine Premier League is topped by UCL participant Shakhtar Donetsk after seven game-weeks. Shakhtar won 1-0 on Saturday against Obolon-Brovar in preparation to host UCL opponents Porto. The Portuguese League runner-ups from last season are currently at the top of Liga Portugal after defeating Estrela de Amadora 1-0 on Friday.
Good luck to you this season; we’ll be with you all the way!