Matchday 3 of the Champions League group stage is complete, giving fans plenty to talk about and more to look forward to. After an exciting third round of play, we asked our writers Sam Marsden, Gab Marcotti, and Julien Laurens to answer some of our burning questions.
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What caught your attention on Matchday 3?
Marcotti: Napoli beat Ajax 6-1 and the other side few expected to be perfect at this point: Club Brugge, who have yet to concede a single goal (bow Simon Mignolet). Manchester City’s Erling Haaland continues to score. Not really new, is it?
Laurens: What struck me is that we’ve only seen two away wins in the Champions League this week, but they were incredible. First, Napoli’s demonstration at Ajax and the humiliating result. Aside from Manchester City, no team currently plays better football than Luciano Spalletti’s side. Second is Borussia Dortmund (4-1) in Seville, where 19-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham once again shone with a special goal in the captain’s armband. Knowing before kick-off that he would be sacked and that Jorge Sampaoli would replace him, Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui nonetheless took charge of the team in a terrifying farewell.
Marsden: The surreal scenes in Seville – where Lopetegui took charge of the Dortmund defeat despite knowing he would be sacked after the game – and Club Brugge, particularly their striker Ferran Jutgla. The Belgian side have nine points from nine after beating Atletico Madrid 2-0. Jutgla, a summer signing from Barcelona’s B team, scored a goal and another, doubling his goals and assists tally in this year’s competition. Just four years ago he played against Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey for Sant Andreu, who play in the regionalized fifth tier of Spanish football. On Tuesday, he plunged Atleti into real danger of early Champions League elimination.
Can Barcelona turn things around?
Marcotti: Of course you can. They weren’t great in the 1-0 defeat by Inter Milan, only getting two shots on target, but were unlucky to take the lead. And they have two of the last three group games at home. But I think they have to beat Inter at the Camp Nou because you don’t want to go into the last game without controlling your destiny, especially since – you assume – Bayern Munich will already be qualified when they host Inter.
– O’Hanlon: Ranking of all Champions League teams this season (E+)
Laurens: Tuesday was so disappointing for Barcelona in terms of result and also performance that they can only do better at home next week. We’ll see a very different Barca, one that doesn’t just aimlessly cross the ball, one that involves striker Robert Lewandowski more. Will it be enough, especially considering all the injuries in his back? Maybe not. But at least you expect Xavi and his players to give themselves a chance to beat Inter… which they didn’t do on Tuesday.
Marsden: Barca have shown enough in defeats to Bayern and Inter to suggest they can. They’re a very different team from the ones who got knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage last season. Increasing injury problems, especially in defence, could still throw them off course, but I still make them favorites to get out of the group with Bayern. The key game is Wednesday’s game against Inter at the Camp Nou. If they win that, they’ll be back in the driver’s seat and finish second, although there could be a tiebreak.
Pep Guardiola says Erling Haaland’s winner against Borussia Dortmund was a mix of Johan Cruyff and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
What is your favorite goal from the group stage so far?
Marcotti: Oleksandr Zubkov’s volley for Shakhtar Donetsk against Real Madrid. It was a very nice goal and a very good goal. Was it the best goal of the tournament or even of the evening? no But it gives me an excuse to mention Zubkov and Shakhtar. Here’s a guy who came through the ranks at Shakhtar, actually from Donetsk, who made his debut in a stadium that was hosting Euro 2012 matches and is now a heap of rubble due to the war in Ukraine. This is a guy who left Shakhtar to play for Mariupol, which was razed in the war. And then he moved to Ferencvaros in Hungary, played there, settled there and when the war came and there was an exodus of players from Shakhtar he decided to come back and play for his youth club. I know many have “war fatigue” – believe me it’s much worse for Ukrainians – but the story needs to be told.
Laurens: I will select Karim Adeyemi’s goal for Borussia Dortmund in Seville. Not for the goal itself, because it’s a tap, but for Youssoufa Moukoko’s incredible commitment just before it. His first touch reverse sombrero stripe is simply the most sublime thing you’ll see this week. He deserved a goal (his shot was saved by Yassine Bounou on Karim Adeyemi) just because of the great touch that resulted in the goal!
Marsden: It’s hard to pick one from Wednesday’s games, let alone the group stage so far. Bellingham and Lionel Messi’s efforts come to mind immediately, along with goals from Kylian Mbappe and Alejandro Grimaldo in recent weeks. But I will go with the man of the moment: Haaland. The Manchester City striker’s goal against Dortmund wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but it ticked so many other criteria: a late winner in a tight game, a goal against his former side, an incredible assist from Joao Cancelo; and Haaland twisted his body into an almost impossible position for someone with a 6ft 4 frame so he could kick the ball into the back of the net in karate.
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