Champions League guide: Group C in focus
Fixtures and UK kick-off times
Barcelona vs Viktoria Plzen (September 7, 8pm)
Inter Milan vs Bayern Munich (September 7, 8pm)
Viktoria Plzen vs Inter Milan(September 13, 5.45pm)
Bayern Munich vs Barcelona (September 13, 8pm)
Bayern Munich vs Viktoria Plzen (October 4, 5.45pm)
Inter Milan vs Barcelona (October 4, 8pm)
Barcelona vs Inter Milan (October 12, 8pm)
Viktoria Plzen vs Bayern Munich (October 12, 8pm)
Inter Milan vs Viktoria Plzen (October 26, 5.45pm)
Barcelona vs Bayern Munich (October 26, 8pm)
Bayern Munich vs Inter Milan (November 1, 8pm)
Viktoria Plzen vs Barcelona (November 1, 8pm)
This year's Champions League group of death pits Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Inter Milan against each other, as well as minnows Viktoria Plzen.
Robert Lewandowski, who jumped ship for Barcelona, returns to face his old side — but Bayern do not look any less formidable in the striker's absence.
Julian Nagelsmann’s side have already put six past Eintracht Frankfurt and seven past Bochum in the Bundesliga this season — both away from home.
The addition of Sadio Mane from Liverpool adds a different dynamic to Bayern’s forward line. With the likes of Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman also at Nagelsmann’s disposal, there is a frighteningly quick look to their attack.
Most teams will not be able to cope with that and Bayern, if everything clicks, are genuine contenders for the Champions League title.
It has been a bizarre summer for Barcelona, who have been forced to sell players due to mounting debts but simultaneously managed to bring in Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde for big money.
Xavi has a strong, if slightly unbalanced, squad of players, so it is difficult to predict how the Blaugrana will fare in the Champions League.
With Frenkie de Jong’s future still up in the air, it could be that there are more changes before the transfer window closes.
Whatever happens, expectations will still be meteorically high at Barcelona.
Ordinarily, Inter would have been hopeful of a run into the knockout stages but they will need to get the better of one of Bayern or Barcelona first.
It is certainly not out of the question. With the return of Romelu Lukaku, Simone Inzaghi’s side should be stronger this season.
However, they have beaten Barcelona only once in 10 Champions League meetings — a record they will need to improve upon in order to progress.
Czech champions Viktoria Plzen have been cruelly pitted against some of the strongest teams in Europe and it could be a struggle for them to pick up even a single point.
Barcelona, Bayern and Inter will all need to avoid complacency but there is an obvious underdog in Group C.
Bayern versus Barcelona in Munich is a heavyweight clash and perhaps the standout fixture of this season’s group stage.
Lewandowski returns to his former club only weeks after his controversial departure, having scored 344 goals in a Bayern shirt.
Die Roten are the favourites but Barcelona’s aim is to put themselves back among Europe’s elite. That could start with victory over the reigning German champions.
While the Bundesliga giants are expected to top the group, Barca’s games with Inter are likely to decide the runners-up.
The Nerazzurri’s record against the Blaugrana in the Champions League is poor but times have changed.
This will likely be a closer contest than in previous years, perhaps more akin to the great semi-final clash between Jose Mourinho’s Inter and Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2010.
One to watch: Jules Kounde
There are plenty of reasons why Barca were so determined to get the £42million signing of Kounde over the line.
The 23-year-old, who had also been a target for Chelsea, is one of the most gifted defenders in Europe, both technically and physically.
Kounde was a key man in a Sevilla side that conceded the fewest goals in LaLiga last season (30) and should add a real presence at the back.
Hot prospect: Ryan Gravenberch
Bayern were certainly not lacking for talent but still added midfielder Ryan Gravenberch to their exceptionally gifted squad this summer.
The Netherlands international is brimming with potential and could well develop into a superstar in Bavaria.
A dynamic, forward-thinking midfielder, the 20-year-old has been used primarily as a substitute so far this season but he may well have a part to play in the Champions League.
Bayern look capable of achieving big things this season, so they should have few problems qualifying — even from a group this strong.
Demands will be high at Barcelona and they will be desperate to avoid a repeat of last season, when they finished third and dropped into the Europa League.
Serie A runners-up Inter could push them close for second place, however, and the Blaugrana must be at their best to secure qualification to the knockout rounds.