After a disappointing season for German clubs last year the draw for the group stage of the 2023-24 Champions League has been made with the four Bundesliga participants finding out their illustrious opponents for the forthcoming competition. Bayern had another quarter-final exit last season with Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt all falling at the round of 16 stage. Bayer Leverkusen didn’t make it out of the group stage.
So, what is in store for the cream of German football as they begin their next European odyssey?
The German champions were the first team drawn out of the pot and have been paired alongside Manchester United, FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray in Group A. The tie with the English side will stir memories of the 1999 final when the Bavarians were cruelly denied by two last-gasp goals to deny them the trophy. Harry Kane will get to return to British shores with his new club sooner than he may have expected.
Danish champions FC Copenhagen made it through to the group stage draw on Wednesday with a 2-1 aggregate win over Polish side Raków Czestochowa. They have former Schalke forward Jordan Larsson in their ranks and are coached by Denmark’s version of Julian Nagelsmann- 35-year-old Jacob Neestrup.
The long-standing Turkish connection between Germany and Turkey is sure to provide plenty of interest in the clashes with Galatasaray and the fiery atmosphere inside the Ali Sami Yen stadium in Istanbul will be something Bayern will have to deal with if they are to do well there.
The Schwarzgelben find themselves in what has to be considered this season’s ‘Group of Death’ having been pitted against Paris St. Germain, Milan, and Newcastle United.
There are no easy games for BVB whichever way you look at it. PSG may be without Lionel Messi and Neymar, but they still have Kylian Mbappé and enough quality elsewhere to do some serious damage in this season’s competition. The prospect is still there that they will sign Bundesliga star Randal Kolo Muani to make Dortmund’s task even harder.
Milan were beaten semi-finalists last season and have a rich history in the competition that cannot be ignored. Stefano Pioli will have former Dortmund star Christian Pulisic to use against Dortmund, while ex-Schalke defender Malick Thiaw will certainly be relishing a return to the Ruhr.
Newcastle may have been in Pot four, but they are by no means a minnow after their Saudi investment and they cannot be underestimated. The St. James Park crowd will be just as vociferous as the Signal Iduna Park and the clash with the Magpies will see a reunion with former striker Alexander Isak, who now leads the line at the Geordie club.
The DFB Pokal winners find themselves Group G to take on holders Manchester City, Crvena Zvezda (the old Red Star Belgrade) and Swiss side Young Boys.
Meeting up with the English champions again will bring back painful memories of the round of 16 clash that pitted the two clubs against each other last season. After a 1-1 draw at the Red Bull Arena, the Roten Bullen were thrashed 7-0 at the Etihad with Erling Haaland scoring five.
Crvena Zvezda famously won the European Cup back in 1991 but now are content just to make it to the group stage of the Champions League, while Swiss champions Young Boys will enjoy the opportunity to get one over on their German neighbours.
This is all a new experience for Union Berlin and fans of the Eisernen must be pinching themselves that they were present at the draw in Monaco. They were guaranteed a tough draw whatever happened, but they have drawn two humungous ties in Real Madrid and Italian champions Napoli. Portuguese side Sporting Braga make up the quartet in Group C but sure third place is the best Union can hope for.
Trips to the Bernabeu and the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona will be real baptisms of fire for the minnows from Berlin Köpenick and they will be playing their home fixtures at the city’s Olympiastadion.
Taking on the 14-times European Cup/Champions League winners with Jude Bellingham only one of numerous world-class stars is a task Union could only have dreamt about a few season back. Now they are rubbing shoulders with European royalty and it will be fascinating to see whether the Union Berlin fairy tale has even more chapters to offer.