The next 16 matches have been completed in the Champions League, and we have what is probably the first real upset, at least if pre-League expectations are to be believed. We also had all the Premier League teams ending with disappointing results, and our two Small Clubs in the draw – Young Boys and Red Star Belgrade – pretty much punch their tickets out of the competition with terrible results.
Here are some of the more shocking results of the first round of matches from around Europe (based on UEFA rankings heading into the match or location). Home teams are listed first:
Bayern Munich 1-1 Ajax
Bayern Munich is the second best club in UEFA, at least according to the club rankings. Ajax isn’t chopped liver, but they are currently ranked 29th. But the club from the Netherlands went into Munich and picked up a draw, and with it, first place in Group E after two matches. Bayern has to be disappointed in dropping two points in a home match, especially when most of the other favorites in other groups are sitting with six points after two matches. It could be worse, I suppose, and playing AEK Athens in three weeks might be just what the doctor ordered to right the ship for Bayern.
CSKA Moscow 1-0 Real Madrid
As bad as it is to draw against a lesser team, at least Bayern didn’t lose to Ajax. We can’t say the same about Real Madrid, the NUMBER ONE TEAM in UEFA, who lost to the team right behind Ajax in the rankings. Granted, the match was in Moscow, and Real remains the favorite in Group G, but it should be viewed as a wake-up call for the defending Champions League champs.
Manchester United 0-0 Valencia
Manchester United has had a rough seven days. It started with a loss in the EFL Cup to Championship club Derby County (on penalties) in a match at Old Trafford. In Premier League play this past weekend, they lost to West Ham United, albeit in London, 3-1. Then, in another match at Old Trafford, they drew the 66th ranked club in UEFA (ManU is ranked 16th), a disappointing result to end a disappointing week. They remain in position to advance out of the Group Stage, though their third match in three weeks will be against Juventus in Italy, so they need to keep pace and hope for a point out of that match.
Napoli 1-0 Liverpool
Not to be outdone, Liverpool also had a less than stellar run of play this week across three competitions. After starting off the season undefeated and looking especially dominant, they lost in the EFL Cup to Chelsea, and needed a late goal on Saturday to walk away with a point in the rematch during Premier League play. Napoli isn’t a terrible club; they are ranked directly behind Liverpool according to UEFA (and nearly bypassed them with this win), but they were coming off of a scoreless draw against Red Star Belgrade, a club that lost 6-1 to the team that Liverpool beat on Matchday 1. All these results simply reinforce that Group C is a “Group of Death,” with three of the four clubs (sorry Red Star!) with over a 50% chance of making it out of the Group Stage.
Matchday 3 of 6 kicks off in a couple of weeks on October 23rd, and all the clubs will be back in their domestic leagues looking to round into shape.With four matches to go in the Group Stage, Manchester City has reestablished themselves as the favorite, though they only have three of a possible six points right now. A lot can change between now and the end of the Group Stage in December, so expect the unexpected until then.
Until next time…
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