Heroes and Villains from opening Champions League group stage clashes
The Champions League returned after what seemed like an eternity without it and the opening group stage encounters did not disappoint, with no less than 48 goals being struck in Europe’s elite club competition comeback.
Following the exciting first group games, Coral bring you our list of heroes and villains. Do you agree with our selections?
Portugal superstar Ronaldo is close to breaking more records after Real Madrid’s 4-0 thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk, with his hat-trick putting him within touching distance of club legend Raul Gonzalez’s historic haul.
The 30-year-old needs a brace to level, or another treble to break, Raul’s all-time goals record of 323. With Ronaldo in rampant form, netting eight times in his last two outings in all competitions, he is 6/4 favourite to finish as highest marksman in the Champions League this season once again.
An attacking midfielder by trade, Roma’s Florenzi was deputising at full back when the Italy international latched on to possession on the right flank, before stunning reigning champions Barcelona with one of the competition’s best ever strikes.
The 24-year-old managed to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen from his own half, leading to the 58k-strong Stadio Olimpico crowd to erupt with jubilation. After the 1-1 draw, he declared: “I had scored a goal that I will never forget.”
Angel Di Maria
Before this Manchester United flop opened his PSG account in a 2-0 win over Malmo, his last goal had come against Yeovil Town in an FA Cup clash at Huish Park, a stark contrast to the scene of his maiden Paris strike.
Rekindling form from his Madrid days, Di Maria glided by the Malmo defence on the right flank and sent his curling effort right into the top corner, during a result which proves PSG mean business in Europe this term. Laurent Blanc’s Parisians are 14/1 to be crowned champions next year in Milan.
After both Manchester clubs had been toppled in their openers, Arsenal calamitously followed suit, with France striker Giroud seeing red after two cautions in defeat to Dinamo Zagreb, one for dissent and another for a typically misjudged forward’s tackle.
The Gunners’ misery in the competition could continue, as they compete in a challenging group alongside Bayern Munich and Olympiakos, with Giroud having played his part in an opening 2-1 loss.
Mexican defender Moreno endured a mix of emotions in Eindhoven, first seriously injuring Manchester United’s Luke Shaw with a rash challenge, then netting an equaliser only moments later, before ultimately being awarded man of the match. A truly indifferent European outing.
What is going on at Gladbach? Last season they became the darlings of the Bundesliga, rallying to a third-place finish, only 13 points behind Bayern, but now they simply cannot buy a win.
Lucien Favre’s men endured further misery on the European stage, with Europa League champions Sevilla handing them a 3-0 thrashing, with hopes of progressing from Group D ahead of Manchester City, Juventus or their Spanish conquerors looking bleak at 7/1.