5th match of Champions League The group stage saw another clutch of Europe’s biggest clubs securing their spot in the knockout stages with Chelsea, Inter Milan, City of Manchester, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Sports CP all put their names on hats for the round of 16 draw.
We asked Mark Ogden, Julien Laurens and Sam Marsden to answer some of the big questions that emerged from this week’s games.
What caught your eye on Game Day 5?
Ogden: Haris Seferovicmiss against Barcelona, at the 93rd minute of Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Camp Nou, not only rejected Benfica A 1-0 win would have left Barca in need of a miracle to get past Group E but it also robbed us of a memorable moment in Champions League history.
Barca are on the upswing right now and Seferovic could have earned a place in football by scoring a goal that would surely end their 20-year streak of reaching the knockout stages. The image of him celebrating the winner could match the iconic moments of Jose Mourinho sprinting down to Old Trafford as Porto manager or Steven Gerrard’s key winner for Liverpool met Olympiakos in 2004-05.
But Switzerland The forward created one of the misses of the season by shooting from close range. Who knows how important the miss can be proven to be?
Laurens: Thiago AlcantaraLiverpool’s special goal in 2-0 win over Porto. Not many players, let alone a defensive midfielder, can make a half-pass like him: so fine, so precise, so beautiful. Thiago is an incredible footballer with technical ability, soccer intelligence and vision that surpasses many other players in his position. He can dictate the speed of a game and control a game like no other.
A lot of what Liverpool will or won’t achieve this season will depend on his fitness and performances. When he’s in the form we’ve seen against Porto or against Arsenal Last weekend, he gave a different side to this Liverpool team. And his goal on Wednesday was certainly a reminder of that.
Marsden: Borussia Dortmundof the exit. It’s been a tough couple of weeks on the sidelines for the injured Erling Haaland. For the first time he watched Norway’s World Cup dreams go up in smoke when they lost points first Turkey, Latvia and Netherlands. Now he has seen Dortmund exit the Champions League after 3-1 defeat to Sporting.
The German side had six points from nine when Haaland picked up an injury and looked to have placed a good bet to reach the round of 16, but consecutive defeats since then mean the Europa League awaits them in 2022. With Ajax and Besiktas complete the group, you have expected them to pass.
Better for Barcelona: Reaching the Round of 16 or trying to qualify for the Europa League?
Laurens: Reaching the last 16 of the Champions League is more important for Xavi and Barcelona. Financially, they need the revenue that these two games (and possibly more) will bring. In terms of standing, they also need to go through. They don’t need to hit a low point anymore as they try to build their way back to the top.
And at least there will be no pressure if they get past the Champions League. No one is betting on them going further and reaching the quarterfinals, so that should work for them. On the other hand, if they get to participate in the Europa League, the pressure will be huge, everyone wants them to win it. They are likely to go far, which means more games and less time for Xavi and the players to focus on LaLiga.
Marsden: Staying in the Champions League is better for Barcelona, even if it means once again having to exit the round of 16 after last season’s massive 5-2 loss to Paris Saint-Germain. The prize money and prestige in the competition for the elite of Europe is much higher. Success (and therefore more game-day revenue) is also not guaranteed in the Europa League, as the tradition of larger teams has discovered in the past.
It doesn’t even look like the competition will provide a platform for a talented young generation. All played. An injury crisis has pushed Barca’s slim squad to the limit and an idle midweek game would be more welcome than the Europa League.
Ogden: A place in the last 16 will be more valuable to Barcelona, both financially and in prestige, than qualifying for the Europa League. They simply have to do all they can to avoid the anomaly of falling into a rivalry that will only add further humiliation to the club.
I think now they have to face the Europa League anyway because if, as I expected. Benfica beat Dynamo Kiev Barca must beat Bayern Munich, and that’s not going to happen. The only positive thing about being in the Europa League is that it could give Barca their best hope of playing in the Champions League next season, but they have to throw everything in to beat Bayern because the Europa League really is. The “sunset zone” for clubs as illustrious as Barcelona.
Shaka Hislop says Man United played less attractively than Villarreal and only won thanks to the heroes of Cristiano Ronaldo and David De Gea.
All four English clubs top their groups; Rank them in order of most likely to win them all
Marsden: Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and then Manchester United – although you could make an argument for any of the top three in order. I will give Chelsea the advantage because they have been transformed under Thomas Tuchel. They won the competition last season, defeated Juventus This week, leading the Premier League and defending was difficult.
However, Man City and Liverpool are on the same level, with two of the best coaches and squads brimming with talent. United are falling behind but cannot be ruled out.
Even at the age of 36, Cristiano Ronaldohas proven decisive in Europe this season and a new coach is sure to get more out of an experienced assembled team.
Ogden: Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. Liverpool are a team at their peak with the Champions League title and yes they have Anfield which is a huge advantage in the knockout stages. I rank Liverpool as my favorite to win the competition.
Man City will always come close and play as well as any team in the Champions League, but the lack of a central defender puts them behind Liverpool and Bayern Munich.
Chelsea? Last season’s success proved they can win it and the coach is their trump card. But I’m not sure they aim to beat the best at this point.
As for United, they’re the ones out of the league, but a top coach can organize them to win it. They have offensive quality, David de Gea are getting back to their best and as Chelsea (2012 and 2021) and Liverpool (2005) have proven, the best team in Europe doesn’t always win the Champions League.
Laurens: Manchester United are definitely bottom of the table among English clubs. I’m not even sure how they’re at the top of their group. As for the other three, however, good luck trying to separate them.
Is there a reason why Liverpool and Man City draw in the Premier League (2-2), why the Red Devils also share points with Chelsea in the league (1-1), while the defending champion won narrowly at Stamford Bridge: no many. in all between those three things. They are all impressive, confident, with top managers in their game, a great team spirit and unity.
Chelsea have perhaps the most solid defence, City are the most flexible in attack and Liverpool can hurt you in many ways. If I had to rank them, and I find it really difficult, I would go to Manchester City first, then Chelsea and then Liverpool. But ask me again tomorrow and I might go to Liverpool, Chelsea and City!
ESPN FC’s Craig Burley and Julien Laurens share their candid thoughts on PSG’s side performance in the 2-1 loss to Man City.
At Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for in this season’s contest?
Ogden: Police Chief Tiraspol. Yes, the story of the Moldovan champions is far from a modern-day football fairy tale, with their wealthy backers ensuring almost complete domestic league dominance with 19 out of 21 last title, but in the Champions League, they’re total fuckers.
Sheriff’s home wins Shakhtar Donetsk on day 1 was a story in itself, but to beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu afterwards was an unbelievable shock and one the Champions League needed after the breakaway Super League failed last season. Those would be the usual suspects in the knockout stages, but Sheriff has shown that even the smallest teams are capable of delivering blows to the heavyweights.
Laurens: Thank you for the great record of the French players! Sebastien Haller (people born in ) France, but play international football for Ivory Coast) is on fire with Ajax with nine goals in five games. He has been unstoppable and is leading Ajax towards their best ever group stage campaign in the competition. He is the top scorer of the Champions League, along with Robert lewandowski.
And what about? Christopher Nkunku? He is not even a striker in the traditional sense of the word but with seven goals already, including a hat-trick against Manchester City, he is third in the scoring charts. The Parisian born and bred boy is a rare talent who is versatile, skillful and also very elegant.
Then you have Karim “The Dream” Benzema with five goals, who was born in France Algeria international Riyad Mahrez with four, Antoine Griezmann with three, Kylian Mbappe with two and Kingsley Coman with one. Long live France and our scorers who are lighting up the Champions League this season so far.
Marsden: Ajax. The Dutch club’s ability to rebuild must be a lesson for Europe’s biggest spenders. The majority of their stars in the 2019 semi-finals have left but coach Erik ten Hag has built a new team capable of matching that feat.
Ten Hag’s roster consists of a mix of young players, players who have been discarded elsewhere and hidden gems unearthed by a stellar squad. Putting everything together is a well-defined, easy-to-see style of play. Everyone knows their role.
Highlights of the current campaign include 5-1 and 4-0 victories over Sporting Lisbon and Borussia Dortmund, as Ajax progressed past the group stage with five wins from five.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/uefa-champions-league/story/4527516/champions-league-talking-points-barcelonas-dilemma-after-lucky-escape-premier-leagues-dominance Barcelona’s dilemma after a lucky escape; Premier League dominance