Things We Learned from Champions League Matchday 2



Manchester United were big winners in Champions League matchday 2 | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The second round of Champions League group stage fixtures threw up another selection of big results and performances.

There were wins all round for the Premier League sides, differing responses to the weekend’s Clasico and one particularly noteworthy outfit choice.

Let’s take a look at everything we learned from matchday two.

Marcus ThuramMonchengladbach came so close to victory over Real | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

When Group B was drawn at the start of October, on paper it was a foregone conclusion. European giants Inter and Real Madrid would qualify with ease, Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk would make up the numbers.

Two games in, 13-time champions of Europe Real Madrid sit bottom of the group having been beaten by Shakhtar and having scraped a last-gasp draw with Gladbach. Inter have also been held to a draw by both sides, leaving Group B tantalisingly poised.

Would the European Super League – that would probably exclude both Monchengladbach and Shakhtar – throw up this kind of drama?

Marcus Rashford, Mason GreenwoodRashford hit a hat-trick despite playing just 27 minutes | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Common criticisms that were directed Manchester United’s way after their slow start to the season were 1) why did the club fail to sign Jadon Sancho? 2) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not good enough.

Solskjaer produced his second tactical masterclass in successive Champions League matches as United blew RB Leipzig away. The Red Devils could not only qualify from, but even top, their initially daunting group.

Solskjaer was able to bring Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes on to ruthlessly kill the game off, the former hitting a hat-trick and being played through superbly by the latter for his first.

Yes it’s a squad game, the fixture list is intense and a player of Sancho’s quality would have been an exceptional addition. But with the attacking talent at United’s disposal currently being utilised so shrewdly by Solskjaer, not landing the Dortmund man wasn’t actually the end of the world.

Julian NagelsmannWhen you’ve got Manchester United away at 8 and your audition for the Apprentice at 10 | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

One of the most exciting young managers in the game certainly made an entrance at Old Trafford with his outfit choice – Apprentice candidate who interrupts Lord Sugar vibe. Unfortunately it became the only striking thing about his side as Leipzig suffered a 5-0 humbling at the hands of Manchester United.

After a series of outstanding performances in last season’s competition, Nagelsmann’s side underwhelmed on Wednesday evening. They mustered a couple of slick counter attacks, but David de Gea was only forced into two saves of note. Once Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes were introduced, Leipzig’s backline could not cope.

Nagelsmann is now off to Bridge Cafe for a cup of tea in a polystyrene cup while he and his team mull over where it all went wrong.

FBL-EUR-C1-JUVENTUS-BARCELONAPedri shone in Barcelona’s win | MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images

It’s been another dramatic week in the soap opera that is FC Barcelona. The club suffered a 3-1 loss to rivals Real Madrid in the season’s first Clasico on Saturday – their second La Liga defeat on the bounce – before the show waved adios to the wildly unpopular arch-villain Josep Maria Bartomeu on Tuesday. Desperate for one last plot twist, the ousted president dropped a European Super League bombshell as he exited.

Barcelona offered fans a glimmer of positivity with a 2-0 win at Serie A champions Juventus. Teenage sensation Pedri lit up the game once more, with a series of adventurous marauds forward and looking so comfortable on the ball despite the occasion.

It was intelligent man management from Ronald Koeman; despite Pedri’s disappointing showing in the Clasico, he was thrown in straight from the start. It is also a testament to the confidence and character of the 17-year-old that he could effortlessly bounce back from the Real Madrid performance and turn in a display of such quality.

Juventus v FC Barcelona: Group G - UEFA Champions LeagueMorata saw three goals chalked off for offside | Chris Ricco/Getty Images

It’s not the hottest take you’ll read all day, but without one of the best players of all time, Juventus are not quite as good.

Cristiano Ronaldo kicked off the season in characteristic form with three goals in his first two appearances. However, he has missed their last four matches after testing positive for coronavirus, and Juventus have picked up just one win since.

Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs de Ligt were further key absentees for Juve, and the void they left was also felt as Barcelona carved them open on multiple occasions.

Ferran TorresFoden, Torres and Sterling were awesome for City | Alex Caparros/Getty Images

With Manchester City struggling to break teams down on occasions this term and Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero both sidelined, City fans could be forgiven for being a little concerned.

Phil Foden and Ferran Torres changed the game after being introduced from the bench against Porto in their opening group game, and Foden had a similar impact against West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday.

The duo were handed starts from the off against Marseille alongside Raheem Sterling as part of an effervescent front three. The trio caused problems all evening, with Torres and Sterling both getting on the scoresheet in a comfortable City win.

FC Krasnodar v Chelsea FC: Group E - UEFA Champions LeagueMendy has been such a boost to the Blues backline | MB Media/Getty Images

In a window that saw Chelsea bring in three of Europe’s most exciting attacking talents in Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz, it is their third least expensive signing who could prove to be most crucial.

The Blues recorded their third successive clean sheet – Mendy’s fourth in five games – and produced at the other end as they ran out 4-0 winners over Krasnodar.

Chelsea’s backline suddenly look more confident, organised and assured with the former Rennes man behind them. With the forward players the club have brought in and already have at their disposal, scoring should not be an issue for Frank Lampard’s side. With the addition of Mendy, conceding is also becoming less of a worry.



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