After Wednesday’s action, we are a third of the way into Champions League group stage play, as all 32 teams have played two of six games in group stage action. At this stage of the action in group play, we can begin to make a number of observations, and with that, begin to draw some (early) conclusions, as well as make some assumptions about what will happen in the remaining four matchdays. With that in mind, here are the main takeaways which we can make after Matchday 2.
Coming into Matchday 2, there were two games which stood above all the others as the marquee games to watch and follow in this latest round. The showcase games of Matchday 2 were Arsenal hosting SSC Napoli and Manchester City hosting defending champions Bayern Munich. In the first game, Arsenal defeated Napoli 2-0 to take the lead in Group F, aka the “Group of Death.” What we learned from this game is that Arsenal continues to show that their early season success is no fluke, as the inclusion of Mesut Ozil has made the team much more lethal in attack, and the play of Mathieu Flamini has given Arsenal some grit when it defends.
In the other showcase game played on Wednesday, Bayern Munich easily defeated Manchester City 3-1, in a game where they were superior and domination in all aspects of the game. With the win, Bayern goes to the top of Group D with six points, and with their next two games against Viktoria Plzen, they have essentially won the group. On the field of play, we learned that if Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are fit and playing up to their standards, it is still going to be virtually impossible to beat Bayern Munich, much less slow them down. Another error by Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart on Bayern’s first goal shows that, what have been termed “uncharacteristic” mistakes by Hart, are now a part of who and what he is as a goalkeeper.
Aside from what we learned from the showcase games of Matchday 2, what we can also takeaway from the rest of the games are that Real Madrid, and any struggles they have had in league play recently, might have been overblown. They easily defeated FC Copenhagen 4-0, in a game where the absence of Gareth Bale meant nothing. given that Angel Di Maria played superbly well and reminded all who might have forgotten that he is a pretty good player. And the team that beat Real Madrid over the weekend, Atlético Madrid, well, they showed that they are a legitimate darkhorse contender, as they came from 1-0 down to beat Porto 2-1 to go top of Group G. Keep an eye on the team, coached by Diego Simeone.
Finally, two European “giants” did not do anything to dispel any worrying thoughts about how they have been playing as of late. Manchester United drew 1-1 against Shakhtar Donetsk, in a game which they took an early lead, thanks to a goal from Danny Welbeck, but were unable to show that killer instinct to put away like they have in years past. AC Milan is the other “giant,” whose play as of late has left a lot to be desired. Milan was gifted a 1-1 draw against Ajax, only after Jonas Eriksson deemed Mario Balotelli to have been fouled in the penalty area when it was clear that he was the one who committed the foul late on in the game that lead to the penalty goal.