Same old, same old in the Champions League

2016-10-23 05:37
Barcelona’s Lucas Digne tries to block Raheem Sterling of Manchester City. (Alex Caparros, Getty Images)

London - Having reached the halfway stage, the Champions League very much has the look of: Same old, same old.

Spanish giants Barcelona, Real and Atletico Madrid, as well as Arsenal and Juventus, are topping their groups, while Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City are looking strong to advance and the minnows are doing what is expected of minnows: looking up the table from the bottom.

If there is a surprise, it is the fact Leicester City are one of just three clubs (Barcelona and Atletico being the others) that have a 100% record from their three matches.

The Foxes are only the fifth club in the history of the competition to win their opening three matches in their rookie season and with AC Milan, Paris St Germain, Juventus and Malaga are in good company.

Manager Claudio Ranieri, though, is far from happy with the situation as his side is struggling in the league.

“I’m very proud of the side from one side but from another, when I think of the Premier League, I am very, very angry.

“When you play in the Champions League you are switched on, very, very smart and focused on every situation. You use up a lot of mental energy in the Champions League.”

Ranieri was accused of not placing as much importance on the Premier League when he rested several regulars during last weekend’s match against Chelsea, but then played them midweek in their 1-0 Champions League victory against Copenhagen.

The Italian rubbished such suggestions though.

“We want to change this [difference in form] because the Premier League is our priority.”

For Pep Guardiola, Wednesday’s trip to Barcelona ended just as his previous trips to his former club had ended: in defeat.

The Spanish coach, who managed to win the showpiece event of European club football with the Catalan giants, but failed to repeat that success in three years with Bayern, said the 4-0 drubbing, during which goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was sent off, was not the worst he had had to endure.

“We created chances and we started the second half well. After that 10 minutes, we play 10 against 11 with 2-0 down and it’s not easy.”

Arsenal, who have gone into the knockout stages for the last six seasons, but have been knocked out at the first hurdle, looked very strong against Bulgarian club PFC Ludogorets Razgrad, with German midfielder Mezut Özil scoring a rare hat-trick for the Gunners.

Manager Arsène Wenger said before the match they had learnt from their mistakes in previous years and were no longer happy to just advance, but wanted to do so as group winners as that would secure a better draw for the round of the last 16.

But in the absence of any new challenger emerging at the halfway stage, it could well be that the only way to put some fresh blood into the competition – in so much as it needs any – is to go the route that the new president of Europe’s controlling football body Uefa has suggested.

Slovenian Aleksander Ceferin, who took over the powerful body last month, has suggested the organisation could look at throwing the final open to a tender race, adding that playing the final in New York, for instance, would not be a problem.

“To go from Portugal to Azerbaijan, for example, is almost the same as if you go to New York.

It’s a European competition so let’s think about it.’’

However, if – and when – that time arrives, it seems more than likely that two of the big guns, like Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich will be flying over the Big Pond.

Certainly judging by this year’s competition.


What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights

Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...


The 2018/19 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

Latest blogs

Which of the five nominees for 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year deserves the award most?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.