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HomeUEFA Champions LeagueArsenal Among This Season's UCL Favourites

Arsenal Among This Season’s UCL Favourites

The UEFA Champions League returned to South African tv screen last week thanks to SuperSport, so we had a look at the favourites for Europe’s elite club competition.

Fans all around the world are looking forward to the new 2023/2024 Champions League season, which promises lots of action. The 69th season of Europe’s elite club competition and the 32nd since it was renamed the UEFA Champions League, starts on Tuesday, 27 June 2023 and runs to Saturday, 1 June 2024.

A total of 32 teams kicked off in midweek, chasing the prize of the world’s greatest club competition with billions of viewers watching around the world, including viewers in South Africa thanks to SuperSport.

Many football fans in Mzansi will be glued to the tv to follow the action as Manchester City look to defend their crown against the best that Europe has to offer.

There will be heady competition from the likes of English rivals Arsenal and Manchester United, Spain’s record winners Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, Paris St Germain, Bayern Munich and last season’s runners-up Inter Milan.

But who will win the 2023/24 edition?

According to the AI-powered Opta supercomputer, who has run 10,000 simulations, holders Manchester City are strong favourites to retain their title, receiving a 38.9% chance of victory, as Pep Guardiola and his team aim to defend their title. In fact, Opta’s supercomputer rates City’s chances of reaching the final at 55.1%.

After last winning the UCL title in 2019/20, and following the addition of Harry Kane, Bayern Munich are the second favourites with 10.9% (note the gap), while Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are third favourites with 8.7%, despite the Gunners having never lifted Europe’s elite crown.

The other three most likely contenders to lift the trophy are record 14-time European champions Real Madrid (6%) and then two Serie A sides, last season’s UCL runners-up Inter Milan (5.6%) and reigning Italian champions Napoli (4.5%).

After two decades away from the tournament, Newcastle United have a higher chance of winning than European heavyweights PSG, ACMilan and Dortmund, who have all been placed in what many consider this season’s ‘Group of Death’.

Which game & stars to look out for?

After the action started last week, the first real cracker of this year’s campaign was when six-time winners Bayern hosted three-time champions United in Group A. There were bragging rights at stake, as the side’s rivalry escalated in 1999 when the Red Devils came back from a goal down to net twice in injury-time against Bavarians, and the game didn’t disappoint with a 4-3 win for the Bavarians.

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New club-record signing Harry Kane, who joined for €100 million and was a target of United themselves, was on the scoresheet and has already netted eight times in seven appearances for Bayern. The two teams will meet again for the reverse leg in Manchester on 12 December.

In Group C, Serie A winners Napoli will welcome UCL record champions Real Madrid at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on match day two. The Italian giants won their first Scudetto in 33 years thanks to the heroics of Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen, who scored 31 goals in 39 games across all competitions.

Napoli also reached the quarter-final of the Champions League for the very first time last season, and will surely hope to do better this time around. Meanwhile, Los Blancos will hope to get back to lifting the trophy they have already claimed a record-breaking 14 times. The Champions League is synonym with Real, who are the most successful club in the competition’s history, while Carlo Ancelotti is the competition’s most decorated coach after winning it four times – twice with AC Milan and twice with Real Madrid. The Italian is surely eyeing another trophy before his likely departure to join the Brazil national team at the end of the season.

Real also invested heavily in the transfer market, signing midfielder Jude Bellingham for €103 million and the Englishman started his reign like a house on fire, netting five goals in his first four LaLiga games. 

The reverse fixture between Los Blancos and Napoli will take place on 29 November at the newly-renovated Santiago Bernabeu.

Meanwhile, Arsenal comfortably saw of 1988 winners PSV on their return to Europe’s elite club competition. The Gunners, who are seen among the favourites according to Opta’s supercomputer, have also invested heavily and splashed out €116.6 million for Declan Rice. The central midfielder has helped the Gunners to an unbeaten start and has tasted European success with West Ham United in the UEFA Conference League last season.

Arsenal’s big rivals in Group B are UEFA Europa League champions Sevilla, who they will first face on 24 October at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, while the Gunners host the LaLiga side at the Emirates Stadium on 8 November.

All of these matches are part of SuperSport’s incredible coverage of Europe’s elite club competition, with every game shown live on South African tv screen as well as the DStv Stream app. 

The main clashes of each UCL match day will be shown live on SS3, while there will also be the UCL goals show that shows the highlights and goals of all matches on SS1.

David Kappel
David Kappel
David Kappel has served as a renowned international editor and content manager for almost a decade. David specialises in ensuring content and social media posts are highly engaging for football fans and was previously the international editor at Soccer Laduma. He is currently the iDiski Times website editor and social strategist.