Eight matches in the group stage of the Champions League begin today. In the game will be the defending champions Real Madrid, who will present themselves in Glasgow against Celtic. In the hit of the night, Paris St. Germain will meet Juventus Turin, the biggest favorites of the competition that Manchester City will play in Seville. After three years, the Czech club will also play in the group stage: Pilsen will start on Wednesday in Barcelona.
Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1:0 in May’s final and, as record holders, dominated the competition for the fourteenth time. This time, according to bookmakers, “White Ballet” is the fifth biggest favorite for the championship behind Manchester City, Paris St. Germain, Bayern Munich and Liverpool.
Real will begin their journey in defense in Glasgow, where they lost 0-2 in their only clash with Celtic in 1980. But they won 3:0 in the subsequent home rematch. The Scottish team is back in the Champions League after five years.
“The match against Real is a big challenge for us. We want to measure ourselves against the best and they are the best. We want to be part of these big nights,” said Celtic coach Ange Postecoglou, whose players knocked out to Jablonec in last season’s Europa League qualifiers. In the second match of Group F, Leipzig will welcome Shakhtar Donetsk, who will play their home games due to Russia’s war with Ukraine at neutral ground in Warsaw.
Rich Paris St. Germain still hasn’t broken the wait for a Champions League victory. The French giant, with its star attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, will welcome Juventus Turin at the start of Group H, and given the “Old Ladies'” malaise, it is a clear favourite. The match will be special for Ángel Di María and Leandro Paredes, who have recently been active in Paris.
“Games against Juventus are always difficult. Italian teams do a lot in terms of tactics and physical preparation. They always give you problems and this is a big match against them,” said the defender and captain PSG’s Marquinhos. Benfica Lisbon will face Maccabi Haifa in the second match of the group.
Another star-studded Manchester City team, like the Parisians, will also enter the season hoping to end the wait for the dream premiership success in the Champions League. The English champions will play in Group G at Sevilla, who have picked up just one point in the opening four rounds of the Spanish league. City are hoping for the summer reinforcement of striker Erling Haaland, who tops the Premier League scoring table with 10 goals.
“From the first games for us, he showed that he is a fantastic scorer. He can help us achieve great things in the season, like winning the Champions League. We are all working hard to make it happen. This is the trophy that we all want it,” said City goalkeeper Ederson. In the second match of the group, Dortmund will welcome FC Copenhagen.
Last year’s Champions League winners Chelsea will open Group E in Zagreb against Dinamo. In the second leg, Salzburg welcome reigning Italian champions AC Milan, who come into the match buoyed by a 3-2 league win over Inter at the weekend. “Rossoneri” will have to do without the long-term injured forty-year-old star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Teams in the main stage of the competition are traditionally divided into eight groups of four, with the first two teams always advancing to the knockout stages. The teams in third place qualify for the spring part of the European League. This time, the Champions League group stage will span eight weeks and end unusually on November 2 due to the subsequent World Cup in Qatar. Istanbul will host the final on June 10.