Champions League

5 things learned from the Champions League

2019-09-19 08:21
Sadio Mane
Sadio Mane (Twitter)

Paris - Champions League holders Liverpool suffered defeat at Napoli this week, while Paris Saint-Germain laid down a marker by brushing aside Real Madrid and Juventus were held by Atletico Madrid.

Here, AFP Sport takes a look at five things we learned from the opening round of group-stage matches:

PSG can cope without 'MSN'

Paris Saint-Germain faced their first real test without the suspended Neymar and the injured duo of Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani at the Parc des Princes against Real Madrid.

But Thomas Tuchel's men showed they can cope without their star front three, as Angel Di Maria's double and Thomas Meunier's late strike secured a 3-0 victory over the record 13-time winners.

The French champions were not short on firepower, with close-season signings Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia both providing a threat going forward.

With Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe all to return, hopes will be higher than ever in the French capital this season that PSG can reach a maiden Champions League final.

Liverpool not unbeatable

Holders Liverpool came unstuck for the second straight season at Napoli as a combination of poor finishing and sloppy defending cost Jurgen Klopp's men in a 2-0 loss at the Stadio San Paolo.

The famed front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were all guilty of wasting chances on Tuesday, while UEFA men's player of the year Virgil van Dijk made an uncharacteristic error to gift Fernando Llorente Napoli's late second.

It was a first defeat for Liverpool, on a club-record 14-match winning streak in the Premier League, since their 3-0 loss in last season's semi-final, first leg at Barcelona.

"It should hurt because there were opportunities for us," said Klopp, whose team lost 1-0 in Naples last year before going on to lift the trophy.

Tottenham's soft underbelly

Last season's runners-up Tottenham let a two-goal lead slip for the second time this season in a 2-2 draw at Olympiakos.

Mauricio Pochettino criticised his team's desire after a tame performance which was only enough for a point thanks to Harry Kane and Lucas Moura scoring in four first-half minutes.

"It's not about tactics, it's not about quality players, it's about the quality of preparing yourself to be ready to fight," bemoaned Pochettino, who also saw his team draw after leading 2-0 against rivals Arsenal earlier this month.

Spurs have won just three of their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Salzburg hoping to be 'new Ajax'

Austrian champions Salzburg laid down a marker in their first group-stage game since 1994 as teenage sensation Erling Braut Haaland scored a hat-trick in a 6-2 demolition of Genk.

The 19-year-old striker, who has scored 17 goals in nine matches this term, thinks his team can emulate Ajax, whose young side knocked out Real Madrid and Juventus in a surprise run to the semi-finals last season.

"Everything is possible. We all saw Ajax last year, it would be nice to be the new Ajax," the Norwegian told uefa.com.

Atalanta's attacking style exposed

Italian debutants Atalanta claimed third place in Serie A and a spot in the Champions League last season after a thrilling campaign that saw them finish as the leading goalscorers in the Italian top flight.

But their hopes of transferring that form to European club football's top competition suffered an early blow with a 4-0 thrashing at Dinamo Zagreb.

It was only a second win in 25 Champions League group-stage matches for the Croatian champions, and leaves Atalanta with plenty to do to get out of a group which also includes tournament favourites Manchester City. 

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 26 November 2019
Lokomotiv Moscow v Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Stadium 19:55
Galatasaray v Club Brugge, Turk Telekom Arena 19:55
Juventus v Atletico Madrid, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Atalanta v Dinamo Zagreb, Atleti Azzurri d'Italia 22:00
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 22:00
Real Madrid v Paris SG, Santiago Bernabeu 22:00
Red Star Belgrade v Bayern Munchen, Stadion Rajko Mitic 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Olympiacos, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 27 November 2019
Valencia v Chelsea, Mestalla 19:55
Zenit St. Petersburg v Lyon, Saint Petersburg Stadium 19:55
Liverpool v Napoli, Anfield 22:00
Barcelona v Borussia Dortmund, Camp Nou 22:00
Slavia Prague v Inter Milan, Eden Arena 22:00
Genk v Red Bull Salzburg, Luminus Arena 22:00
RB Leipzig v Benfica, Red Bull Arena 22:00
Lille v Ajax, Stade Pierre-Mauroy 22:00
Tuesday, 10 December 2019
Red Bull Salzburg v Liverpool, Red Bull Arena 19:55
Napoli v Genk, San Paolo 19:55
Ajax v Valencia, Amsterdam ArenA 22:00
Benfica v Zenit St. Petersburg, da Luz 22:00
Lyon v RB Leipzig, Groupama Stadium 22:00
Inter Milan v Barcelona, San Siro 22:00
Borussia Dortmund v Slavia Prague, Signal Iduna Park 22:00
Chelsea v Lille, Stamford Bridge 22:00
Wednesday, 11 December 2019
Dinamo Zagreb v Manchester City, Maksimir Stadium 19:55
Shakhtar Donetsk v Atalanta, Metalist Stadium 19:55
Bayern Munchen v Tottenham Hotspur, Allianz Arena 22:00
Bayer Leverkusen v Juventus, BayArena 22:00
Club Brugge v Real Madrid, Jan Breydel Stadion 22:00
Olympiacos v Red Star Belgrade, Karaiskakis Stadium 22:00
Paris SG v Galatasaray, Parc des Princes 22:00
Atletico Madrid v Lokomotiv Moscow, Wanda Metropolitano 22:00
Saturday, 30 May 2020
TBA v TBA, Ataturk Olympic Stadium 02:00
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