Dan Burke·3 October 2023
Dan Burke·3 October 2023
After an intriguing first round of Champions League group stage action, round two begins on Tuesday evening.
Here are the five biggest questions ahead of the action.
Manchester United suffered a 4-3 defeat away to Bayern Munich on matchday one, with goalkeeper André Onana apologising afterwards for his lamentable performance between the sticks.
Erik ten Hag’s side picked up a couple of wins in the following matches and looked to be back on track, only to find themselves back to square one when they were beaten 1-0 at home by Crystal Palace on Saturday.
It’s difficult to know what to expect from United from one game to the next, and tough to tell at the best of times quite what Ten Hag has in mind for his side tactically.
On Tuesday they host Galatasaray in what looks like a good opportunity to get some points on the board in Group A, but two consecutive home defeats in the Premier League mean Old Trafford is suddenly no longer the fortress it was when United went unbeaten in 32 matches there.
And Turkish champions Galatasaray – who have lost just one of their last 18 UEFA competition fixtures – will fancy their chances of getting a result.
Madrid had to be patient against Union Berlin’s backs-to-the-wall defensive rearguard on matchday one, but they eventually got the win courtesy of a 94th-minute Jude Bellingham goal.
Bellingham arrived at the Bernabéu with great things expected of him this summer, but he has somehow surpassed those expectations with at least one goal involvement in all but two of his eight appearances for the club so far.
Stopping the 20-year-old could be key to Napoli’s chances of getting a result on Tuesday. The Partenopei left it late to beat Braga last time out in the Champions League and made a slow start to the domestic season under new coach Rudi Garcia.
But eight goals in their last two Serie A matches suggests they are getting back to their best, and they will be hoping to send Bellingham and co. home unhappy from their visit to Naples this week.
From the moment the anthem rang out around the Emirates to Martin Ødegaard making it 4-0 against PSV, Arsenal thoroughly enjoyed their return to the Champions League after a seven-year absence.
But are the Gunners happy just to be back in Europe’s premier competition, or can they mount a genuine challenge for the trophy this season?
It’s a question their group stage exploits probably won’t give us a clear answer to. Mikel Arteta’s side are favourites to win Group B, and favourites to overcome a Lens side this week who are hovering just above the Ligue 1 relegation zone at the moment.
But with a huge Premier League clash against Manchester City to come this weekend, the Lens game will be a good early test of how good Arteta is at juggling domestic and European commitments this season.
If he can get that balance right, there’s no reason Arsenal can’t compete for the Premier League title and the Champions League. They’re as good as any team in Europe on their day.
But if Arteta feels the need to prioritise league matters and rests a few players on Tuesday, he could quickly find out that not every match in the Champions League is quite as straightforward as that win over PSV was.
Bayern Munich may have only won the Champions League once in the last decade, but when it comes to the group stage of the competition, they are the undisputed kings of Europe.
The Bundesliga giants are unbeaten in their last 35 group games and their win over Manchester United last time out was their 14th consecutive victory at this stage of the competition.
Both of those stats are Champions League records, and Thomas Tuchel’s side will be hoping to extend their incredible run when they travel to the Danish capital this week.
But after being put through their paces in their weekend draw with RB Leipzig, amid a defensive injury crisis which could see former centre-back Jérôme Boateng making a surprise return to the club, Copenhagen may just have caught Bayern at a good time to play them.
The Danish champions lost to Midtjylland at the weekend but remain top of the Superliga, and managed a hard fought 2-2 draw at Galatasaray in their Champions League opener. Can they pull off a big upset this week?
Chances are you’ve heard all about Union Berlin’s meteoric rise by now. From the German second division to the Bundesliga, to the Conference League, the Europa League and now, for the very first time in their history, the Champions League.
An exciting summer transfer window which saw the likes of Leonardo Bonucci, Robin Gosens and Kevin Volland joining the club only heightened the buzz around the German capital, and a strong start to the new season prompted quiet hopes of another great leap forward.
But Union have now lost five matches in a row (including a valiant 1-0 defeat away to Real Madrid), scoring just one goal in that time, and their fairytale story has suddenly been injected with a dose of gritty realism.
On Tuesday they take on Braga in front of a 74,000-capacity Olympiastadion crowd. Union are playing their Champions League home fixtures at the home of their rivals Hertha in a bid to drum up more revenue, and it appears to have done the trick, with Berliners rapidly snapping up all available tickets.
It will be a historic night for the club but more importantly, one where they will be trying to get their faltering season back on track.