What To Expect: UEFA Champions League Group G

Once again, Manchester City and RB Leipzig reunite in the Champions League. Only this time, City return to the competition as reigning champions. They’ll certainly be looking to repeat last season’s efforts and make it to Wembley for the 2023/24 Final, bolstered by the acquisition of RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol.

It seems impossible that either Red Star Belgrade or Young Boys could get a result against these two strong sides, so the battle for the Europa League spot will likely come down to the two games between them.

Manchester City

Returning to the Champions League as treble winners, Manchester City will be keen to replicate their previous success and win this competition. They’re certainly favourites, having the best squad on paper despite the departures of some key players. Aymeric Laporte and Riyad Mahrez have moved to the Saudi League, meanwhile club legend Ilkay Gündogan has joined Barcelona.

This, however, hasn’t proved problematic as they have upgraded with the replacements they’ve signed. Josko Gvardiol is one of the best young defenders in the world, and winger Jérémy Doku (also 21) has immediately proved his worth. City have also signed Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes in midfield.

Their main concern right now is probably the injury of Kevin De Bruyne, as well as their defensive problems so far in the season. De Bruyne was instrumental in last season’s campaign and is arguably the best midfielder in the world. There were doubts as to whether City could continue to play at their best without him, but, despite KDB’s absence, they have won their first five games and boast a league-best goal difference. 

There’s no doubt that Manchester City will make it far in this competition – their confidence will be at an all-time high after last season’s success and if this continues to translate onto the football pitch, they’ll be a near-impossible side to beat.

Embed from Getty Images

RB Leipzig

Once again, RB Leipzig have the misfortune of having to face Manchester City in the group stage. While they may not expect to get much out of their two fixtures together, they’ll be convinced that they can win their remaining games and advance to the knockout stages. 

Some big names left from Leipzig for England this summer. Gvardiol – of course – moved to Manchester City, Nkunku opted for Chelsea and Szoboszlai now plays for Liverpool. Despite this, their summer was a success, bringing young talent such as Lens’ top scorer Loïs Openda, Lyon defender Castello Lukeba, Hoffenheim’s Christoph Baumgartner, attacker Benjamin Sesko and, finally, Xavi Simons. All five of these players are aged 23 or under.

Despite their youth, they seem to be finding their feet in the Bundesliga, where they are currently third. Both Simons and Openda have scored three across the first four games, while Leipzig average 3.25 goals a game, certainly showcasing their ability to play superb attacking football.

RB Leipzig certainly have the potential to have a successful campaign, perhaps even reaching the quarterfinals. The only question will be whether this young side lack the experience necessary to navigate a competition as difficult as the Champions League; only time will tell.

Red Star Belgrade

Last season, Red Star Belgrade had one of the most successful domestic seasons in Europe, winning the league by 22 points while going invincible. However they haven’t started this season as strongly, currently sitting in third, already having lost two games within the first seven. 

It always seemed like it would be difficult for Belgrade to advance into the knockout stages, but their domestic woes will only make it tougher. If they play at the level they did last season, it wouldn’t be surprising if they secured the drop-down Europa League spot, but based on their current form this may prove to be a struggle as well. 

This is their first Champions League campaign since the 2019/20 season, where they managed just three points across the group stage with a win over Olympiacos. There’ll certainly be hoping to improve on this tally in their return to the competition, but they haven’t landed in an ideal group to do that. They’ll likely lose home and away to Man City and Leipzig, meaning it will all come down to their fixtures with Swiss outfit, Young Boys.

Young Boys

Young Boys are returning to the Champions League after a one season hiatus and will definitely be wanting to improve on their previous fourth place finish in the group.

Their performance in the Swiss Super League last season was utterly dominant. They finished sixteen points clear at the top of the table, and they have started this season similarly strong. They’re unbeaten in their first five games and are only one point off the top of the table with a game in hand.

Perhaps the most notable change in their team this season is the departure of 21-year-old Fabian Rieder to Stade Rennais for 15 million euros. Rieder actually scored Young Boys’ only goal in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the side’s last Champions League campaign, and will likely be missed this season.

There’s almost no chance of Young Boys advancing from the group stage, but they’ll definitely see Red Star Belgrade as a team they can beat, hoping to reach the Europa League knockout stages.