Champions League update: Don’t get carried away by Red romp
On paper, it was the most impressive performance of Matchday Five in the Champions League: Bayer Leverkusen 0 Manchester United 5, the biggest ever away victory for the Reds in the competition.
And yes, it’s hard to argue with such an emphatic result, nor indeed with some of the sumptuous attacking football played by Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia, Shinji Kagawa and the ageless Ryan Giggs.
It must be noted, too, that Leverkusen currently lie second in the Bundesliga, splitting last season’s Champions League finalists, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. It was, on the face of it, a stunning result.
But this was not as it seemed. Sammi Hyypia’s team were woeful, resembling more a struggling Premier League outfit, doomed to relegation and devoid of all confidence, than a side mixing it on the home front with two of the top sides on the continent.
So, although this was certainly a much better display by United after their poor effort against Cardiff at the weekend, fans and punters will, in my view, be mistaken in thinking that they are back amongst the Champions League elite.
Certainly Coral don’t look at it that way; they have the Reds at 18/1 to win the trophy outright, the biggest price of all the English clubs (Man City and Chelsea are 14/1, Arsenal 16/1).
It’s so important now for United, Chelsea and Arsenal to finish off the Group stage with another good result to guarantee going through as winners.
That now looks beyond City (they need to beat Bayern convincingly in Germany, something even Manuel Pellegrini doesn’t expect) and they may well pay a heavy price – as runners-up they will face either Barcelona (9/2 to win the tournament outright), Real Madrid (5/1), PSG (16/1) or Atletico Madrid (18/1).
City would be especially anxious to avoid Barca and Real Madrid at this stage of the competition and won’t be relishing clashes with PSG or Atletico Madrid, both easy winners of their respective groups, either.
Atletico Madrid are giving the two Spanish giants a real run for their money domestically this season and sent out another statement of intent last weekend when thrashing Getafe 7-0.
In Diego Costa and David Villa, they boast two of the finest strikers in European football and they are backed up by a quality squad and a manager, Diego Simeone, every bit as passionate and driven in the dug-out as he was on the pitch for Argentina. Don’t write them off in La Liga – or the Champions League.