The Champions League Returns

Once you’ve learned how to win, winning becomes a part of you; you develop intangibles that simply give you the necessary tools to succeed in semi-finals and finals.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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By Emily Lu

The Champions League is back for the 2022-2023 season, and what better way to get started than with some predictions? If we’ve learned anything from the first two matchdays, it’s that this year’s trophy is up for grabs. Though some teams such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have a considerable advantage over others, the Champions League is about more than numbers and charts, as evidenced by Real Madrid’s historic run to victory last season. The ever-changing situations of teams across the Champions League have produced stunning results that will make this wild season more entertaining than ever.

Let’s begin with Group A, which includes Liverpool, Ajax, Rangers, and Napoli. It is a truly historic group, with its constituents having won 10 Champions League titles between them. Liverpool suffered a shocking 4-1 defeat to Napoli on Matchday 1, but were able to recover against Ajax at home on Matchday 2. Liverpool simply have too much experience as a team to falter at this stage—head coach Jürgen Klopp has maintained many key pieces from his 2019 Champions League winning squad, and they should be enough to help Liverpool win the group. Though Ajax experienced a transfer window in which they lost their manager and five key starters, their new coach Alfred Schreuder has seemingly revamped the team and got them back up to speed, beating Rangers 4-0 in Amsterdam on Matchday 1. Napoli also lost a significant player over the summer, center back Kalidou Koulibaly, but seem as if they’re still in contention for second place in the group. Ultimately, it looks like Ajax will edge them out for second place, and advance to the knockout stage along with Liverpool.

Group B consists of lesser known teams: Porto, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, and Club Brugge. Though Club Brugge are without winger Noa Lang, they will likely make it out of the group in first place, building on their very solid start—two wins across two games. Atletico Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen are in the running for second place, but Leverkusen forward Patrik Schick has continued to impress in the Bundesliga this season after his record 21-22 season. He is all that separates the two clubs, likely sending Bayer Leverkusen through and concluding another disappointing campaign for Atletico manager Diego Simeone.

Group C, nicknamed the “Group of Death,” features Bayern München, Barcelona, Inter Milan, and Viktoria Plzen. Bayern had an incredible transfer window, bringing in new talents such as centre back Matthijs de Ligt, forward Sadio Mané, midfielder Ryan Gravenberch, and forward Mathys Tel to strengthen all areas of the pitch. They consequently got off to a flying start in the group, beating both Barcelona and Inter Milan 2-0. Barcelona will be disappointed to have lost in München, having dominated the first half of that game and having added former Bayern forward and talisman Robert Lewandowski along with several other new signings during this past transfer window. However, they can be expected to recover and handily beat Inter Milan to second place in the Group of Death.

Group D features a bit of history mixed in with recent success. Eintracht Frankfurt, the Europa league champions, face off against Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon, and Marseille. Frankfurt’s good form in Europe from last season has not quite carried over into this season, with key winger Filip Kostić departing for Juventus this summer. Tottenham had a very good transfer window, acquiring players such as winger Ivan Perišić and striker Richarlison, and under decorated Italian manager Antonio Conte, they are expected to top this group. Marseille simply do not have the talent to compete, whereas Sporting Lisbon managed to retain some key players over the summer and have made a strong start to this year’s campaign; they will likely finish second.

Group E sees Chelsea battling with AC Milan, RB Salzburg, and Dinamo Zagreb for knockout places. Chelsea’s new, enthusiastic American owner, Todd Boehly, spent big over the summer, but lost the faith of fans by prematurely sacking head coach Thomas Tuchel only eight games into this season. Chelsea’s new signings have enough quality to take them through to the next round. RB Salzburg managed to retain key striker Benjamin Šeško, but lack the talent in other areas of the pitch to compete with defending Serie A champions AC Milan. Winger Rafael Leão and goalkeeper Mike Maignan will be key in securing knockout matches for AC Milan.

Group F features the holders, Real Madrid, battling Celtic, Leipzig, and Shakhtar Donetsk. Real Madrid is the only team in Europe’s top five leagues to win every game this season, and look to be picking up right where they left off last season. They are likely to win this group comfortably. Though Leipzig had a shaky start to this year’s campaign, new forward Timo Werner partnered with midfielder and rising-star Christopher Nkunku should be enough to secure them second place in this group.

Group G has been dubbed the “Erling Haaland Group,” consisting of Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund, Sevilla, and Copenhagen. Named for new City forward Erling Haaland, one of Europe’s rising stars who famously moved from Dortmund to Manchester City this last transfer window. So far, he has looked like the answer to all of manager Pep Guardiola’s problems, scoring 14 times in 10 matches since his arrival. Dortmund made a few signings to replace Haaland, namely forward Karim Adeyemi, striker Sebastien Haller, centre back Niklas Süle, and centre back Nico Schlotterbeck. Manchester City will win this group, with Dortmund joining them in the last 16.

Group H is a battleground for historic and new-age clubs alike, with Paris Saint-Germain taking on Juventus, Benfica, and Haifa. Forward Kylian Mbappé’s shock decision to stay in Paris last summer has greatly bolstered PSG’s chances for this year’s Champions League. The Parisians have gotten unlucky in the past, but under new coach Christophe Galtier, they look more organized and determined to win this year. Juventus made some improvements to their squad, but head coach Allegri has shown that he is simply not up to the task. A feisty Benfica side will secure second place ahead of Juventus, and PSG will take the top spot in Group H.

Though we don’t know how the bracket will look yet for the knockout phase, we can still hypothesize the potential top four, top two, and winner. PSG’s immensely talented squad is likely to bring them to the semi-finals, where they will be joined by Bayern München, Manchester City, and Real Madrid. Madrid winger Vinicius Jr. is looking to build on a very impressive 21/22 campaign and come back even better for this year’s Champions League. That being said, they will be the weakest team among the top four, and will likely end up crashing out at this stage.

Manchester City will reach their second final in three years with the help of Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, and Phil Foden. Pep Guardiola will be more determined to win the Champions League than any other trophy, as it is the major one missing from his Manchester City resumé. PSG—yes, PSG—will crash out at this stage as well. Mbappé, Messi, and Neymar may be the deadliest attack in Europe, but PSG simply does not have the history or experience to triumph in this year’s Champions League. They have never won a Champions League before, and as evidenced by their decision to give Kylian Mbappé a ridiculous amount of power, are still a relatively small club, far from a European powerhouse.

Bayern’s experience and grit is going to take them to the final. The German record champions have won the Champions League six times, most recently in 2020, defeating PSG 1-0 in the final. Once you’ve learned how to win, winning becomes a part of you; you develop intangibles that simply give you the necessary tools to succeed in semi-finals and finals. Winning is certainly a part of Bayern München’s DNA, but not so much a part of Manchester City’s, who have won zero Champions League titles. Bayern’s squad has the perfect mix of experience, history, and talent, making them our favorites to take home the age-old European Cup from Istanbul in 2023.