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Champions League group stage: What to look out for

A repeat of the 1999 final, a fiercely competitive Group F and a thrilling set of opponents for the tournament debutants – we pick out the main storylines looking ahead to the new campaign.

Sandro Tonali, Erling Haaland and Harry Kane
Sandro Tonali, Erling Haaland and Harry Kane

A repeat of the 1999 final, a fiercely competitive Group F and a dazzling draw for the competition debutants – we take a look at some of the storylines to emerge from the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League group stage draw.

Group stage fixtures

Matchday 1: 19/20 September 2023
Matchday 2: 3/4 October 2023
Matchday 3: 24/25 October 2023
Matchday 4: 7/8 November 2023
Matchday 5: 28/29 November 2023
Matchday 6: 12/13 December 2023

Group stage fixtures

1999 finalists renew acquaintances

Returning to the competition after a one-year absence, Manchester United take on familiar opponents in Group A after being drawn against six-time winners Bayern. The Red Devils produced one of the most memorable comebacks of all time against the German club in the 1999 final, scoring twice in added time to spark delirious celebrations among the United fans. They have not had much joy against Bayern since, however, their only victory in the teams' last eight meetings failing to overturn a 2-1 away reverse in the 2009/10 quarter-finals.

Bayern's summer acquisition of England captain Harry Kane adds another layer of intrigue to an already fascinating match-up. The 30-year-old left Tottenham as the north London club's all-time top goalscorer, with 280 goals in 435 appearances across all competitions. If Kane's start to life in Munich is anything to go by, the Bavarians could be set for a memorable campaign.

1999 Champions League final highlights: Man United 2-1 Bayern

Star-studded draw for Magpies

Over 20 years have passed since Newcastle last played Champions League football, and Magpies supporters could hardly have wished for a more glamorous draw on their return. Eddie Howe's side can look forward to meetings with 2020 finalists Paris, 1997 winners Dortmund and seven-time European champions Milan in a gripping Group F. Their visit to San Siro in particular is sure to tug at the heartstrings of boyhood Rossoneri fan Sandro Tonali, who left Milan for St James' Park in the summer.

Newcastle's other opponents last faced each other in the round of 16 three years ago. An Erling Haaland double helped Dortmund take a 2-1 aggregate lead to Paris, but efforts from Juan Bernat and Neymar engineered a turnaround as then Paris coach Thomas Tuchel got one over his former employers. Having exited the competition in the round of 16 last season, both sides will be desperate to progress further this time around.

Classic Newcastle Champions League goals

Debutants face 14-time winners

After qualifying for the inaugural Europa Conference League and progressing to the Europa League round of 16 last term, Union Berlin are involved in the Champions League group stage for the first time – and what a hand they have been dealt. Urs Fischer's team have been pitted against 2011 Europa League finalists Braga, 2022/23 Champions League quarter-finalists Napoli and 14-time European champions Real Madrid in an intriguing Group C.

It has been a meteoric rise for the club from the German capital, who had just finished eighth in the second division when Madrid claimed their 13th title with victory against Liverpool in Kyiv five years ago. Having transformed into one of the Bundesliga's most clinical counterattacking teams under Fischer's stewardship, expect Die Eisernen to give their Group C opponents a run for their money – and maybe cause one or two upsets along the way.

Highlights: Union Berlin 3-3 Union SG

Familiar foes collide

Like their Manchester rivals, reigning champions City also face familiar Bundesliga opposition in Leipzig, who ended up on the receiving end of a Haaland masterclass in the sides' most recent encounter. The 2022/23 competition top scorer became only the third man to hit five goals in a Champions League game as the eventual winners earned a 7-0 last-16 second-leg victory to advance to the last eight in emphatic fashion.

Quarter-final opponents last term, Benfica and Inter meet again in Group D. The two teams played out one of the games of the season back in April, drawing 3-3 in a thrilling last-eight second leg. Both sides will fancy their chance of progression but will need their wits about them against an entertaining Salzburg side and Real Sociedad, who are taking part for the first time in a decade.

Where is the 2024 final?

The 2023/24 Champions League season will conclude at London's Wembley Stadium on Saturday 1 June. The highlight of European football's club calendar returns to the London venue for a record eighth time, and the third in the UEFA Champions League era following the 2011 and 2013 finals.