What have we learnt from the Champions League so far?

November 5, 2013
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By Rob May

Two games into the group stages might seem a little early to gauge how those left in the Champions League could do, but you can tell whether teams are looking likely to get through to the knockout stage or if they’re content to drop into the Europa League, football’s worst consolation prize. Already, we have seen one or two stand-out performances which hint at something greater.

Gunning for glory

Arsenal  have made a brilliant start to their Champions League campaign but Dortmund are still favourites to win their so called ‘group of death.’ Having sailed through the final qualifying round against Fenerbahce, Arsene Wenger’s men were drawn in a tough group containing last year’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund, Serie A runners-up Napoli and Marseille. Two games in and Arsenal have six points; the highlight a convincing 2-0 home win over the Italian side.

Dark horses look strong

In spite of their defeat at the Emirates, Napoli look like they could be a threat. Under Rafael Benitez, they have a strong squad and should they come through their group, they could at least reach the semi-finals. Atletico Madrid, going strong this year, are another that could upset the applecart. Despite the loss of Falcao, they’re prolific and strong at the back.

Celtic need a finisher

Having sold star striker Gary Hooper in the summer, Celtic needed to get a quality replacement. Even though they brought in Teemu Pukki from Schalke after sealing their spot in the group stages, they look pretty blunt despite the hard work of Georgios Samaras and the eager yet limited Anthony Stokes. Good performances against both Milan and Barcelona yielded no points.

City aren’t ready yet

Manchester City brought in Manuel Pellegrini as manager to try and help them perform in Europe. Sadly for the Eastlands moneybags, they’ve not looked overly convincing. After a routine 3-0 win away at Viktoria Plzen, City capitulated against Bayern Munich, with Joe Hart largely to blame for their loss. Fortunately, their group is easier than it had been the previous two seasons.

United ready to coast

Things aren’t too rosy in the Premier League, but under David Moyes, Manchester United should at least make the knockout stages. Although Shakhtar Donetsk are formidable enough to cause them problems, the same can’t be said of Real Sociedad or Bayer Leverkusen, who both look like they’re just happy to be there.

Spain’s big two’s contrasting fortunes

In a tricky group, Barcelona look like they’re going to pick up six wins from six, even if new signing Neymar spends more time on the floor than on his feet. As for Real Madrid, they look a little shaky under Carlo Ancelotti, especially at the back. Expect both to go through, but it looks like Barca are the ones most likely to win the tournament.

Don’t mess with the Old Lady

In Serie A, they have beaten all-comers, and it looks like Juventus are just as difficult to play against in Europe now. Any team that can call upon Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio in midfield will always stand a chance, and their games so far in the group stage suggest that they might end up lifting the trophy in May.

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