• cover

Five things we learned from the Champions League

The Champions League’s heavyweights flexed their muscles as Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool secured big wins this midweek.

Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Napoli also took major steps towards the last 16.

Here, AFP Sport takes a look at five things we learned from the third round of group-stage matches:

Lampard learning quickly
Frank Lampard won just two of his first eight games as Chelsea manager, including a 1-0 home defeat to Valencia on matchday one that put the Blues on the backfoot in Group H.

However, despite blooding a host of youngsters, coping with a transfer ban and the loss of Eden Hazard, Lampard has quickly righted the Chelsea ship with a 1-0 win at Ajax making it six wins in a row in all competitions.

After inflicting Ajax’s first defeat since their heartbreaking late exit to Tottenham in last season’s Champions League semi-finals, Chelsea is now well-placed to qualify along with the Dutch champions for the last 16.

Both sides are on six points with Valencia on four and Lille one after they drew 1-1 in France.

Haaland hype intensifies
Erling Braut Haaland became the first player to ever score six goals in his first three Champions League appearances, but his double was not enough to save Salzburg as Napoli emerged 3-2 victors in Austria.

The 19-year-old Norwegian is already being chased by Europe’s top clubs and added a few more millions to his asking price by taking his tally to 20 goals in 13 appearances this season.

The son of former Leeds and Manchester City midfielder Alf-Inge Haaland is just the third teenager to score in his first three Champions League games.

And with Salzburg’s chances of making the last 16 now slim, the potential for a big-money move as soon as January took another step closer on Wednesday.

Life in Tottenham yet
Tottenham recovered from taking just one point from their opening three group games last season to make it all the way to the final, but a 7-2 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich and poor Premier League form gave Red Star Belgrade plenty of reason for hope ahead of their trip to north London.

Instead, the Serbian champions returned home on the end of a 5-0 hammering themselves as two goals each from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min saw Spurs recover their mojo and take control of the second spot in Group B.

There remains work for Mauricio Pochettino’s men to do with two of their last three games away from home, but on the evidence of Tuesday’s meeting, there is little for them to fear bar a boisterous atmosphere when they head to Belgrade in two weeks’ time.

Madrid back on track
Real Madrid still harbours expectations of returning to Istanbul for the final come May, but the 13-time champions found themselves in the unusual position of seeing their third group game against Galatasaray branded “a final” by the Spanish media.

That was because Zinedine Zidane’s men had taken just one point from their opening two games against Paris Saint-Germain and Club Brugges and ran a serious risk of missing out on the knockout stages for the first time in 23 years with defeat on Tuesday.

Madrid had to withstand an early onslaught as Thibaut Courtois silenced his critics with two huge saves from Florin Andone, but Toni Kroos scored the only goal for a 1-0 win that puts the Spanish giants back on course for the last 16.

Mbappe doesn’t waste time
Kylian Mbappe was only fit enough to feature for the final half-hour of PSG’s 5-0 romp over Club Brugges, but still had enough time to score a brilliant hat-trick as the French champions closed in on the last 16.

Thomas Tuchel will have difficult decisions to make if and when he can finally get his full complement of forwards in Mbappe, Neymar, Edison Cavani and Mauro Icardi fit.

Icardi also scored twice in Belgium with PSG in a dominant position in Group A, five points clear of Madrid and seven ahead of Brugges in third.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap