We’re halfway through the group stage of the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League. While some things look certain – Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Barcelona appear set to cruise into the knockout stages – others are anything but. Can Manchester United claw themselves out of a tricky spot to follow Bayern into the last 16? Who will top Group D between Real Sociedad and Inter Milan? And who the heck will progress from Newcastle’s group of death?
Fear not though, as the Opta supercomputer is here to reveal the answers.
Ahead of Matchday 4, we fired it up and let it do its thing. Here’s what it had to say.
The Favourites to Win the Champions League
Manchester City (32.4%) remain the supercomputer’s overwhelming favourites to lift this year’s Champions League trophy. Almost a third of the 10,000 tournament simulations the model ran ended up with City defending their title from last year. Pep Guardiola’s side have won all three of their group stage games so far, and given they are unbeaten in their last 27 home games in the competition (W25 D2), the visit of Young Boys on Tuesday night should be light work.
What is it about Real Madrid and the Champions League? This team were just built to win it. The 14-time European Cup/Champions League winners were successful in 13.1% of all supercomputer simulations. Like City, Madrid are top of their group with a maximum nine points and will be able to send anyone home in the knockout stages.
Bayern Munich (12.9%) are our third favourites after making a perfect start to life in Group A. Harry Kane is on a personal quest of his own, too, with only Wayne Rooney (30), Raheem Sterling (27) and Paul Scholes (24) scoring more goals among English players than his 23. If Bayern go deep – and the supercomputer has given them a 44.5% chance of reaching at least the semi-finals – Kane could get close to that record.
Arsenal (7.5%) recorded a much-needed win at Sevilla on Matchday 3 to ease themselves back into prime position to qualify top of Group B. According to the supercomputer, they finish top in 82.9% of scenarios and have a really solid chance (61.9%) of making it at least as far as the quarter-finals. They are the supercomputer’s fourth favourites for glory come May, which would be a remarkable achievement for Mikel Arteta’s men in their first campaign back in seven seasons.
As for our question in the introduction about who will qualify top in Group D out of Inter and Real Sociedad, the supercomputer backs the Italian giants. They finish top of that group in 62.9% of simulations, and with a 6.9% probability of winning the whole thing are our fifth favourites. Simone Inzaghi’s side have a 15.3% chance of repeating their feat of last year and getting to the final.
Barcelona also have a 100% record in this year’s Champions League. They travel to Hamburg to face Shakhtar Donetsk with the aim of winning their first four group games for just the third time, after doing so in 2002-03 and 2020-21. At 6.4%, they’re an outside shot of winning the whole thing, but you suspect this season is still too early for Xavi’s young side.
Group F is, well, a nightmare to predict. The supercomputer has done a gallant job, though. Courtesy of their two-point lead at the top, the model has Paris Saint-Germain favourites to qualify for the last 16 (80.7%) and the Parisians are also favourites to top the group (50.4%). From there, it’s almost a coin toss between Newcastle (54.4%) and Borussia Dortmund (49.1%) as for who follows them into the knockout stages.
Whatever happens, we’re unlikely to see the ultimate Champions League winner emerge from Group F – PSG are the most likely to do so, but that has just a 2.7% chance of happening.
The Biggest Changes Since the Start of the Season
We released our supercomputer’s initial Champions League predictions as soon as the draw was made. Now, with three games of data available to us, we can look at which teams’ chances of winning the tournament have shifted the most.
You can click each column header to sort
With three wins from three in Group C, including beating Napoli, the second-strongest team in their section, Real Madrid’s chances of winning a 15th European crown have shot up by 6.5%, the most of any team in the competition. According to the Opta Power Rankings, Group C was the second-most challenging group after the draw was made, so Madrid maintaining a perfect record so far has been impressive.
The second of La Liga’s big two, Barcelona, are the second-highest risers at 3.4%. Xavi’s men are similarly on nine points and, although they were dealt a fairly kind draw, those three wins ensure they have a lock on Group H, where they will likely qualify as winners.
Manchester United’s difficult campaign to date sees them drop from 4.4% at the outset to a very slim 0.7%. That drop is the joint-biggest of any team in the competition. Erik ten Hag’s side limped to a precious win over FC Copenhagen on Matchday 3 after consecutive defeats to Bayern Munich and Galatasaray. Still, with three points from a possible nine, they’re in a precarious position and will be eyeing up the trip to Denmark this week as a great opportunity to grab another win.
Manchester City (-3.7%) are also curious fallers. It’s not really got anything to do with them, though, with Pep Guardiola’s side winning their first three games without much fuss as expected. Instead, the fall in their overall chances of winning is caused by their main challengers, the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern, getting off to perfect starts in their respective groups.