Champions League: Heroes and Villains
Underestimating the toughness of Champions League football is dangerous. Over the years there have been too many shocks to count on two hands and, following the opening matches of the new campaign, an impression can start to be formed of how the competition might pan out.
Coral take a look at the Heroes and Villains from the maiden matches of the 2014/15 Champions League campaign, after some very mixed results!
Aside from Bayer Leverkusen, who narrowly lost 1-0 away to Monaco, the contingent from Germany amassed seven points. Schalke stubbornly picked up a point at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, Bayern Munich beat Manchester City with a solitary goal, while Borussia Dortmund dismantled Arsenal in a 2-0 victory.
However, it was the manner of the wins from the Bundesliga’s big two that should concern those involved in English football at a high level. The matches might have been played in Germany, however both Bayern (4/1 to win the Champions League) and Dortmund dominated their opposition. Jurgen Klopp’s team secured a win with no less than seven big names not involved; by all accounts humiliating to Arsenal, whose defence appeared non-existent and midfield had gaping holes.
Although Bayern’s scoreline looked tight, in reality they bossed Manchester City from start to finish. Clearly in control, the Bundesliga champions assumed authority as though it was their birth-right. Against the English champions no less, who, at times looked hesitant.
The City keeper really didn’t deserve to be on the losing side. Although the rest of his team did him absolutely no favours whatsoever, Hart kept his team in it single-handed until the last minute. A fizzed shot by former Citizen Jerome Boateng cannoned off Mario Gotze’s back, and flew into the top corner. This was, without a doubt, one of Hart’s best ever performances.
Conquering last season’s runners-up is no mean feat. The Greek side were relentless from start to finish and didn’t give the Spaniards time to breathe. Even Fulham flop, Kostas Mitroglou, who is on-loan from the London side, got on the score sheet, while Barcelona loanee Ibrahim Afellay ran the show for the Greek Champions, who could be a surprise package in this campaign’s competition.
A tactically naive performance from the Reds could have handed a victory to Ludogorets Razgrad, who came to Anfield with a point to prove. Liverpool struggled to win second balls and break down their Bulgarian opponents, who seemed to sense the Merseyside outfit’s desperation, and frustrated them as much as they could.
Shocking isn’t the word to describe the north Londoners’ efforts against Dortmund. Danny Welbeck seemed a shadow of the player he was for England, and was wasteful in the limited chances he had in front of goal. Armenian Henrikh Mkhitarayan controlled the match and completely outshone Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, while the Gunners’ rearguard was simply woeful. Arsenal are 28/1 to win the Champions League, and look unlikely to do so without a dramatic improvement.
A team of the Catalans’ quality really should be recording a better scoreline than 1-0 against Cypriot side Apoel. Centre back Gerard Pique handed Barca three points, however Lionel Messi usually laps up the chance to shine on the European stage, but endured a difficult evening, despite supplying an assist for Pique’s headed goal. Luis Enrique’s outfit are 5/1 third favourite’s to win the competition, and will need to improve if they are to accomplish this.