A Round up of the Champions League so far
Manchester United easily overcame a poor Benfica side that surprisingly have become the whipping boys of the group.
Marital won a penalty, then missed it as their teenage keeper Mile Svilar saved it, making amends from his howler on their previous meeting.
But he still somehow managed to get his name on the score sheet shortly after when a Matic’s strike rebounded off the post and then in off the back of him. No doubt it was a baptism of fire for the young goalkeeper in the Champions League.
Blind later scored from the spot, after Rashford won a penalty after been taking down inside the box with a mazy run.
Mourinho’s Playing style
A typical Mourinho dour fest was had by all.
You can’t help but think that he is having a direct impact on the way the team is playing at the moment. It’s almost as if he is restricting them from playing freely and expressing themselves. In turn focusing more on the result and getting the job done.
It may be effective but at times it’s like watching Ireland……Painful stuff.
It really feels as if he is not of the Manchester United philosophy & ethos that the club so badly needs in the long term.
Man United fans must be quietly seething, as they watch Spurs & Man City playing an attacking brand of football, that their great club was always synonymous with in times gone by.
Man United have pretty much already won this group, but they won’t have won any oscars in doing so.
Elsewhere in the group, Basil squandered a 1 – 0 lead against CSKA Moscow as CSKA responded with 2 goals of their own in the 2nd half, in the process avenging their previous defeat to Basil. It leaves it all to fight for as they are both tied on 6 points with 2 games to play. Though Basil have a goal difference of +3 while CSKA’s is -3. Which really means that CSKA cannot really afford to drop any more points if they want to go through.
This Group has been wrapped up already as PSG look to be the standout team in the tournament so far. That said, Anderlecht & Celtic haven’t exactly provided stiff opposition.
Celtic got their backside handed to them by PSG in Parkhead with a 5 – 0 thrashing on the opening round of fixtures. At times Celtic resembled a Sunday pub team (that had just left the pub).
That said, Anderlecht didn’t fare much better against them as they trounced them 5 – 0 also, at home in their last game, and that was after beating them 4 – 0 in Belgium. Anderlecht will be glad to see the back of them.
Celtic did however put it up to Bayern Munich at Parkhead in their last match, and were unlucky not to come away with something. The 2 goals they conceded though were simply too soft at this level.
Brendan Rogers is doing well at Celtic, but serious question marks remain over the way he sets his teams up defensively against decent opposition. He remains somewhat naive of just simply playing good football regardless of the opposition.
PSG look red hot at the moment. Bayern look a shadow of their former selves from last season. Why they sacked Ancelloti is beyond me.
Celtic to pip Anderlecht to the Europa League.
Roma beat Chelsea convincingly in Rome with a 3 – 0 win. From a strong position in the group only a few weeks ago Chelsea now need to beat Qarabag to be sure to advance.
Atletico have been a major disappointment this season, and look to be on their way out at the Group Stage this season. Last season’s Semi-Finalists seem to be suffering a hangover of sorts from the disappointment of last season (and previous years).
As a lot of football fans feared last year when they lost in the semi’s to Madrid…….were we witnessing the last opportunity for this great team to win the coveted Champions League crown……. It seems so.
On the other hand, Roma have been one of the surprise team’s so far this time round. Their performance against Chelsea in Rome was exceptional. They won every decisive battle all over the pitch, and were first to every ball. They will be a match for anyone in the knockout phases.
Conte will have to continue to steer his Chelsea through turbulent waters, something this club are now accustomed to.
Hats off to Qarabag for holding the mighty Atletico to 2 draws.
Barca drew a blank against Olympiacos in Greece, even though Messi, Suarez & Co. did pepper their goal. They still look nowhere near the team they have been in recent years, and it remains to be seen if they will find their form.
They should never have let Neymar go to PSG. And then replacing him with Dembele from Dortmund is not exactly a like for like replacement. As a result they are weaker than last season. For me, the team & club seem to be experiencing a bit of an identity crisis at the moment.
They will win the group for sure, but this year’s Champions ? Not based on recent form.
Juve drew with Sporting Lisbon in Portugal which pretty much secures their passage to the knockout stages also. Juve could yet win the group if they beat Barca when they host them in their next game but it looks unlightly.
Juve also don’t look like the team of last season, but expect them to be there or thereabouts as they will be hard to beat. In typical Italian fashion, the bitter taste of been losing finalists will drive them on.
Sporting Lisbon for the Europa League & Olympiacos to stay in Greece.
Liverpool are somehow top of this group. They were very lucky to get drawn in this group as it is by far the weakest group.
And then it always helps when you have the 2 teams below you – Sevilla & Spartak – slugging it out in a tit for tat battle for 2nd Place. Spartak destroyed Sevilla in the first fixture 5 – 1 in Moscow, only for Sevilla to respond with a win of their own against them in the return fixture in Spain.
Liverpool beat Maribor 3 – 0 in their last game without playing particularly well, but in truth controlled the game. Klopp is a seasoned campaigner in this tournament with Dortmund, but it is hard to see them going much further than the 2nd Round with this team. There defensive weaknesses will be found out against the first decent side they come up against, and they lack a goal scorer. Sturridge is no Messi.
Man City qualify for the 2nd Round and Aguero enters the record books as Manchester City’s all time record goal scorer. What a player….what a manager…..what a team. They were simply awesome against Napoli in Naples. Man City didn’t have it all their own way though. Napoli did give them a game as they went ahead first and it wasn’t until City finally went ahead that they put the game to bed. Napoli had to go for broke though as they needed a win and ended up leaving themselves exposed at the back.
Shakhtar Donetsk, another surprise team of the tournament, swatted aside Feyenoord with a 3 – 1 win – who remain firmly embedded to the foot of the table with 0 points – to pretty much secure 2nd Place.
Napoli though, will probably feel a bit hard done by, to be virtually out of the running for the knockout stages. As they played good football at times and were competitive. They only have 3 points to show from their home win against Feyenoord, and lost narrowly to Shakhtar away (1- 2) in the opening fixture.
Probably the biggest surprise of the tournament this year is Besiktas, who look set to win their group. They drew their previous fixture 1 – 1 with Monaco after falling behind early on. Their place in the knockout stages is almost certain now, most probably now as Group Winners, as they are 4 points ahead. But they still need to get results against Porto (home), and Leipzig (away) to be sure.
Monaco, have been a massive disappointment this year. I guess this is what happens when you sell all of your star players – Bakayoko (Chelsea), Silva, Mendy (Man City), Mbappe (PSG), – to the Big Guns.
It brings back memories of when Ajax sold off their extremely talented young team in the mid 90’s, after they had won the Champions League in 1995 & were runners up the following year. A team that consisted of Kluivert, Davids, Seedorf, Overmars, Van De Sar, & Litmanen.
But at least they won it before cashing in.
Monaco should have done the same. That team of last season were more than capable of winning a Champions league before disbanding it. They were simply a joy to watch.
Porto beat the Germans – Leipzig – with an assured performance in Portugal, winning 3 – 1. The Germans will be kicking themselves for surrendering their position in the group to them and one must now fancy Porto to take 2nd spot as they move 2 points clear of them.
The Group of Death, and what a group it had turned out to be.
Borrussia Dortmund have seemingly imploded this time round, taking only 2 points from a possible 12 points. Both of those coming in draws against the Cypriot minnows APOEL.
Who would have thought that only a few months ago when they were waiting to contest a Quarter Final against Monaco, where they were favourites, that they would see such a change in fortune.
On the eve of their Quarter Final 1st leg their team bus which was carrying the players to the stadium was targeted in a bomb attack. Hardly the ideal preparations for one of the biggest nights of your footballing life.
They lost that match 2-3, at home.
You can only wonder, if that had not happened, would they be still in this same position now.
As for Spurs, they beat Dortmund (in their opening game), to the surprise of many, at Wembley. But were then able to hold Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu.
The Young Pretenders were not finished yet as they put Real Madrid to the sword at home in their most recent fixture.
Beating them with a scintillating performance that belied their years. Kane’s link up play was exceptional, Dele Alli had a great game with a fearless performance, and Eriksson pulled the strings with aplomb from the centre of midfield.
Real Madrid looked a bit off the pace, but watching them I couldn’t help think was this the beginning of the decline of a great team, After all some of their key players such as Modric, Ramos & Ronaldo are now in their 30’s.
It seems that there is a shift this year in the Champions League, that the established elite of recent year’s is starting to decline, and we are seeing the emergence of other teams taking their place.
The year of the underdog?
We live in hope………….
In association with Playnbrag
Bet against Friends for Beer, Fun or Cash on the Champions League for 1 Round or longer & see who knows best!
Download our app for Free on the –