Julian Alvarez
Julian Alvarez scored two goals to help Manchester City beat Crvena Zvezda and get their Champions League defence off to a winning start. Phil Noble/Reuters

The UEFA Champions League group stages kicked off on Tuesday with half of the eight groups in action. This season's competition is set to be the last of its kind before a change in format from next season onwards.

Last season's winners, Manchester City, began its defence of the trophy by completing a comeback victory over Serbian side, Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade). Pep Guardiola's men dominated the first half but found themselves a goal down just before the break as Osman Bukari put the heavy underdogs ahead at the Etihad Stadium.

Initially, Bukari's goal was ruled out for offside, but VAR showed the striker was actually onside and that led to jubilant scenes in the away section of the crowd. Trailing at half-time, Manchester City's players would have faced some harsh words from Guardiola in the dressing room and a response would be expected from last season's champions.

Julian Alvarez wasted no time in getting the home side back into the game as just two minutes into the second half, the Argentinian striker equalised after great link-up play with fellow striker Erling Haaland. Alvarez then put Manchester City in front not long after as his free-kick attempt was severely misjudged by Crvena Zvezda's goalkeeper, Omri Glazer, and the ball went straight into the back of the net.

A 3-1 victory for Guardiola's side was then sealed when holding midfielder Rodri broke forward and saw his strike nestle into the bottom corner of the net. Rodri famously scored the only goal of last season's final in which Manchester City saw off Inter Milan in Istanbul to win the club's first-ever Champions League title.

The other match in Manchester City's group saw the German side, RB Leipzig, defeat the Swiss side, Young Boys, away from by a 3-1 score line. RB Leipzig will host Manchester City in the next group game in a fortnight.

The other English team in action on Tuesday was Newcastle United, who were making its return to the competition for the first time in two decades. Eddie Howe's side was up against Italian giants AC Milan at the San Siro for their first group game and they managed to secure a 0-0 draw.

Considering it was the first Champions League game for quite a few of Newcastle's players, and they were playing away from home against last season's semi-finalists, a draw can be viewed as a solid result and something to build on in the upcoming matches. The other two teams in Newcastle's group are Paris Saint Germain and Borussia Dortmund, who faced off in the other game in the group on Tuesday and saw the French side win 2-0 at home.

Newcastle will face a tough challenge in getting out of its group due to the quality possessed by the other three teams and their experience in the Champions League. Therefore, Howe will need to continue installing belief into his players so that they can achieve a remarkable feat and knock out some of Europe's biggest clubs.

Next for the Magpies is a home fixture against Paris Saint Germain, with St. James' Park sure to put up an incredible atmosphere for Newcastle's first home game of this season's Champions League.

Also kicking off its Champions League action on Tuesday night was current La Liga champions Barcelona, who hosted Belgian side, Antwerp, and handed out a 5-0 thrashing. New loan signing Joao Felix scored a brace, making it three goals in his first two starts for the Catalan club.

Barcelona have failed to progress from the group stage in the past two seasons so Xavi's side will be hoping to avoid a repeat of that this season. The group is very favourable to Barcelona this time round, as in addition to Antwerp, the other clubs in the group are FC Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Shakhtar Donetsk hosted FC Porto on Tuesday and suffered a 3-1 defeat to the Portuguese club. The game was played in Hamburg, Germany, at Volksparkstadion, due to Shakhtar Donetsk not being able to play in its native Ukraine because of the ongoing conflict with Russia.

The other group matches to be played on Tuesday included Lazio hosting Atletico Madrid and Feyenoord facing Celtic at home.

Trailing in the game 1-0, Lazio managed to find a sensational late equaliser against Atletico Madrid thanks to a headed goal from goalkeeper, Ivan Provedel. Feyenoord took care of business at home as they ran out 2-0 winners in a game which saw Celtic be forced down to nine men as Gustaf Lagerbielke and substitute Odin Thiago Holm were sent off.

Wednesday's fixtures will see the 16 remaining teams in the Champions League begin their campaign, with Manchester United and Arsenal the Premier League sides to be in action.

Manchester United face a difficult trip away to Bayern Munich whilst Arsenal will host PSV Eindhoven in the North London team's first game back in the competition since 2017.