Erling Haaland saves the day, Juventus struggle, best U21 player?

Matchday 2 of the Champions League group stage has come to an end, bringing late drama, upsets and plenty of goals to the fans. We asked our writers Rob Dawson, Alex Kirkland, and Mark Ogden to answer some of our burning questions.

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What did you notice on the second match day?

Kirkland: Last year’s winners Real Madrid have a habit of underperforming in the first Champions League game of the season at the Bernabeu – they were beaten 2-1 by the unpopular Sheriff Tiraspol last year, lost 3-2 to Shakhtar Donetsk in 2020 and came in 2019 there was another 2-2 draw against Club Brugge – but this time against RB Leipzig there was no such slip.

The visitors had looked dangerous and created some early chances, but Madrid were more sober: Fede Valverde opened the scoring with his fifth goal involvement in his last six games before Marco Asensio finished the job in stoppage time.

Dawson: Club Brugge have never progressed past the group stage, but after beating FC Porto 4-0 in Portugal on Tuesday, the Belgian side lead Group B with two wins from two. On Matchday 1 they beat Bayer Leverkusen, who recorded an impressive result of their own by beating Atletico Madrid 2-0 on Tuesday.

That means Club Brugge are three points clear at the top after two games before back-to-back games against Atletico in October. Despite being the lowest seeded in the group, they gave themselves a great chance to qualify for the knockout stages.

Ogden: Joao Cancelo’s pass. Everyone will be right to talk about the audacity of Erling Haaland’s late goal for Manchester City in their 2-1 win over his former club Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad – a left-footed volleyball at the far post – but you won’t see a better one go by all season than the one Cancelo delivered for Haaland to score.

Cancelo, City’s right foot, sent the ball into Dortmund’s box with the outside of his right foot and the ball rolled away from the keeper, allowing Haaland to score. It was a stunning pass that only a world-class player could pull off.

Which big clubs will find it difficult to reach the last 16?

Kirkland: Atletico Madrid never have it easy in the groups. In the past three seasons, they have only confirmed their place in the knockout rounds on matchday six and needed nervous away wins in 2020/21 at FC Salzburg and 2021/22 at Porto. This year, Atletico’s Group B could be just as unpredictable and another trip to Porto on November 1 could be crucial.

– O’Hanlon: Ranking of all Champions League teams this season (E+)

As for the other LaLiga teams, Barcelona did enough in the defeat to Bayern to indicate that last year’s group stage elimination will not be repeated while Sevilla are already struggling with one point from two games.

Dawson: Rangers are back in the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2010 but they are struggling on their return. Bottom of Group A after two defeats and with zero goals and seven conceded, it will be very difficult to qualify from here.

They may already have their sights set on third place to secure a Europa League spot, but even that will be a major challenge with two games against Liverpool next. They need six points from their two remaining home games against Liverpool and Ajax to have any chance of staying in Europe beyond Christmas.

Ogden: Things are not looking good for Juventus, who are yet to claim a point in Group H after back-to-back defeats by Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica. Juve have lost Paulo Dybala, Matthijs de Ligt and Giorgio Chiellini since the end of last season, while injured summer signing Paul Pogba has been sidelined for weeks. Therefore, it’s hard to see how Massimiliano Allegri’s side can come out of this hole.

Unless they beat Maccabi Haifa twice in the next two games, it will be all over for the Italian giants.

Who are the most impressive young players under 21?

Kirkland: The result didn’t go their way in the end, but Pedri (19) and Gavi (18) showed why they are the midfield of the present and future for Barcelona – and Spain – in the 2-0 defeat by Bayern. The performance was good enough to suggest that Barca are a serious team again at this level.

Elsewhere, Sevilla right-back Jose Angel Carmona, 20, is under the radar. He’d had a full week, scoring twice in the weekend’s 3-2 LaLiga win at Espanyol and looking like one of Sevilla’s most accomplished players in just his second Champions League appearance in the 0-0 draw in Copenhagen.

Dawson: Jurrien Timber has been linked with a move to Manchester United in the summer. You can see why after his performance for Ajax against Liverpool on Tuesday. Ajax lost the game 2-1 at Anfield thanks to a late header from Joel Matip but Timber’s rating will only rise after another impressive performance.

Among other things, the 21-year-old Netherlands international showed maturity in a complex role that saw him move from his position at central defender to midfield. He may not have made his move this summer, but it can only be a matter of time before Europe’s heavyweight clubs call again.

Ogden: Jude Bellingham put in another top performance and a goal in Borussia Dortmund’s clash with Manchester City on Wednesday, but the 19-year-old midfielder seems to have been on the Champions League scene for years. If you’re looking for youngsters just beginning to burst onto the scene then Club Brugge defender Abakar Sylla is this season’s breakthrough teenager. The Ivorian, just 19, has been a standout for the Belgium side, who have won two out of two games and sit at the top of Group B so far.

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Emma Bowman

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