The spine-tingling feeling slowly wears down as we turn our attention to the Champions League’s ugly sister Europa League.
In order to extend the sensation, we have decided to treat you with 5 Things We Learned from the opening week of Europe’s elite club competition. We witnessed plenty of great football, fantastic goals and record-breaking stats but also ugly scenes and spoilt-child behaviour.
Fortunately, we have it all piled up right down here:
Cristiano Ronaldo is Real
Interpret the pun as you like.
Real Madrid superstar extended the great form he displayed in training this week and put in a flying display against APOEL. Before you rush to weigh the strength of Los Blancos’ rivals let us just hit you with these Opta-provided numbers just to get a clearer picture as to how important the Portuguese is for his club:
- Cristiano scored 12 goals with last 16 shots on target for Real Madrid
- Ronaldo scored more home goals than any other player in UCL history (55)
- The Portuguese scored most penalty goals in the history of the Champions League (12)
It was a night to remember for the Portuguese star who once again made history with his club and further established his status as one of the greatest players to have ever graced a football pitch.
Real Madrid will be hopeful their ageing star will be able to maintain the high level of performances as he keeps pushing Los Blancos towards their ultimate aim of defending the Champions League crown. Real Madrid indeed are the biggest favourites to win the competition at 5/1 betting odds.
No Neymar? No problem!
Barcelona don’t need anybody else when they have Leo Messi in red-hot form. The Argentine wizard put in a superb display to help his team exact vengeance on Serie A champions Juventus. The Catalans got their payback for last season’s elimination and it was Leo Messi who took the centre stage at Camp Nou.
He opened the scoring just before half-time and added another one after the break when he beat Buffon with a fierce shot. It proved to be a night of milestones for Messi as well as the Argentine managed to score past a goalkeeper he had never beaten before the Tuesday’s match.
With 96 goals in 116 Champions League matches, Leo Messi cut the gap behind Cristiano Ronaldo and his tally of 105 UCL goals achieved in 140 games.
Neymar a Brat
Millions can’t buy you manners.
It’s something you’re born and raised with and something Brazilian sensation Neymar doesn’t have. His behaviour against Celtic was childish to say the least. Spoilt, to be exact. He seems to have developed a knack for upsetting the Celtic fans and players. Following a string of frustrating simulations during his Barca days, Neymar once again managed to get at odds with both after refusing to shake the hand of Celtic’s youngster Anthony Ralston.
The Brazilian behaved like a bad-mannered child after the final whistle and snubbed the Celtic player in utterly poor fashion. Having refused to shake Ralston’s hand he also rejected his approach to swap shirts at the end of the match. It was later suggested Neymar was saving the shirt for charity, but his decision was not the problem. The manner he did it in was.
It’s not how you get to become the best player in the world which was the whole point of the move to Paris, wasn’t it?
With less than a year until the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia safety issues have once again hit headlines after Spartak Moscow’s trip to Slovenia.
Russian authorities might have clamped down the football fans in that country but Europe seems to have become their playing ground. Echoes of ugly scenes from Euro 2016 in France are still resonating quite strongly, and the latest scene the football world witnessed in Maribor come as a major problem.
Spartak Moscow ultras first clashed with police on the streets of Maribor while they also fired a flare toward the referee during the 1-1 draw in Slovenia. The crowd trouble will see the club receive a fine from UEFA, but Europe’s governing body will not ease fears ahead of the next summer’s big event.
England’s Collective Victory
It does not come that often that English clubs earn combined praise for their European efforts. Consider this an exception to the rule, but it’s about time that the wealthiest and most expensive league in the world started causing ripples in Europe.
Following a series of international embarrassments over the past couple of years, the early signs offered some great promise with Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham and Manchester City securing comfortable wins in their respective matches. Liverpool were the only one to slightly stutter at the start as they were forced to settle for a draw against Sevilla despite largely dominating the entire match.
The general impression, however, remains a positive one. Ultimately, it offers some promise of a change in the five-year trend. Ever since Chelsea lifted the coveted trophy in 2012, only two of 20 semi-finalists have been from England.
It’s a defeating piece of statistics which puts Premier League far behind the likes of La Liga, Bundesliga and Europe’s top domestic competitions.
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