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Heroes and Villains from opening Champions League group stage clashes

| 17.09.2015

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?

Cristiano Ronaldo
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.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group A - Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk - Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

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.

Alessandro Florenzi
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.

France Soccer League One

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.

Olivier Giroud
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.

Croatia Soccer Champions League

Hector Moreno
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.

Borussia Monchengladbach
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.

Premier League Tips
Hertha to beat Hoffenheim
Schalke to beat Dortmund
Dusseldorf to win at Paderborn


Lee Gormley

Lee joined the Coral team in 2014 after studying at Leeds Trinity University, having moved across the water from Ireland, and has plenty of industry experience from his time with various news outlets in both England and Northern Ireland. After graduating with a BA Honours degree in Sports Journalism, he has since become an important member of the talented sports desk, passionately covering boxing, football and snooker, among many other sports. Lee is also a massive Manchester United and Republic of Ireland fan, but curbs any bias during his work, and outside of his job can be found regularly taking part in sport himself, such as boxing, GAA and football.