Welcome to The Champions League coverage, as Jack Lang takes you through the big talking points – and things you might have missed – from Europe’s top competition. This morning he evaluates runners and riders when the group competition is half way through, greetings Barcelonaguys, and rejoice Real Sociedadsuccess…
Mid-way health check
When checkpoints go, ‘mid through The Champions League the group stage’ is about as important as ‘nine steps into a marathon’ or ‘76.32 percent of the president’s term’, which is not to say far-fetched and stop being ridiculous. Still, after a game week that was perhaps a little short on drama and definitely lacking hilarious disaster this column is is known to trade with, it’s a good excuse to make big judgments and/or make fun of supposed contestants. Go ahead!
Four teams have won all their matches so far: Manchester Citybarcelona, Real madrid and Bayern Munich. Of them, holders Manchester City have been most influential, albeit in a group that holds about as much danger as a kiddie pool. Yes, you can technically drown in two tablespoons of water, but not when you have Erling Haaland — again among the European goals against Young Boys this week — on rescue duty. With Pep Guardiola frighteningly relaxed, City look set for a few more comfortable 3-1 wins yet. Or maybe something a little more targeted, as they’ve taken 81 shots in their three games so far, 18 more than any other team.
Bayern Munich and Real madrid have both looked scintillating in attack and suspect at the back. The former have played in spurts, which you can afford to do when you have Leroy Sane and Harry Kane in such great shape. Real, aka Jude Bellingham Club de Futbol, will hope so Vinicius JrComing back from injury helps them shift into one or three gears. Stopping a single generation ability is just about doable; stopping two is a nightmare. Barcelona (more on that in the next chapter) it will be easier to gauge when they can get a decent team out.
Who else? The new look Paris Saint-Germain have looked sharp in the two games as Luis Enrique opted for a vaguely coherent tactical plan, and may have gotten his annual meltdown out of his system early. Inter are undefeated and, in Lautaro Martinez, boasts one of the smartest strikers in Europe. Also the one that looks the most like a werewolf that just had an expensive haircut, which you have to imagine at some level.
Beyond that, we’re probably in fantasy territory. Arsenal would be favorite winners and have produced some excellent performances, but it will be difficult to mount a challenge on two fronts. Naples have lost Victor Osimhen to injury. Atletico Madrid are suddenly super fun, which is completely out of character and simply can’t end well. Borussia Dortmund? Feyenoord? RB Leipzig? Postage? Stranger things have happened, but not in this age of sovereign wealth funds. Unfortunately.
Of course it is too Manchester Unitedwhich hahahaha, no, sorry, I can’t even get the end of that sentence in my head, let alone type it out.
Barcelona youth movement
On the one hand, scraping a home win over Shakhtar Donetsk’s least impressive side in recent memory is not exactly cause for celebration. Barcelona, on the other hand, came into Wednesday’s game with an injury list as long as Moby Dick, and ended up looking like a team from your local sixth form college.
Xavi was without Frankie De Jong, Jules Conde, Peter, Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski and Sergio Robertoin addition to what is postponed Gift. It also got worse during the game Joe Felix limped off in the second half. All the bars in the world can’t protect you from that kind of luck.
Barcelona can always count on youth though. 16 years old Lamine Yamal has been one of the big stars of the season, but he wasn’t alone here. Fermin Lopez (20) started in the midfield, played a big part in his side’s opening goal and then hit the finish line with an impressive second. Alex Balde and Marc Casado (both 20) came from the bench. It did too Marc GuiuThe 17-year-old, fresh from his decisive strike against Athletic Bilbao at the weekend.
Marc Guiu: Barcelona’s 17-year-old winner transforms the world in 23 seconds
At the end of the night, the only players left on the Blaugrana bench were four more managers (“Hector’s fort“, for God’s sake) and a goalkeeper who would struggle to get recognition in his own club. In that context, 2-1 was a pretty decent result.
The surprise package of the group stage so far? You’d be hard-pressed to look further than Real Sociedad, who sit pretty much on top of Group D at the halfway mark. Sure, it’s not one of the stronger sides – RB Salzburg don’t hold much fear and Benfica are a pale shadow of the team that did so well last season – but La Real have gone into their first Champions League campaign in a decade in admirable fashion. conviction so far.
The defense is solid, thanks in large part to the ongoing identity crisis Robin Le Normanda Spanish international born and raised in France, not Normandy, as his name might lead you to believe. Martin Zubimendi is a lovely, subtle defensive midfielder, who allows for a true left-footed connection — Mikel Merino, Brais Mendez, Take Kubo and Mikel Oyarzabal — to blossom before him.
Kubo, who somehow managed to be released by both Barcelona and Real Madrid before the age of 22 despite being an obvious genius, has been pulling the (two) strings from the right all season. However, Mendez has been the leading man in Europe so far, scoring in all three of La Real’s games. His close-range goal against Benfica on Tuesday won’t make many highlight reels, but it brought his club within touching distance of the second round. Anyone hoping for a dose of novelty – or a New Year’s knockout ride – will be crossing their fingers for them.
The first two weeks must have been hell for Santiago Gimenez. Feyenoord’s Mexico international missed the matches against Celtic and Atletico Madrid suspended, after being sent off in the match European League back in April. While Arne Slot’s side have done well enough without him, Gimenez was surely desperate to sink his teeth into Champions League football for the first time in his career.
That hunger was palpable on Wednesday night when he led the way for the Dutch side against Lazio. Gimenez sent an early header wide, then was chalked off for offside before finally finding the back of the net with a classic 9th goal from just inside the box. Later, he added another and took the rebound to the bank from a few meters away and reached 15 goals from 11 games in the season.
Feyenoord currently sit top of the group and you wouldn’t bet against Gimenez continuing to ride his own personal Mexican wave.
Goal of the game week: Meschak Elia for Young Boys against Manchester City. There are many different ways to score when you drive one through on goal, but the right choice – both morally and aesthetically – is to scoop the ball over the keeper, watch it sail high into the night sky, and keep running so you’re already to celebrate when it comes online. More please.
Name game: Arsenal’s opening goal against Seville was scored off Gabriel Martinelli. It was installed by Gabriel Jesus by authorization from Gabriel Magalhaes. If anyone can think of any other sequences like this with three players of the same name, immortality awaits in the comments section…
The fashion police: Manchester City… varsity jumpers, would you call them? Unforgivable on every possible level. You were meant to play against the Young Boys, not dress like them.
The results of game week 3 in the Champions League
Manchester United 1-0 Copenhagen
Galatasaray 1-3 Bayern Munich
Lens 1-1 PSV Eindhoven
Sevilla 1-2 Arsenal
Union Berlin 0-1 Napoli
Braga 1-2 Real Madrid
Inter 2-1 Red Bull Salzburg
Benfica 0-1 Real Sociedad
Celtic 2-2 Atletico Madrid
Feyenoord 3-1 Lazio
RB Leipzig 3-1 Red Star Belgrade
Young Boys 1-3 Manchester City
Barcelona 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Royal Antwerp 1-4 Porto
(Top image via Getty Images)
#Man #City #Bayern #Real #Madrid #Barcelona #tour #Man #Utd #Champions #League #Commentary