Euro 2020 Special
 

Biggest stories from opening Champions League week ft. Liverpool howler

The UEFA Champions League finally came back to our football calendar and safe to say it was exciting. We witnessed Europe’s top clubs battle each other in the quest to make it to the Round of 16 as matchweek 1 went underway. Too many talking points including big scoring matches as well as huge upsets. Let’s have a look.

 

Chelsea and Liverpool made to suffer

Premier League clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool lost their opening match in the Champions League. Liverpool’s defeat was a headliner as they lost to Serie A-side Napoli by 4-1. If this wasn’t enough, the Reds gave away two penalties within 20 minutes, one of which was saved by the Brazilian Alisson. In a match where Liverpool were helpless and hapless, Napoli triumphed emphatically. A scoreline which said 4-1, in all fairness, should have been 6-1 had the Italian side made most of their rued chances.

A strong Chelsea side lost to Dinamo Zagreb 1-0, away from home. The result was so upsetting that Thomas Tuchel was sacked the next morning. Albeit a questionable decision, the loss was not in the script as some might say. Chelsea should have won the fixture and the loss makes you ponder the Blues’ chances of making it through the group stage.

 

High-scoring fixtures take centre-stage

Who doesn’t love goals? It was goals galore in the opening matchweek of the Champions League 2022-23 season. Group A saw the most goals with Ajax and Napoli scoring four each in their respective fixtures. The Dutch side prevailed against the Scottish side Rangers while we all know about the Napoli fixture.

Barcelona, after a worrisome couple of months during the transfer window, marked their return to the Champions League with an emphatic 5-1 win over Plzeň. Summer signing Robert Lewandowski continues to bless the Culers with his prolificness as he bagged his first UCL hat-trick in a Barcelona kit.

Group G saw Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City wreak havoc against their opponents. Dortmund scored three past Copenhagen while Manchester City blasted four past Sevilla while keeping clean sheets. The two sides from Group G emerge as the favourites to make it through to the Round of 16 while Sevilla are fancied to finish third and go to the Europa League.

Group F saw Real Madrid embark on their title defence as they beat Celtic 3-0. It will be a night to remember for Eden Hazard as he returned to match fitness and scored the winner to make it three. Shakhtar Donetsk pulled off a huge upset by beating RB Leipzig 4-1 at the Red Bull Arena. With Real Madrid, the clear favourites in the group to qualify, the fight for the second spot is on.

 

Tough battles set the tone

Perhaps the most talked about fixture from matchweek 1 is that of PSG and Juventus. Both sides met at Parc de Princes, where the home side prevailed in a hard-fought match. Kylian Mbappe made an early impact after bagging a brace in the first half. Weston McKennie pulled one back in the second half but his efforts were in vain. The fixture ended 2-1 in favour of Paris as Juventus continue to struggle as their recent form suggests.

PSG are in scintillating form as their front three of Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi continue to score and assist goals. It will be interesting to see how the French side fares as they progress.

Another big fixture was between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. A fixture that seemed like an evenly-matched contest saw the German side prevail 2-0. Bayern’s Leroy Sane broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute to take the lead before halftime. An own goal by Danilo D’Ambrosio doubled their lead as Inter started their Champions League journey with a defeat.

 

Key takeaways for upcoming weeks

Chelsea are fancied to bounce back following the appointment of new gaffer Graham Potter from Brighton and Hove Albion. It will also allow us to see how serious the new Chelsea ownership is faring at the helm. As far as Liverpool are concerned, they have to sort themselves out if they have any ambitions to stay in the Champions League. Their 4-1 could easily have been a 6-1 howler. Seems like the departure of Sadio Mane is taking its toll.

Atletico Madrid continue to play impressively after bagging their first win of the season in the Champions League. However, the Griezmann saga continues as Barcelona are reportedly preparing for a lawsuit against the Spanish side for their cunning tactics. Regardless, Diego Simeone’s side will be a team to look out for.

The likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Bayern Munchen look solid and as always are amongst the favourites. Madrid begin their title defence while the rest will aim for Champions League glory.

Tottenham returned to the Champions League and beat Marseille 2-0 at home, getting off to an impressive start. The Champions League finalists have been faring well under Antonio Conte as they aim for European glory before their arch-rivals Arsenal.

 

Players to look out for

Robert Lewandowski has settled in pretty quickly as he marked his Champions League debut for Barcelona with a hat-trick. He leads the rest in the race for the European Golden Boot. Erling Haaland started his Champions League journey with Manchester City with an impressive brace, as he continues to rack up goals.

Summer signing Richarlison scored both goals for Tottenham as he played his first ever Champions League match. His match-winning brace against Marseille perhaps overwhelmed him as the Brazilian celebrated with tears of joy. Kylian Mbappe continues to score goals for PSG as his brace helped his side bag all three points.

However, the likes of Neymar, Lionel Messi, Memphis Depay and Sadio Mane are yet to show their true colours. It is indeed too early to determine anything at the moment. Who will win the golden boot will surely be an interesting topic in the near future.

Also Read: Five Toughest ‘Group of Death’ in UEFA Champions League History

 

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