Champions League Matchday 1: Game-by-game preview

The 2022/23 UEFA Champions League group stage gets under way on Tuesday, with plenty of intrigue and tasty fixtures to ensure it begins with a bang.

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Tuesday 6 September

Celtic vs Real Madrid (21:00 CET)

What a way to mark your return to this stage of the competition after a four-year absence! It’s fair to say this match has been the hottest ticket in town since the draw – the visit of a Real Madrid side that has won five of the past nine Champions League titles will do that. Less expected has been the wave of optimism among the Bhoys, aided by a club-record 9-0 away win at Dundee United last month. “I think we can beat them,” reckons on-song Kyogo Furuhashi. Music to the home fans’ ears.

Did you know?
Real Madrid have never failed to make it through the group stage of the Champions League.

Every Real Madrid Champions League goal in 2021/22

Dinamo Zagreb vs Chelsea (18:45)

Thomas Tuchel’s Blues will be looking to kick-start their stuttering campaign, but there are certainly easier places to go – just ask Tottenham. The heralded Dinamo production line continues to churn out brilliant youngsters (keep an eye out for midfielder Martin Baturina) and, allied to proven class in attack, they are always a force. Especially at home: the Modri are unbeaten at Stadion Maksimir in 19 matches in all competitions, winning 16 and drawing three.

Did you know?
Chelsea’s Mateo Kovačić spent six years on the books at Dinamo at the start of his career and was aged just 16 years and 198 days when he scored on his debut in 2010.

Sevilla vs Man City (21:00)

Erling Haaland has already registered 27 times in just 25 UEFA club competition games for Molde, Salzburg and Dortmund, and it seems his nose for a goal has been undimmed by the move to England. Sevilla are always a team to be reckoned with in Europe, but Haaland and Co may fancy their chances against a remodelled back line still adjusting to a host of summer departures.

Did you know?
Josep Guardiola reached a record ninth Champions League semi-final last season – moving past José Mourinho’s previous benchmark.

Haaland: Every Dortmund Champions League goal

Dortmund vs Copenhagen (18:45)

“We are there to compete, create great performances and experiences for our fans,” says Copenhagen coach Jess Thorup. There are few better places than at Dortmund, in front of the famous ‘Yellow Wall’, but aside from a remarkable capitulation against Bremen last month (losing a game they led 2-0 until the 89th minute), BVB look to be adapting well to life without Haaland. Illness deprives them of Sébastien Haller for the time being, but fellow summer signing Karim Adeyemi impressed in last season’s group stage with Salzburg.

Did you know?
Copenhagen are the only club from Denmark to reach the knockout rounds of the competition.

Salzburg vs AC Milan (21:00)

Adeyemi was among several key players to depart the Austrian champions this summer, but Salzburg are a well-oiled machine: the personnel may change yet results seldom dip. Fernando, picked up from Shakhtar, has taken up the goalscoring slack and will surely ask questions of the Milan defence. The Rossoneri won their first Serie A crown in 11 years last season; the next challenge is to rediscover a bit of their old European magic too. A strong start could be key.

Did you know?
Last season, Salzburg became the first Austrian team to reach the Champions League knockout stage.

Paris vs Juventus (21:00)

There’s nothing quite like bumping into your ex just a few weeks after a break-up. Ángel Di María spent seven successful seasons at Paris before linking up with Juventus this summer, receiving a standing ovation after bowing out in style in May. The Argentinian may not get quite the same warm welcome on Tuesday as a Juve side that has rather stumbled out of the blocks this season faces a Paris outfit showing real signs of attacking life under new boss Christophe Galtier.

Did you know?
In the group stage last term, Kylian Mbappé marked his 50th Champions League game by becoming the 11th player to score 20 away goals in the competition. By reaching the total in just 23 matches, he did so in fewer games than any of the previous ten men.

Watch all Di María’s Champions League Paris goals

Leipzig vs Shakhtar (21:00)

Christopher Nkunku generated a lot of interest during the summer after plundering 35 goals and 20 assists in all competitions for Leipzig last term. Yet the Bundesliga’s 2021/22 Player of the Season remains at the club and looks to have picked up where he left off; the German side’s early-season issues have been at the other end of the pitch. Shakhtar, based in Kyiv because of the ongoing situation in Ukraine, are more of an unknown quantity. They go into Matchday 1 with just three games under their belt this term.

Did you know?
Shakhtar have reached the group stage for the 17th time but have not progressed further in 12 of their previous 16 campaigns, including the last four.

Benfica vs Maccabi Haifa (21:00)

Maccabi Haifa’s last group stage appearance in 2009/10 ended in disappointment with no goals and no points, though oft forgotten is the fact that five of the losses were narrow 1-0s. The club’s 2022/23 vintage are unlikely to be quite so parsimonious, as evidenced by their remarkable 5-4 aggregate triumph over Crvena zvezda in the play-offs. Nevertheless, Benfica may well appreciate an open game: they have averaged close to three goals per game in a nine-match winning start to the season.

Did you know?
Maccabi Haifa were the first Israeli side to qualify for the Champions League proper, making their debut in the first group stage in 2002/03.

Classic Champions League Matchday 1 goals

Picked your Fantasy side?

Wednesday 7 September

Napoli vs Liverpool (21:00 CET)

Not many teams have had the better of Liverpool over the past four seasons, but twice the Reds have visited the venue now known as the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in this competition and twice they have come away with nothing. A recent record-equalling 9-0 Premier League defeat of Bournemouth boosted confidence and certainly raises hopes of a first Liverpool goal at Napoli in three attempts, but Luciano Spalletti’s exciting side – spearheaded by the exciting Victor Osimhen – carry a real threat.

Did you know?
Last season, Liverpool became the first English club to win all six of their games in a single Champions League group stage.

Ajax vs Rangers (18:45)

Alfred Schreuder has big shoes to fill after replacing Erik ten Hag as Ajax coach, and a host of big-name departures hints at a changing of the guard in Amsterdam. There have been arrivals too: not least Calvin Bassey, fresh from his key role in helping Rangers to the UEFA Europa League final last season. The defender knows better than most the threat posed by the Scottish outfit, and having taken one Eredivisie scalp already this season after beating PSV in the play-offs, Rangers’ Dutch boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst will be eager for another.

Did you know?
Ajax won all six group games for the first time in their history last season. They topped their group for the first time since 1995/96 as a result.

Rangers’ last season in the Champions League: Miller stunner

Barcelona vs Plzeň (21:00)

“We’re up against the opponents of our dreams,” according to Plzeň midfielder Jan Sýkora. But could a Barcelona attack spearheaded by Robert Lewandowski become the stuff of nightmares? The Polish striker has hit the ground running in Spain, a “blessing” for Xavi Hernández which could prove a curse for opposition defenders as he feeds off pace on the flanks. Lewandowski turned 34 in August but shows no signs of slowing, with 41 goals in his last 34 Champions League outings.

Did you know?
Last season, Barcelona failed to make it through the group stage for the first time since 2000/01.

Inter vs Bayern (21:00)

Barcelona’s gain was Bayern’s loss regarding Lewandowski, but having registered five, six and seven goals already in games this season, the German giants are not exactly struggling in that department. With Barcelona to come in Group C, Julian Nagelsmann is desperate for a successful trip to Italy. ”It’s a very demanding group full of challenges,” says the Bayern coach. “We have to be ready right from the start.” Inter, nine matches unbeaten at home, will be ready too.

Did you know?
Bayern were the top scorers in the group stage last season with 22 goals.

Lewandowski: Great Bayern goals

Tottenham vs Marseille (21:00)

The 2019 Champions League final has felt like a distant memory at times for Spurs over the past three years, with last season’s group exit in the UEFA Europa Conference League particularly chastening. Yet there are clear signs of improvement under Antonio Conte, and the consensus in the UK media is that they have quietly developed a well-rounded squad with greater depth. An impressive start to 2022/23 backs up that opinion, though Marseille, unbeaten so far this season, will provide a test.*

Did you know?
Marseille have not made it past this stage of the competition since 2011/12, losing 11 of their 12 subsequent group stage games.

Frankfurt vs Sporting CP (18:45)

Frankfurt have made another sluggish start to their domestic campaign, but if they can reproduce the continental form which guided them to UEFA Europa League glory last term, it will matter little. Filip Kostić has gone but Mario Götze has arrived, while Daichi Kamada looks to have pushed on as the creative fulcrum. Sporting CP have had a similar start in Portugal, Pedro Gonçalves’s best efforts only enough to secure them seven points from five games.

Did you know?
Sporting CP achieved their biggest home (4-0) and away (4-1) wins in the Champions League in successive group matches against Beşiktaş last year.

Every Frankfurt goal on the road to Europa League glory

Atlético vs Porto (21:00)

Atleti and Porto have also suffered early-season setbacks – against Villarreal and Rio Ave respectively – but both teams know how to turn it on for the Champions League. They met twice last season, the Spanish side winning 3-1 away (it was 1-0 after 89 minutes) and drawing 0-0 at home, with as many red cards as goals across the two matches. We could well be in for more of the same high-octane action.*

Did you know?
Porto are embarking on their 26th Champions League group stage campaign (the same number as Bayern). Only Barcelona and Real Madrid (27) have appeared in more.

Club Brugge vs Leverkusen (21:00)

Carl Hoefkens stepped up at Club Brugge when Schreuder departed for Ajax and looks to be finding his feet in the top job. Up front, Espanyol youth academy product Ferran Jutglà has already made a big impression for the Belgian club, and the 23-year-old could pose problems for a Leverkusen team that has struggled at the back in 2022/23.

Did you know?
Club Brugge became the first side ever to concede four goals or more in four consecutive Champions League games last season.

*Subject to weekend updates

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Champions League Matchday 1: Game-by-game preview

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