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Champions League: favorites, stars, Tom Thumb, schedules... Ten questions before the season kicks off

A page has been turned at PSG with the departures of some “historic” players, including Neymar, Marco Verratti, Mauro Icardi and Leandro Paredes.

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Champions League: favorites, stars, Tom Thumb, schedules... Ten questions before the season kicks off

A page has been turned at PSG with the departures of some “historic” players, including Neymar, Marco Verratti, Mauro Icardi and Leandro Paredes. The opportunity, perhaps, to definitively draw a line under more than ten years of scarcity on the European scene. Apart from the unfortunate final of 2020 (1-0 defeat against Bayern Munich) and a semi-final the following year (4-1 aggregate defeat against Manchester City), the capital club has never gone beyond the stadium of quarters and remains on two consecutive eliminations in the eighth.

Recruited this summer, Lucas Hernandez, Ousmane Dembélé, Marco Asensio and Milan Skriniar are regulars in the C1. It will be more of a discovery for Bradley Barcola, Randa Kolo Muani, Gonçalo Ramos and Manuel Ugarte. Difficult to predict what the chemistry will be within this promising but upset squad. And PSG had no luck in the draw by inheriting the group of death, with Dortmund, AC Milan and Newcastle.

As for RC Lens, their weak start to the season in the league (last with one point in five matches) suggests a difficult campaign in the Champions League. Difficult to hope for qualification for the eighth with the presence of Arsenal, Sevilla and PSV Eindhoven in this tough Group B. Third place and transfer to the Europa League are possible. Unless Franck Haise's men achieve a historic campaign, like Bordeaux during the 2009-2010 season. The Girondins finished first in their group with 16 points out of 18 possible, ahead of Bayern Munich and Juventus.

On paper, yes, he can. Does he want it? Probably, and the squad is made for it. Despite the losses of Riyad Mahrez, Joao Cancelo, Ilkay Gundogan and Aymeric Laporte, the Citizens have strengthened on all lines. In defense with the recruitment of the very promising Josko Gvardiol. In the middle with Matheus Nunes and the experienced Mateo Kovacic, winner of the 2021 edition. In attack with the wisp Jérémy Doku. And the indestructible Kyle Walker, long announced as leaving, has extended his contract until 2026. The team lined up this season on the European pitches will therefore more or less resemble that of the coronation, with the captains Ederson, Ruben Dias, Rodri, Kevin de Bruyne and the inevitable Erling Haaland.

Above all, Manchester City can count on the presence of its star coach, Pep Guardiola. No one would have been surprised if the Spaniard left after finally winning that much-desired Champions League. And with 15 trophies in his suitcase. His choice to stay on the Skyblues bench testifies to his ambition to make history.

Runner-up to the ogre citizen in the Premier League, Arsenal has regained its luster. The Gunners are much stronger than during their last participation in the Champions League, in 2017 (eliminated by Bayern Munich in the round of 16, 5-1 then 1-5). In the championship, they remain on their best total of points since the season of the invincibles (2003-04) which crowned them. Strengthened by an expensive and ambitious transfer window (Timber, Rice, Havertz), Mikel Arteta's team defeated Manchester City in the Community Shield (1-1, 4-1 on penalties) and Manchester United in the Premier League (3- 1). A contender for the final four despite his lack of experience in C1.

For the first time since the 2002-03 season, neither Cristiano Ronaldo nor Lionel Messi, the two top scorers in the history of the competition, will play in the Champions League. But the next generation is there. For a long time now. Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland are the faces of City, defending champions. Kylian Mbappé will obviously remain one of the attractions with PSG, like Vinicius at Real Madrid, he who scored the only goal in the final in 2022. Harry Kane will be particularly scrutinized with Bayern, like the eternal Robert Lewandowski at Barcelona . Don't forget Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Lautaro Martinez (Inter) or Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) who can burst the screen.

In the UEFA coefficient game, RC Lens is officially the little thumb of the 2023-2024 edition of the Champions League. But on paper, the weakest team is probably Royal Antwerp. The Belgian team is preparing to compete in the group stage of C1 for the very first time in its history.

A right that Mark van Bommel's men obtained by beating AEK Athens twice in the play-offs. Last season, they clinched the Belgian league title for the first time since 1957, thanks to a crazy goal from Toby Alderweireld in the last minute of the final match.

Cristiano Ronaldo still has room for improvement in the Champions League scorer rankings. But not to that of the decisive passers. With 42 offerings, he is ahead of Lionel Messi (40), who left for the United States, and Angel Di Maria (38), back at Benfica. The Argentine winger, 35, is having a great start to the season in Portugal: 6 matches, 5 goals and 2 assists. The SLB is aiming for the round of 16, which would therefore leave eight matches for Di Maria, formerly of PSG, Real, Manchester United and Juventus, to join or overtake Ronaldo. And nothing excludes him from doing one more season after this one.

Since we are talking about Benfica, the Portuguese club must be wary in Group D, in addition to the favorite Inter Milan, from Real Sociedad. 4th in La Liga last season, led by the fantastic attacking midfielder Take Kubo, the Basque club is a spoilsport. Same for Newcastle which can sow discord in the group of death (PSG, Dortmund, AC Milan).

Due to the war in Ukraine, the club from the city of Donetsk cannot play its “home” matches on its territory. He was therefore transferred to the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg, in the north of Germany. An enclosure with a capacity of approximately 50,000 seats.

Last season, Shakhtar hosted their opponents in Warsaw, Poland, on the Legia pitch. “We are sure that the matches in the Volksparkstadion will take place at the highest level, with local football fans, but also thousands of Ukrainians currently living temporarily in Germany and other European countries,” said in a press release Dmytro Kyrylenko, commercial director of the Ukrainian club.

We take the same and start again. Canal, RMC Sport and beIN Sports will once again share the broadcast of the Champions League this season. RMC and Canal will co-broadcast the “best poster” every evening. No need, therefore, to subscribe to both channels, since they will broadcast the same matches. They will often (if not always) choose the matches of the two French clubs, PSG and Lens. The rest of the competition will be broadcast on beIN Sports. Meeting times are at 6:45 p.m. and the biggest events at 9 p.m.

The final will take place at Wembley Stadium. The venue in north-west London with a capacity of 90,000 has already hosted the final twice, in 2011 and 2013. It is the second largest stadium in Europe after Barcelona's Camp Nou .

Not to be confused with the old enclosure of the same name, demolished in 2003, which hosted the finals in 1963, 1968, 1971, 1978 and 1992.

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