Real Madrid are still huge favourites
After their unconvincing start to the domestic season, where they currently are seven points behind league leaders Barcelona, questions were rightly asked of Real Madrid’s ability to defend their league and Champions League titles.
Could it be the law of diminishing returns? Well, Real Madrid allayed those fears with a commanding performance against Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday evening.
In what was expected to be their biggest test of the season , at a ground they had never won before, the Champions League holders barely looked out of control as they secured their second win of the group stage with a 3-1 win.
Dortmund maybe should have had an early penalty – which may have changed the game – but that was it. A victory for Real Madrid that showed that they are still a very formidable side, and massive favourites to do the unprecedented treble.
.@lm19official: – Sometimes in football, you don't win even if you create a lot more opportunities than your opponent.
— Viaplay Fotball (@ViaplayFotball) September 26, 2017
Liverpool’s attack just as sick as their defence
Almost everywhere you hear or read about Liverpool, there’s a swift reference to their defence. From how Jurgen Klopp has chopped and changed his centre back pairing to how he’s shuffled his goalkeepers. It’s not just that, there’s also been the question of how the midfielders and attackers do not give the right protection or support to the defence.
One thing that is hardly questioned is their attack – WHY? Because they have some of the most devastating attacking options, with Mohamed Salah, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and even Daniel Sturridge on the bench.
So when they visited Spartak Moscow at Otkrytie Arena on Tuesday, a flurry of goals were expected. It didn’t quite turn out as expected, or not totally at least.
Liverpool conceded their customary goal after 23 minutes – they’ve now conceded in all of their last six matches; if Loris Karius could have done better to save Fernando’s free kick is a debate for another day. Eight minutes later, the Reds produced a scintillating moment of attacking play, Sadio Mane and Coutinho combining for the later to score the equaliser.
Then came a truck load of chances, half chances, and could-have-been chances, yet, the goal never came. Liverpool ended the match with 16 shots, but just six of those were on target.
While Jurgen Klopp should worry about the obvious problems in defence, the profligacy in front of goal can’t be overlooked either
“We have to be more clinical – 100%,” said Klopp
“To create all those chances and only score one goal feels average. It was a crazy game. What can I say? We created, created and created. Where is the real point for criticism? We tried with all we had. The effort was great.”
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea ready to rub shoulders with big boys
After winning the Premier League title in emphatic fashion last season, the big challenge for Antonio Conte was replicating, or at least coming close to that sort of level in the Champions League.
Not made any better by Antonio Conte’s record in the Champions League, were he never really impressed while in charge at Juventus. There were doubts. And when they got grouped alongside Atletico Madrid – who have been one of the most consistent sides in the competition for the last 4 seasons – and AS Roma, there were even more doubts.
They may have won a few people over with their 6-0 Matchday 1 win over Qarabag. But not many. After all, it was only Qarabag, a side making their maiden Champions League group stage appearance.
Matchday 2 away at Atletico Madrid provided a real test as to how ready Chelsea were. And they showed they maybe more prepared than many think to rub shoulders with the bigger sides in Europe. Despite falling to a needless penalty conceded by David Luiz, Chelsea dusted themselves up quickly, equalising through Alvaro Morata and snatching the winner through Michy Batshuayi, who scored with the last kick of the match.
Only 2 visiting teams have scored 2+ goals vs. Atletico Madrid in the Champions League this decade.
Exclusive club. pic.twitter.com/ANxWxd0eJQ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 27, 2017
With estranged striker Diego Costa, now an Atletico Madrid player, watching at the Wanda Metropolitano, Chelsea made a statement of intent and attracted the attention of many other sides in Europe.
We've witnessed great English results in Europe over the last decade, but not sure we've seen too many performances like Chelsea's, away against a top European club. They didn't just beat Atletico, they dominated them.
— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) September 28, 2017
Bayern Munich may not be up there with the elite at the moment
Carlo Ancelotti’s biggest challenge when he took on the Bayern Munich job last season was to offer that extra step which would propel the Bavarian giants to another Champions League title, after reaching the semifinal in their previous three seasons under Pep Guardiola.
You may have forgiven him for what was a harsh, maybe unfair quarter final loss to eventual champions Real Madrid last season, but that was it. This season, they had to make a real impact. They had to challenge for the title last won in 2014.
They were good value for their Matchday 1 win at home against Anderlecht. But against PSG on Wednesday, they crumbled like a pack of cards, losing 3-0 at the Parc des Princes.
Bayern Munich's 3-0 defeat to PSG was the worst they've suffered in the Champions League group stage during the 21st century. pic.twitter.com/LIzwgVwGDn
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 28, 2017
Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were left on the bench, and the side looked lifeless and spineless, without a leader and clearly gave nothing. From the 2nd minute when Dani Alves gave PSG the lead, there seemed to be only one destination for the points.
Bayern Munich have fallen way behind he rest and no longer look like they can compete with the big European sides on big European nights like Wednesday.
Carlo Ancelotti had to lose his job as a result. It’s not sure if that’s where their problem ends, but Bayern are at a stage where they need to do everything to get back with the super powers.
Monaco have traded continuous success in the Champions League.
Did anyone expect Monaco to replicate last seasons semifinal appearance? Definitely not many. At least not after the sale of the club’s highest scorer in the competition last season, Kylian Mbappe; midfield enforcer Tiemou Bakayoko; and flying leftback Benjamin Mendy.
Adama Diakhaby isn’t quite Mbappe, and Jorge isn’t Mendy either. There’s been a drop in quality and an even bigger drop in synergy and team strength. Last season, even with the now gone players, the team looked greater than sum of its part. This season, without quality players like Jovetic and Keita Balde – who came in as replacements – firing yet, things aren’t the same.
Against Porto on Tuesday evening, they showed a significant drop in quality, losing 0-3 at Stade Louis II. But they have all that money…