Matchday two of the Champions League group stage is wrapped up, providing fans with late drama, upsets and plenty of goals. We asked our writers Rob Dawson, Alex Kirkland and Mark Ogden to answer some of our burning questions.
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What caught your attention from matchday two?
Kirkland: Last year’s winners, Real Madrid, have a habit of underperforming in the first Champions League game of the season at the Bernabeu — they were beaten 2-1 by unfancied Sheriff Tiraspol last year, lost 3-2 to Shakhtar Donetsk in 2020 and came back to draw 2-2 with Club Brugge in 2019 — but there was no such slip-up this time against RB Leipzig.
The visitors had looked dangerous, creating some early chances, but it was Madrid who were more clinical: Fede Valverde opening the scoring with his fifth goal involvement in his past six games before Marco Asensio finished the job in added time.
Dawson: Club Brugge have never been beyond the group stages, but after thumping FC Porto 4-0 in Portugal on Tuesday, the Belgian side sit top of Group B with two wins from two. On matchday one, they beat Bayer Leverkusen, who recorded an impressive result of their own on Tuesday with 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid.
It means that Club Brugge are three points clear at the top after two games ahead of back-to-back games against Atletico in October. Despite being the lowest-ranked seeds in the group, they have given themselves a great chance of qualifying for the knockout rounds.
Ogden: Joao Cancelo’s pass. Everyone will rightly talk about the audacity of Erling Haaland‘s late goal for Manchester City in their 2-1 win over his former club Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad — a left-foot volley at the far post — but you will not see a better pass all season than the one which Cancelo delivered for Haaland to score.
Cancelo, City’s right-footed left-back, sent the ball into the Dortmund penalty area with the outside of his right foot and the curl of the ball saw it move away from the goalkeeper and enable Haaland to score. It was a stunning pass that only a world-class player could produce.
Which big clubs will struggle to make it to the knockout stage?
Kirkland: Atletico Madrid never have an easy time in the groups. In each of the past three seasons, they’ve only confirmed their progression to the knockout stage on matchday six, needing nervy away wins at FC Salzburg in 2020-21 and Porto in 2021-22. This year, Atletico’s Group B could be just as unpredictable, and another trip to Porto on Nov. 1 could be decisive.
– O’Hanlon: Ranking every Champions League team this season (E+)
As for the other LaLiga teams, Barcelona did enough in defeat at Bayern to suggest last year’s group stage exit won’t be repeated, while Sevilla are in trouble already with a point from two games.
Dawson: Rangers are back in the group stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2010, but they’re finding it tough on their return. Bottom of Group A after two defeats and with a record of no goals scored and seven conceded, it’s going to be very hard to qualify from here.
They may already have their sights set on finishing third to earn a place in the Europa League, but even that is going to be a big ask with back-to-back games against Liverpool up next. They need six points from their two remaining home games against Liverpool and Ajax to stand any chance of remaining in Europe beyond Christmas.
Ogden: It’s not looking good for Juventus, who have yet to pick up a point in Group H following back-to-back defeats against Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica. Juve have lost Paulo Dybala, Matthijs de Ligt and Giorgio Chiellini since the end of last season, while injured summer signing Paul Pogba is facing weeks on the sideline, so it is tough to see how Massimiliano Allegri’s team can get out of this hole.
If they fail to win twice against Maccabi Haifa in the next two games, it’ll be all over for the Italian giants.
Who are the most impressive young players under 21?
Kirkland: The result didn’t end up going their way but Pedri (19) and Gavi (18) showed why they’re the midfield present and future for Barcelona — and Spain — in the 2-0 loss at Bayern. The performance was good enough to suggest that Barca are once again a team to be taken seriously at this level.
Elsewhere, an under-the-radar pick is Sevilla right-back Jose Angel Carmona (20). He’s had quite a week, scoring twice in a 3-2 LaLiga win at Espanyol at the weekend and looking like one of Sevilla’s most accomplished players in a 0-0 draw away at Copenhagen in just his second Champions League appearance.
Dawson: Jurrien Timber was linked with a move to Manchester United in the summer. You can see why after his performance for Ajax against Liverpool on Tuesday. Ajax lost the game at Anfield 2-1 thanks to a late Joel Matip header, but Timber’s valuation will only have increased after another impressive display.
Among other things, the 21-year-old Netherlands international showed a maturity to play in a complex role which saw him push into midfield from his position at centre-back. He might not have got his move this summer, but it can only be a matter of time before Europe’s heavyweight clubs come calling again.
Ogden: Jude Bellingham produced another top-quality performance and a goal during Borussia Dortmund’s clash with Manchester City on Wednesday, but the 19-year-old midfielder seems as though he has been on the Champions League scene for years. If you’re looking for youngsters who are just bursting onto the scene, then Club Brugge defender Abakar Sylla is the breakout teenager this season. Just 19, the Ivorian has been outstanding for the Belgian team, who have won two out of two and are top of Group B so far.
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