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What to look out for in the UEFA Champions League group stage

Quick reunions for Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski, group stage returns for Celtic and Rangers, and a debut for Eintracht Frankfurt are among the key storylines.

Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski will both face their old clubs
Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski will both face their old clubs @Getty Images

With the FIFA World Cup kicking off in November, the six UEFA Champions League group stage matchdays are being condensed into just nine weeks this autumn.

We pick out some key talking points ahead of the most intense campaign yet.

When are the Champions League group stage games being played?

Matchday 1: 6/7 September 2022
Matchday 2: 13/14 September 2022
Matchday 3: 4/5 October 2022
Matchday 4: 11/12 October 2022
Matchday 5: 25/26 October 2022
Matchday 6: 1/2 November 2022

Haaland: Every Dortmund Champions League goal

Will Haaland take City to the next level?

With the signing of Erling Haaland from Group G rivals Dortmund, Manchester City will hope they have found the player to take them to the next level. The Cityzens have won four Premier League titles under Josep Guardiola (one more than the coach claimed at either Barcelona or Bayern) but European honours continue to elude them, defeat by Chelsea in the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League final the nearest they have come.

The 22-year-old has already hit 27 in just 25 UEFA club competition games for Molde, Salzburg and Dortmund, the club he left for City this summer. The draw had a surprise in store for Haaland, with Dortmund among the sides he will be facing in the group stage. Certainly few teams in Europe will be quite as aware of what an on-song Haaland can do than BVB, for whom he scored 86 times in just 89 competitive games.

Lewandowski: Great Bayern goals

How will Bayern cope without Lewandowski?

Another ex-Dortmund star striker was on the move this summer, with Robert Lewandowski leaving Bayern for Barcelona. Like Haaland, the prolific Poland international is going to have a swift reunion on his hands, with Bayern paired with Barcelona, Inter Milan and Victoria Plzeň in the fiercely competitive Group D.

Third in the list of all-time Champions League top scorers behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Lewandowski hit 67 of his 344 Bayern goals in the UEFA Champions League, and he has left an enormous gap for coach Julian Nagelsmann to fill. However, following the arrival of Sadio Mané from Liverpool, the German champions have not seemingly missed their No9 that badly: in their first four competitive games of the 2022/23 season, they have found the net 20 times.

Rangers' last season in Champions League: Miller stunner

Old Firm back in business

Rangers' hard-earned play-off victory at PSV Eindhoven earned the Scottish Premiership side a place in the group stage for the first time since 2010/11. The Gers, who will take on Ajax, Liverpool and Napoli in Group A, were beaten UEFA Europa League finalists last season, and are back in the big time alongside Glasgow rivals Celtic, with the teams at this stage of the Champions League together for the first time since 2007/08.

Several other famous names are refamiliarising themselves with old haunts. Danish champions Copenhagen (who will face Dortmund, City and Sevilla in Group G) have not appeared at this stage since 2016/17, while Maccabi Haifa will take on Paris, Juventus and Benfica in Group H after reaching the tournament proper for only the third time. Eintracht Frankfurt, the side that beat Rangers in the Europa League final, are making their Champions League debut, and will be eager to cause Tottenham, Sporting CP and Marseille problems in Group D.

Where is the 2023 UEFA Champions League final being played?

The 2022/23 UEFA Champions League season will conclude at Istanbul's Atatürk Olympic Stadium on 10 June 2023.

Built to support Türkiye's bid to stage the 2008 Olympic Games, the venue opened in 2002 and is home to the Turkish national team. Situated in the Başakşehir area of the city, west of the Bosphorus, it boasts a seated capacity of over 75,000.