Euro 2020 Special

2023 Major Events: The Return of the Champions League

In February 2023, the Champions League will resume with the knock-out stages, featuring the 16 remaining teams. That follows the conclusion of the group phase of the competition before the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

They will be competing for the biggest prize in club football and to see who, if anybody can wrest the trophy away from Real Madrid, the most successful team in the history of the tournament.


The Group Stages

The group phases which comprised eight groups of four teams each were all played between September and November, with the schedule truncated this year because of the World Cup.

The top two teams in each group advanced to the round of 16, whilst the third team in each group dropped into the Europa League.

The sides that finished last in their group were eliminated altogether.

There were a number of big names that failed to progress this time. Ajax, Juventus and Barcelona, have had to content themselves with a place in the Europa League, whilst Atlético Madrid, twice finalists in the past decade, are already out of the competition for another season.


The Draw

The draw for the round of 16 has already been made, with two of the stand-out ties being repeats of recent finals.

The defending champions Real Madrid will play the team they beat in Paris, Liverpool, whilst the PSG- Bayern Munich clash is a repeat of the 2020 final.

Elsewhere, AC Milan will meet Tottenham Hotspur, Borussia Dortmund Chelsea, Club Brugge, Benfica and Eintracht Frankfurt Napoli. Meanwhile, the favourites Manchester City have been pitted against RB Leipzig and Inter Milan will take on Porto.


The Main Contenders

Manchester City

Manchester City are the current bookmaker’s favourites to lift the trophy for the first time, having come close in the previous two seasons.

In 2021 they reached the final only to lose to Chelsea by a single goal, and, last season, they had one foot in the final again only to be stunned by a very late comeback by Real Madrid.

Since then though, they have strengthened the team by adding the goals of Erling Haaland. The Norwegian has already set scoring records in the Premier League, and they are hoping that he may be the missing piece of the jigsaw.

Manager Pep Guardiola has recently said that he will not consider his career at City complete until he wins the Champions League.


Real Madrid

Real Madrid can never be discounted when it comes to the Champions League because they appear to have a winning format when it comes to the competition. They could have asked for easier Round of 16 opponents than Liverpool, but recent history is on their side when it comes to this tie, especially if they can get Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema back from injury by then.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have struggled this season to match recent heights, and there are definitely signs that his side is now in transition. Still, like Real, they have a storied history in the Champions League and, especially at Anfield, can be more than a match for most teams.


Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich will believe that they have a strong chance themselves, but first they must get past the obstacle that is PSG.

Like City, the French side have never won the trophy despite their domestic dominance, and they have a recent history of folding under pressure when it comes to the knock-out stage of the competition.

Bayern, though, have not quite been so convincing under manager Julian Nagelsman, and they have been dealt a blow with the news that goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer is out for the season.

After Germany’s shock exit from the Qatar World Cup, he went on a brief skiing holiday and ended up breaking his leg. How they replace him over the next few months could be key to their success on a number of fronts.


Dark Horses

Napoli can be considered one of the dark horses for the competition. Despite selling a number of big-name stars in the summer and replacing them with lesser-known and younger alternatives, they have made a storming start in Serie A this season, and were eight points clear at the time of the World Cup break.

They also thrashed Liverpool in their opening group game.  They will consider that they got a kind round of 16 draw in the form of German side, Eintracht Frankfurt.




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