The UEFA Champions League is back! This week marked the beginning of the group play, and all 32 teams left in the competition have completed their first matches. There was plenty of drama and goals to discuss and analyze. Here are the important takeaways from the first match day's biggest games.
Two of Europe’s biggest and richest clubs, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), both took care of their opponents handily this week. PSG, quarter-finalists last year, improved its squad by signing Argentine winger Angel Di Maria. Madrid made it a step further to the semifinals in 2014-2015 before losing to Juventus. Both clubs should top the group, with Madrid as slight favorites to win the group outright.
Despite qualifying for the group stages with ease, Manchester United lost its first match against PSV Eindhoven. United’s new signing, electric winger Memphis Depay, scored first for the Red Devils against his former club. It soon, however, fell apart for the English squad. Not only did the heavy favourites cough up a lead to lose 2-1, they also lost starting fullback Luke Shaw to a freak double leg fracture for the rest of the season. United can still qualify for the next round, but they have an uphill task.
Given their strong start to the domestic season, Manchester City looked surprisingly weak in their home loss to Juventus. Despite being Champions’ League runners-up last time around, Juventus lost key players this off-season such as Carlos Tevez, their top goal scorer last year, and box-to-box midfielder Arturo Vidal. City are now in the hole from the get-go, and will have to drastically improve if they want to survive the group, let alone win it.
The goal of the competition might be settled after just one match: Roma fullback Alessandro Florenzi lobbed FC Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen from the middle of the field to help Roma draw 1-1 with the reigning champions. Barça are favourites to repeat their Champions League victory. They should still win the group easily despite this disappointing result. Look for them to take out their frustration on Bayer Leverkusen when the Bundesliga side visit Spain next week.
Arsenal outdid themselves in their 2-1 defeat to Zagreb, and not in a good way. Their decision to rest key players in preparation for the weekend’s league match against Chelsea backfired as they lost both in Croatia and at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal cannot afford to do the same against Olympiakos next week; They will need three points heading into their clash with European superpower Bayern Munich.