Matchday 5 of the Champions League group stage noticed one other clutch of Europe’s greatest membership safe their place within the knockout section with Chelsea, Inter Milan, Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Sporting CP all placing the names within the hat for the round-of-16 draw.
We requested Mark Ogden, Julien Laurens and Sam Marsden to reply among the massive questions arising from this week’s matches.
What caught your consideration on Matchday 5?
Ogden: Haris Seferovic‘s miss towards Barcelona, within the 93rd minute of Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Camp Nou, not solely denied Benfica a 1-0 win which might have left Barca needing a miracle to qualify from Group E however it additionally robbed us of a doubtlessly seminal second in Champions League historical past.
Barca are on the ropes proper now and Seferovic might have earned a spot in soccer folklore by scoring a aim that will absolutely have ended their 20-year streak of reaching the knockout section. Images of him celebrating the winner might have matched these iconic moments of Jose Mourinho sprinting down the Old Trafford touchline as Porto supervisor or Steven Gerrard’s essential winner for Liverpool towards Olympiakos in 2004-05.
But the Switzerland ahead ended up producing one of many misses of the season by skewing his shot broad from shut vary. Who is aware of how important the miss might show to be?
Laurens: Thiago Alcantara‘s distinctive aim for Liverpool in the 2-0 win against Porto. Not many gamers, not to mention a defensive midfielder, can hit a half-volley like he did: so pure, so exact, so lovely. Thiago is an unimaginable baller with a technical potential, a soccer IQ and imaginative and prescient means above many different gamers in his place. He can dictate the tempo of a sport and management a sport like no different.
Loads of what Liverpool will or won’t obtain this season shall be all the way down to his health and his performances. When he’s within the form of kind that we noticed towards Porto or towards Arsenal final weekend, he offers one other dimension to this Liverpool aspect. And his aim on Wednesday was definitely a reminder of that.
Marsden: Borussia Dortmund‘s exit. It’s been a tricky few weeks on the sidelines for the injured Erling Haaland. First he noticed Norway’s World Cup dream go up in smoke as they dropped factors towards Turkey, Latvia and Netherlands. Now he is seen Dortmund exit the Champions League after a 3-1 defeat to Sporting.
The German aspect had six factors from 9 when Haaland acquired injured and appeared a great guess to make the spherical of 16, however back-to-back defeats since then imply the Europa League awaits them in 2022. With Ajax and Besiktas finishing the group, you’d have anticipated them to make it by means of.
Better for Barcelona: Sneak into the spherical of 16 or attempt to win the Europa League?
Laurens: Qualifying for the Champions League spherical of 16 is far more necessary for Xavi and Barcelona. Financially, they want the income that these two video games (and possibly extra) will convey. In phrases of their standing, in addition they have to undergo. They need not hit one other low level as they attempt to construct their means again to the highest.
And a minimum of there can be no strain in the event that they undergo within the Champions League. No one will guess on them to go additional and make it to the quarterfinals, so that will work for them. On the opposite hand, in the event that they go into the Europa League then the strain shall be enormous, everybody will count on them to win it. They are prone to go far, which suggests extra video games and fewer time for Xavi and his gamers to give attention to LaLiga.
Marsden: Staying within the Champions League is healthier for Barcelona, even when which means one other round-of-16 exit after final season’s chastening 5-2 loss on combination to Paris Saint-Germain. The prize cash and status in Europe’s elite competitors is far greater. Success (and thus extra matchday income) is much from assured within the Europa League, both, as historically larger groups have discovered up to now.
It’s not even just like the competitors would supply a platform for a proficient era of kids. They’re all already taking part in. An harm disaster has pushed Barca’s skinny squad to the restrict and a free midweek can be extra welcome than the Europa League.
Ogden: Playing within the spherical of 16 shall be value extra to Barcelona, each financially and by way of status, than successful the Europa League. They merely should do all they will to keep away from the ignominy of dropping into a contest that may solely heap extra humiliation on the membership.
I feel they’re doomed to the Europa League now anyway as a result of if, as I count on. Benfica beat Dynamo Kiev then Barca should win at Bayern Munich, and that is not going occur. The solely optimistic of being within the Europa League is that it might give Barca their finest hope of taking part in within the Champions League subsequent season, however they should throw every little thing at beating Bayern as a result of the Europa League actually is the “Twilight Zone” for golf equipment as illustrious as Barcelona.
Shaka Hislop says Man United have been uninspiring vs. Villarreal and solely received because of the heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo and David De Gea.
All 4 English golf equipment high their group; rank them so as of likeliest to win all of it
Marsden: Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool after which Manchester United — though you may make an argument for any order of the highest three. I’ll give Chelsea the sting as a result of they’ve been reworked below Thomas Tuchel. They received the competitors final season, battered Juventus this week, lead the Premier League and are so robust defensively.
City and Liverpool are just about on the identical stage, although, with two of the sport’s finest coaches and squads full of expertise. United are lagging behind however cannot be dominated out.
Even at 36, Cristiano Ronaldo‘s proved decisive in Europe this season and a brand new coach will certainly get extra out of an expensively assembled workforce.
Ogden: Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. Liverpool are a workforce of their prime with a successful pedigree within the Champions League and sure, they’ve Anfield, which is a large benefit within the knockout section. I rank Liverpool as favourites to win the competitors.
City will at all times go shut and are pretty much as good as any workforce within the Champions League, however their lack of a centre-forward places them behind Liverpool and Bayern Munich.
Chelsea? Last season’s success proved they will win it and their coach is their ace card. But I’m unsure they’ve the targets to beat the perfect this time round.
As for United, they’re rank outsiders, however a high coach might organise them to win it. They have the attacking high quality, David de Gea is again to his finest and, as Chelsea (2012 and 2021) and Liverpool (2005) proved, the most effective workforce in Europe does not at all times win the Champions League.
Laurens: Manchester United are positively backside among the many English golf equipment. I’m not even positive how they ended up high of their group. For the opposite three, nevertheless, good luck making an attempt to separate them.
There is a cause why Liverpool and City drew within the Premier League (2-2), why the Reds additionally shared a degree with Chelsea within the league (1-1), whereas the champions received narrowly at Stamford Bridge: there’s not a lot in any respect between these three. They are all spectacular, in confidence, with managers on the high of their sport, a marvellous workforce spirit and unity.
Chelsea are most likely probably the most strong defensively, City probably the most fluid in assault and Liverpool can damage you in so some ways. If I’ve to rank them, and I discover it actually onerous, I’d go Manchester City first then Chelsea after which Liverpool. But ask me once more tomorrow and I’d most likely go Liverpool, Chelsea and City!
ESPN FC’s Craig Burley and Julien Laurens share their candid ideas on PSG’s subpar efficiency of their 2-1 defeat vs. Man City.
On Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for on this season’s competitors?
Ogden: Sheriff Tiraspol. Yes, the story of the Moldovan champions is much from a modern-day soccer fairy story, with their rich backers making certain nearly whole domination of their home league with 19 of the final 21 titles, however in Champions League phrases, they’re absolute minnows.
Sheriff’s house win towards Shakhtar Donetsk on Matchday 1 was a narrative in itself, however to then beat Real Madrid on the Bernabeu was an unimaginable shock and one which the Champions League wanted on the again of the failed Super League breakaway final season. It would be the normal suspects within the knockout section, however Sheriff have proven that even the smallest groups are nonetheless able to touchdown a blow on the heavyweights.
Laurens: I’m grateful for the wonderful file of French gamers! Sebastien Haller (who was born in France, however performs worldwide soccer for Ivory Coast) is on fireplace with Ajax with 9 targets in 5 video games. He has been unstoppable and is main Ajax in the direction of their best-ever group-stage marketing campaign within the competitors. He is the Champions League’s high scorer, together with Robert Lewandowski.
And what about Christopher Nkunku? He is just not even a striker within the conventional sense of the phrase however with seven targets already, together with a hat trick towards Manchester City, he’s third within the scoring chart. The born-and-bred Parisian is such a uncommon expertise who is flexible, medical and so elegant too.
Then, you’ve Karim “The Dream” Benzema with 5 targets, French-born Algeria worldwide Riyad Mahrez with 4, Antoine Griezmann with three, Kylian Mbappe with two and Kingsley Coman with one. Vive la France and our aim scorers who’re lighting up the Champions League this season to this point.
Marsden: Ajax. The Dutch membership’s potential to rebuild ought to be a lesson to Europe’s greatest spenders. The majority of the celebrities of their semifinal run in 2019 have left however coach Erik ten Hag has constructed a brand new workforce that appears able to matching that feat.
Ten Hag’s squad consists of a mixture of children, gamers that had been discarded elsewhere and hidden gems unearthed by an excellent recruitment workforce. Pinning every little thing collectively is a clearly outlined taking part in type which is enjoyable on the attention. Everyone is aware of their function.
Highlights within the present marketing campaign have included 5-1 and 4-0 wins towards Sporting Lisbon and Borussia Dortmund, respectively, as Ajax cantered by means of the group stage with 5 wins from 5.