Matchday 4 of the Champions League group stage handled followers with loads of objectives, drama and motion. We requested our writers James Olley, Rob Dawson and Alex Kirkland to reply a few of our massive questions.
What caught your consideration from matchday 4?
Dawson: The Premier League is beginning to put its foot down. After 4 matchdays, three English groups — Manchester Metropolis, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea — sit high of their teams with one other, Liverpool, properly heading in the right direction to qualify. Whereas Spain and Italy are sweating on a few of their groups, notably Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus, England ought to have 4 individuals within the knockout rounds. Two of the final 4 Champions League finals — in 2019 and 2021 — have been all-English affairs and also you would not guess towards the identical factor occurring in Istanbul in June. Spanish groups have dominated the Champions League over the past decade however now it is the flip of the Premier League.
Olley: Maccabi Haifa received their first Champions League group-stage recreation in 20 years on Tuesday. And towards Italian giants Juventus, no much less, who now face an enormous process to achieve the spherical of 16 following a calamitous 2-0 defeat in Israel. They should beat Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica to face any probability of avoiding a Champions League exit at this level for the primary time since 2013. The membership continues to face by head coach Massimiliano Allegri however he certainly can’t afford many extra insipid shows like this, even when Juventus habitually keep away from sacking coaches mid-season.
Kirkland: Shakhtar Donetsk have been seconds away from pulling off a well-known win over reigning champions Actual Madrid on Tuesday, solely to be denied by a Ninety fifth-minute Antonio Rudiger equaliser that noticed the match finish 1-1. Shakhtar — exiled from Donetsk since 2014 — already face unprecedented logistical challenges, enjoying this season’s Champions League dwelling video games within the Polish capital of Warsaw, and right here their preparations have been additional overshadowed by Monday’s missile strikes throughout Ukraine. Underneath such difficult circumstances, this was an impressive efficiency. Madrid are actually assured of a spot within the spherical of 16; Shakhtar, some extent behind RB Leipzig, are nonetheless in with an opportunity.
Based mostly on the group stage, which gamers would you select for a five-a-side workforce?
Olley: Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer hasn’t conceded a single objective within the Champions League up to now this season, together with a win at Inter Milan and a house victory over Barcelona. Describing Joao Cancelo as a defender does not do him justice — he has extra assists (4) than clear sheets (three) in Group G up to now. Jude Bellingham‘s improvement continues at a massively spectacular fee with 4 objectives and one help from 4 Borussia Dortmund matches. Napoli have been on fireplace in Group A with winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia attracting loads of consideration. Up entrance, Erling Haaland as a result of, properly, it is Erling Haaland.
Kirkland: Actual Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois stored a clear sheet in each his group-stage appearances, and nonetheless has some bonus factors left over from his masterclass in final yr’s ultimate. Reece James has been distinctive for Chelsea and so they’ll be hoping the damage he picked up towards Milan on Tuesday is nothing severe. It is a clear sweep for Bellingham, who put in one of many particular person performances of the season in Dortmund’s 4-1 win at Sevilla. Let’s embrace Napoli’s up-and-coming star Giacomo Raspadori for his 4 objectives, and pair him with Robert Lewandowski, who’s been the one constructive for Barcelona.
Dawson: Manchester Metropolis have solely conceded one objective within the group stage up to now and if Ederson is enjoying five-a-side he is ok to do a flip in midfield, too. In defence, Manuel Akanji has settled in rapidly at Metropolis following his transfer late in the summertime window from Borussia Dortmund and in midfield it’s extremely troublesome to look previous his former teammate on the Bundesliga facet, Bellingham. Leroy Sane deserves a spot after scoring 4 objectives for Bayern Munich in a gaggle which additionally consists of Barcelona and Inter Milan and up entrance Haaland simply edges out Kylian Mbappe.
Steve Nicol applauds Liverpool’s goalscoring skill, however remains to be involved by the shortage of consistency within the again line.
Barcelona vs. Inter Milan or Salah’s 6-minute hat-trick: which was extra outstanding?
Olley: Given Mohamed Salah‘s hat-trick got here with the sport already received and at a time when Rangers have been making substitutions, the finale of Barcelona vs. Inter is extra outstanding. Bayern’s dominance of Group C made Wednesday’s recreation at Camp Nou a high-stakes affair for 2 European heavyweights and Barcelona now face the prospect of dropping all the way down to the Europa League, given Inter solely must beat Viktoria Plzen subsequent outing to safe qualification. Robert Lewandowski was signed to make the distinction on nights like this however Barcelona’s defensive vulnerability meant his brace was solely enough to twice rescue some extent in an enthralling 3-3 draw; his first owed a lot to luck given a sizeable deflection however the second was a robust header worthy of his standing on this stage. Sadly for Barcelona, nevertheless, it’d all be in useless.
Dawson: It was a improbable end within the 3-3 draw between Barcelona and Inter Milan at Camp Nou but it surely’s not day by day that you just see a participant rating a six-minute hat-trick. Liverpool had already crushed Rangers however for Salah to attain three objectives so rapidly — now the fastest-ever Champions League hat trick — remains to be a outstanding feat. Salah has discovered objectives tougher to come back by this season and Jurgen Klopp will hope the 7-1 win at Ibrox it kick-starts a run of objectives for his major man. Salah hasn’t scored within the Premier League since August, however Sunday towards Manchester Metropolis could be an excellent time to finish that run.
Kirkland: Barca 3-3 Inter, the group stage recreation that performed just like the second leg of a knockout tie. No recreation on matchday 4 can anticipate to really feel this consequential. There have been moments of actual high quality — Ousmane Dembele’s opener was the results of a beautiful Barca transfer — and others of shambolic ineptitude, reminiscent of Gerard Pique’s (lack of) defending for Nico Barella’s equaliser. It was nice enjoyable, except you are a Barca fan, as they have been left going through the prospect of a financially disastrous group stage elimination for yet one more season.