It’s that time of year again when the famous anthem blares out in the stadiums of the elite as the Champions League returns.
The group stage of this year’s competition begins this week and BBC Sport take a look at some of the things to watch out for.
Haaland and Lewandowski’s quick reunion
Erling Haaland has gone to the Premier League like a duck to water, needing just four games to score his first hat-trick for Manchester City as they beat Crystal Palace from behind last month.
The Norway international left Borussia Dortmund for City in the summer and the Champions League group stage draw has given him a quick reunion with his former side.
City’s first game is in Seville this week, but next week Dortmund will be guests at the Etihad Stadium.
Champions League success has eluded City but manager Pep Guardiola is hoping Haaland will continue his super record in European club competition after scoring 27 goals in 25 games for Molde, Salzburg and Dortmund.
Like Haaland, former Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski will face the side he left this summer to join Barcelona in the group stage.
After the Czech Viktoria Pilsen was a guest on Wednesday, Lewandowski and Barcelona travel to Munich on Tuesday, September 13th. Italian club Inter Milan complete what is by far the toughest group of this year’s competition.
Lewandowski has scored 67 goals for Bayern in the Champions League, but former Liverpool striker Sadio Mane seems to have done a pretty good job so far to fill in the Polish striker’s footsteps, having featured in seven appearances in German league and league titles has scored five goals in cup games.
England meets Scotland in Group A
One of the most eye-catching draws of the group stage was Group A, which pits 2021-22 finalists Liverpool against Scottish club Rangers.
The two sides will meet for the first time in this season’s competition on October 4th at Anfield and October 12th at Ibrox.
Rangers return to the Champions League for the first time since 2010, while they and Celtic are back together for the first time since 2007.
Polish fans stand behind Ukraine’s Shakhtar
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 led to the suspension of all football in the country, but the Ukrainian Premier League returned last month and Shakhtar Donetsk is participating in this year’s Champions League.
They were drawn alongside RB Leipzig and Celtic against holders Real Madrid in Group D.
Shakhtar will play their home games in Poland at Legia Warsaw’s Wojska Polskiego stadium, almost 1,000 miles from Donetsk.
They start their Champions League season on Tuesday night in Leipzig, Germany, but their first ‘home game’ is against Celtic on Wednesday 14 September and they are well supported by the Polish fans after selling 18,000 tickets for the game in one day.
Sparks fly when PSG and Juve meet?
Paris St-Germain, one of the favorites to win the Champions League, takes on Juventus.
Both sides will want to reach the business end of the tournament and like Haaland and Lewandowski, Juventus winger Angel di Maria will have an early reunion with his former side when he returns to the Parc des Princes on Tuesday.
Di Maria’s team-mate and former Manchester United target Adrien Rabiot also meets his former club.
Who are the favorites to win?
According to data specialist Nielsen Gracenote, Real Madrid are favorites to win this year’s Champions League.
Gracenote’s Euro Club Index simulations give Real a 21% chance of winning the trophy next May. Manchester City (20%), Liverpool (19%) and Bayern Munich (10%) are the other main contenders.
There is a 60 percent chance that Manchester City or either of last season’s two finalists, Real Madrid and Liverpool, will win this season’s competition.
Simon Gleave, Head of Sports Analysis at Nielsen Gracenote, said: “With the competition not having started yet, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Liverpool already have a more than 90% chance of reaching the knockout stage of the Champions League this season . Real Madrid’s chance of negotiating the group stage is up to 98% before a ball is kicked.
“Together with this trio, Chelsea, Paris St-Germain, Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich all have over an 80% chance of progressing to the knockout stages.”