LONDON: Week three of the Champions League has been and gone and we are now halfway through the group stage. Here is what we learned from the latest round of matches.
BARCA ARE MORE THAN JUST MESSI
Lionel Messi is injured and out for several weeks. The world goes into despair and then wonders out aloud: “I wonder how Barcelona will do without him?” Well, looking at the Catalans’ 2-0 win over Inter Milan the answer to that teaser is: “Not bad at all.” Such is the attention, understandably, focused on the Argentine ace that it is sometimes easy to forget that Barca do have some other fairly useful players. We are, obviously, talking about Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic to name only three of many. Thanks to goals from Rafinha and Jordi Alba they cruised to victory over the Italian giants and are all but assured of a place in the second round now.
LIVERPOOL'S TERRIFIC TRIO
During the Reds’ easy 4-0 win over Red Star Belgrade, we once again got to enjoy the game’s finest front three — Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. The terrific trio scored all the goals (two for Salah), and while the Serbian side are not the best (they will do well to get another point in Europe this campaign) they looked a cut above any other attacking force we have seen so far this season. Liverpool got to the final last time around, with Salah and Co. in fine form they look good to go far this season as well.
DAZZLING DORTMUND CAN DOMINATE
There problem with German football, we are told, is that it is even worse than La Liga, where at least it is always a two-horse race between Barca and Real Madrid. In the Bundesliga it is simply a question of by how many points will Bayern Munich win the title. Not so this year, or at least we hope. Borussia Dortmund currently lie top of the table at home, are playing with a verve and attacking approach reminiscent of their days under Jurgen Klopp and on Wednesday showed why they could go far in Europe and achieve domestic glory at the same time. The Germans brushed aside Atletico Madrid 4-0 at home. It was the Spanish outfit’s heaviest defeat of the season so far — they have only conceded five goals in nine La Liga matches this season — and their worst in the Champions League with Diego Simeone as coach. Dortmund are definitely dark horses.
PSG UP AGAINST IT
For a proper, no need to keep up-to-date, one-horse race, look no further than France’s Ligue 1. So obvious is it that Paris Saint-Germain will be lifting the trophy come May that the title race has been reduced to being as predictable as a WWE fight. For PSG that has only added to the importance of success in Europe, which makes their stuttering start in this season’s Champions League all the more worrying. They needed a last-minute equalizer from Angel di Maria to avoid home defeat to Napoli — meaning they lie fourth in Group C with four points after three matches. They now have an away tie against the in-form Italians and defeat is not an option.