UEFA Champions League

Champions League : What we learned from Matchday 3

Barcelona lost once more, putting them in risk of missing out on the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League, which resumed play this week after a 20-day break. Lionel Messi scored a masterpiece, Erling Haaland maintained his attack on the record book, and Haaland continued to break records.

Following the conclusion of Matchday 3 – the midpoint of the group stage — here are five brief comments.

Messi’s resurgence came just in time.

After more than 20 years with Barcelona and an unremarkable debut season in Paris last year, it was reasonable to ask if Messi, who turned 35 in June, was finally starting to feel the effects of getting older.

Maybe Messi simply needed a year to get used to his new surroundings. Because of this, the GOAT is starting the 2022–23 season looking ten years younger than he did during much of his first season at PSG.

Last weekend, Messi scored in Ligue 1 action on an outstanding free kick. He scored on Wednesday to give Paris a lead over Benfica, scoring against a record-tying 40 different teams in the Champions League.

Messi’s exquisite goal was not upheld by PSG, who were content with a 1-1 draw. But after 13 games in all competitions, Messi has eight goals and an equal number of assists. Next month marks the start of what is almost certainly his final World Cup, and the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is hoping to show that he is still capable of winning.

Erling Haaland is currently required television viewing because he consistently delivers. The irrepressible Norwegian attacker gave City the lead Wednesday against FC Copenhagen in just seven minutes. In the 33rd minute, he added a second goal.

In just 11 Premier League and Champions League games since the season’s start, Haaland’s scorching, unheard-of run of play has produced an astounding 19 goals. His performance on Wednesday was only unexpected in that he didn’t complete the hat trick in a game that the hosts won 5-0.

The 2021 European Champions ultimately prevailed in a Champions League match on their third attempt of the season. Following losses to Dynamo Zagreb and RB Leipzig, the Blues defeated seven-time champion AC Milan 3-0 on Wednesday thanks to goals from summer acquisitions Wesley Fofana and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as well as fourth-year defender Reece James. The Dynamo Zagreb loss ultimately led to the dismissal of then manager Thomas Tuchel.

Under new manager Graham Potter, it was undoubtedly the Blues’ most encouraging performance to date. Christian Pulisic, the star player for the U.S. national team, didn’t come off the bench for the first time all season.

In theory, Pulisic was meant to benefit from Tuchel’s departure. However, after four games, Potter’s term, there is no sign that the winger will play more than before. He might play even less if Wednesday is any indication. With the World Cup fast approaching, that is obviously not good for Pulisic or the Americans.

Juventus’s comeback

Juve have been the complete opposite of their Serie A opponents this season, having a terrible start both at home and in Europe. The team under Max Allegri had fallen to PSG and Benfica in their first two Group H games, respectively.

Therefore, Juventus needed a decisive victory on Wednesday over an inferior Maccabi Haifa. They succeeded. The hosts won 3-1 thanks to goals from Adrien Rabiot and Duan Vlahovi in the 50th and 51st minutes, respectively. All three Juve goals were set up by Angel Di Mara.

Problems in Barcelona

It seems like a long time ago that Viktoria Plzen was defeated 5-1 in the opening match of the 2022–23 Champions League season. Since that opening-day rout, Barcelona has suffered two consecutive losses, including a 1-0 defeat to Inter Milan on Tuesday.

Being nearly defeated by a team as good as Inter at the San Siro Stadium is nothing to be ashamed of. Losing to the formidable Bayern Munich is even harder, which is what Barca accomplished on Matchday 2. The situation that Xavi Hernández’s club is in is partially a result of playing consecutive away games in the most difficult of the eight groups.

Another factor is that Xavi’s club, which has scored 19 goals in seven games in Spain’s La Liga, was unable to muster any offense in the two Champions League defeats. Whatever the cause, Barcelona is currently third in Group H with just three points from three games.

They therefore need to win when they play Inter again at Camp Nou the following week, especially since the German champions will be there on October 26. Barca would be on course to miss the group stage for the second consecutive season if they don’t win it.

Can Napoli win the game?

Napoli is vying for its first Scudetto since Diego Maradona wore the sky blue jersey more than 30 years ago. The team is now tied atop the Italian Serie A rankings. The European Cup is perhaps beyond the wildest hopes of even the most realistic fans, but that is the title that Neapolitans desire most.

And that makes sense. Napoli, on the other hand, has excelled thus far in the Champions League. They continued their unblemished start to the competition on Tuesday by thrashing a capable Ajax team 6-1—in Amsterdam! They had previously destroyed Liverpool in their opening game. Napoli has scored as many goals through three games as each side in Groups D and E combined. Even after Man City hammered their Danish guests with five goals on Wednesday, their +11 goal differential still leads the field.

More information regarding Napoli’s potential this season will be revealed in the rematch on Nov. 1 at Liverpool. They may currently compete head-to-head with the top teams in the continent when the knockout stage begins the following year.