5 must watch games in the UCL group stage this season (2022/23)

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The 2022-23 UEFA Champions League group stage draw has been completed and there are going to be some scintillating match-ups this season. The group stage of the competition will conclude within six weeks to accommodate the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which begins mid-November. Regardless, the group stage will see some action-packed games as the 32 teams will fight to advance to the Round of 16.

Although there is often a group of death in most group stage draws in the Champions League, there might be more than one this season. With some of the top clubs yet to get going this season, there are no guarantees as to which team will top the group. Similarly, there are no assurances (barring three or four clubs) as to which club will not make the cut for the Round of 16. There is bound to be a lot of drama and high-intensity matches during the group stage games.

On that note, let’s take a look at five must-watch games in the UEFA Champions League group stage this season. (2022-23)

#5 Liverpool vs. Napoli (Group A)

Liverpool vs. Napoli has been somewhat of a regular fixture in the group stage of the Champions League over the last five years. The two teams were drawn against each other in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 season.

Surprisingly enough, despite the Anfield outfit’s dominance in Europe under Jurgen Klopp, Napoli have performed better in those fixtures. Out of the four games between the two teams, the Italian side have won twice and drawn once. However, both teams have been restructured to a certain extent since the last time they met.

Liverpool have had a shocker of a start this season as they are yet to register a Premier League win. Napoli, on the other hand, despite losing Lorenzo Insigne, Kalidou Koulibaly and many others, are currently top of the Serie A table. The Luciano Spalleti-led side have won both of their opening league fixtures, with a resounding nine goals scored.

Hence, the game between the Merseyside club and the Serie A side is likely to produce fireworks. Both teams possess loads of attacking talent, with Mohamed Salah and Victor Osimhen leading the attacking forces for Liverpool and Napoli, respectively. With Ajax and Rangers also part of the group, there is bound to be a lot of entertainment in Group A of the Champions League this season.

#4 Chelsea vs. AC Milan (Group E)

Chelsea will be relatively pleased with their Champions League group this season as they have been drawn with RB Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb & AC Milan.

But the fixture against the Italian club is bound to be a testing affair for Thomas Tuchel & Co. The west London club have had a mixed start to the league season after picking up only four points out of a possible nine so far. Although they have looked encouraging at times, their defeat against Leeds United proved their lack of attacking nous.

AC Milan have not enjoyed their best start to the 2022-23 season either as the reigning Serie A champions have four points out of a possible six. While they have lost the likes of Samu Castillejo, Alessio Romagnoli, Franck Kessie and a few others, they have brought in valuable reinforcements. Hence, they will be up to face the best of the best in Europe.

With the Blues impressing in the Champions League in recent seasons (they won the 2020-21 edition), they will face a stern test against a resilient AC Milan side. The battle is likely to be won off-the-pitch as Tuchel & Stefano Pioli’s tactical changes are likely to be the difference makers on the night.

The two clubs have only been grouped together once before in the Champions League (1999-00 season), with both group stage fixtures ending in draws. However, both have had captivating games against each other in the UEFA Super Cup and UEFA Cup (now Europa League) previously, thereby indicating the history of the fixture.

#3 Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund (Group G)

Erling Haaland will have mixed feelings about his Champions League group this season. The Manchester City striker will play against his former side Borussia Dortmund in the group stage.

The two clubs have met four times in the tournament previously, with City winning twice and drawing once. Their most recent game came in the 2020-21 quarter-finals, which the Cityzens won 4-2 on aggregate over the two legs. Ironically enough, Haaland was on the losing side that day but will look to emerge victorious against the Signal Iduna Park outfit this time around.

Regardless, it will be an entertaining affair since both teams possess young and talented attackers and a style of football which is pleasing on the eye. Goals are expected on both ends of the pitch, courtesy of which the team with greater defensive resilience is bound to win the game.

Both teams have had slightly stuttering starts to their league campaigns as City have picked up seven points out of nine while Dortmund have won six out of nine. Nevertheless, both teams shall be gunning for a win, especially since Sevilla and FC Copenhagen are also part of Group C.

#2 Paris Saint-Germain vs. Juventus (Group H)

Paris Saint-Germain have been trying to get their hands on Europe’s coveted trophy ever since the Qatari owners bought the club.

They have not managed to achieve continental success yet but will fancy their chances again this season, given their impeccable squad. However, the group stage of the Champions League will pose a tricky test for them, with Juventus also being drawn in the same group. The two clubs have never played against each other in the competition, courtesy of which, it will be a great watch.

Although PSG do boast a lot of attacking talent, Juventus are just as good at defending, especially in the big games. Massimiliano Allegri’s masterclass against Chelsea in their second game of the group stage last season is evidence of the same. Moreover, they now have players like Angel Di Maria & Dusan Vlahovic,who are game-changers on their day. They have also replaced Matthijs de Ligt by bringing in the highly talented Gleison Bremer from Torino.

Hence, while PSG do have Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappe on the books, Juventus have their own strengths. Christoph Galtier will be wary of the Italian side, given their pedigree of neutralizing top sides in Europe. It is bound to be a tantalizing watch when the two teams face off against each other this season.

#1 Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona (Group C)

Barcelona will not necessarily be pleased with their Champions League group draw as they will have to face the wrath of Bayern Munich again.

The two clubs have met 11 times previously, with the German side winning eight times and drawing once. The two teams were drawn against each other in the group stage last season as well, with Bayern winning with a scoreline of 3-0 in both fixtures. Moreover, the Spanish side will not have forgotten when they were humbled by the Bundesliga club in the 2019-20 quarter-finals, getting battered 8-2.

However, a lot has changed over the past two months with Barcelona signing Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski this summer. The club have also brought in Franck Kessie, Jules Kounde, Raphinha and Andreas Christensen while also re-signing Ousmane Dembele. Xavi has got the club playing attractive football again and they are now becoming a fearless force.

Although Bayern have also strengthened this summer, it will not be a surprise if the game between the two clubs turns out to be a close affair. Both teams look well-balanced and are managed by two young coaches, who have given their respective sides a very specific identity.

Hence, it will be interesting to see if Barcelona can avenge their defeats over the last couple of years or if Bayern whitewash the La Liga side again. In any case, fans will be excited for this fixture as it promises a lot of top-quality football.

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