Champions League: 3 fascinating matchups to look out for in Matchday 1

The 2023/24 Champions League is finally here. With some historic teams returning and brilliantly competitive-looking groups, we should be in for yet another cracking season of drama across the continent. Here are 3 matchups that could make for great viewing in Champions League Matchday 1.

Although each team has six matches in the group stage, it is often pivotal to get off to a good start. By winning the first game, clubs can steal an early advantage and stamp their authority over the rest of their competitors.

Thanks to the 2023/24 draw, we have some mouthwatering encounters lined up to begin the season. The likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have less-than-easy home starts coming up this week. Meanwhile, Barcelona and Man City will hope to capitalize on home advantage, too.

However, their fixtures pale in comparison to the all-out war that is Group F. They lead the way as we count down three matchups that you won’t want to miss.

#1: Tonali’s return to Milan (AC Milan vs Newcastle, 19/09, 5.45pm)

Newcastle United make their long-awaited return to the Champions League on Matchday 1. And what a fixture they have to announce their comeback.

The Toon Army will venture out to the San Siro to take on seven-time champs, AC Milan. But for one member of the English side’s squad, this fixture will mean a bit more.

Sandro Tonali switched Milan for the North-East of England this summer, yet now travels back to his previous club. No one will be more desperate to put on a good display than the Italian, surely?

Even without this added spice, the Rossoneri will be a fascinating test for Eddie Howe’s team. For example, Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez down the Italian’s left-hand side will provide a stern challenge for Kieran Trippier.

Let’s not forget that Milan were semi-finalists last season; they are a top side and will have a packed-out San Siro behind them, too.

#2: : Harry Kane vs Man United’s back four (Bayern Munich vs Man United, 20/09, 8pm)

On Wednesday, Harry Kane will make his UCL debut for Bayern Munich. Interestingly enough, his opponent on Champions League Matchday 1 is a familiar one in Manchester United.

The England captain has taken to the Bundesliga like a duck to water. He has four goals from four games for the Bavarians, as well as one assist. However, Kane has only found the next five times against the Red Devils in 19 career appearances – so will he struggle on Wednesday night?

United’s defensive record so far in 2023/24 suggests otherwise. A combination of injuries and disorganization has seen Erik ten Hag’s squad concede 10 goals in their first five matches. Will Kane and Bayern be able to capitalize on this leaky back four? Or can United pull off a surprise win in Germany?

#3: Union Berlin’s historic debut vs Los Blancos (Real Madrid vs Union Berlin, 20/09, 5.45pm)

Bundesliga side Union Berlin will make their full Champions League bow on Matchday 1 of 2023/24. And, most incredibly, they will do so against the most decorated team of them all.

Union have risen through the divisions in Germany to reach the pinnacle of European Football – the Bernabeu. Even though this could turn into a routine Madrid win, do not count out the Berliners just yet.

Their defensive setup is designed to frustrate opponents, no matter how daunting. Union live for counterattacking football, evidenced by their 41% average possession domestically in 2023/24. This ranks last for time in possession out of all the Bundesliga teams.

Despite this, they’ve still enjoyed some emphatic wins, including back-to-back 4-1 victories to start the campaign. With experienced veterans such as Leonardo Bonucci and Robin Gosens to call upon, can Union possibly stop the might of Madrid?

Matchday 1 has all the makings of a top-notch round of Champions League football.

Featured image credit: Getty