Most Valuable Lessons Learned From Round 2 Of UCL Competition
The second round of group stage matches of the 2021 UEFA Champions League is behind us and to say that it left football fans who bet online with a few shocks here and there could easily be threading it lightly. Champions League pundits got treated to some great action all across the board with some seriously unexpected upsets and dominating performances by the tournament favorites. But what lessons can we take away from all the action that unfolded? Let’s dive right in and talk about what this past round of UEFA Champions League football matches left us understanding.
Barcelona’s Collision Course Seems Unstoppable
Spanish football giants FC Barcelona knew that life after Lionel Messi would be a dark and stormy road to follow, but it’s safe to say that nobody expected their first season without their Argentinian superstar to be one full of so much doubt, bad football and all-around bad ambience. After taking their second loss in as many games in the UCL group stage matches, first losing against German giants Bayern Munich by 3-0 at home and then losing against Portuguese side Benfica by the same score, all the alarms are starting to blast in full sound around Barcelona, especially regarding the future of head coach and former Barca legend Ronald Koeman.
Even though the team has found in its young core of stars, with players like Pedri, Gavri and Ansu Fati, a squad ready to take on the challenge of bringing the Catalan giants back into premier fighting shape, it seems like nothing is working out in their favor. What comes as the biggest shock is that Barcelona, a team that’s known for their offensive prowesses were left without any shots on target made in any of the first two matches of this season’s UCL competition, something that seems as unbelievable as assuming that the sky might fall to pieces at any given moment.
With candidates like Andrea Pirlo, Xavi Hernandez and Roberto Martinez all ready to take over Koeman’s job as manager of Barcelona, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Koeman gets his marching orders delivered to him. But will that be enough though? The situation feels more and more like not only a manager’s problem but a whole team issue, where until a new leader, or group of leaders amongst the roster don’t stand up and take the helm of the direction of the team, Barcelona will keep on its unstoppable collision course.
Never Take An Underdog For Granted
While there were certain results that surprised football fans around the world, like Juventus beating defending champions Chelsea at home in Turin, even after having dominated the vast majority of the game and Club Brugge taking down german sensations RB Leipzig in Germany, no result comes as quite a shock as what happened between the humble Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol and UCL legends Real Madrid in their matchup in Madrid. What on paper seemed like a walk in the park smashing win for Real Madrid quickly turned into a nightmare, after a fighting Sheriff squad pulled off the biggest surprise of not only this year’s tournament but almost of the UCL tournament’s history defeating Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid by 2-1.
The Moldovan squad took the fight to a Real Madrid squad that clearly has no clue of what hit them whatsoever. With two commanding goals, a dream night performance by Sheriff’s Greek goalkeeper Giorgos Athanasiadis and even after holding the lead for a vast amount of time, making Real Madrid only able to score via a Karim Benzema netted penalty kick, this win comes as both a pleasant shock and feat to stand up and applaud for Sheriff as well as an unexpected and shocking reality slap for Real Madrid. While at the beginning of the tournament it was expected for Real Madrid to breeze right through their competition in Group D, with Inter Milan posting as their only real threat, the standings as of right now have Sheriff Tiraspol looking down on their competitors, while sporting a perfect record of two wins in as many matches and with a spirit that doesn’t seem ready to be turned away.
Favorites Will Always Show Up and Deliver
When we speak of the teams who even since before the tournament began were already being pitted as favorites to go for the title, squads like PSG, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Atlético de Madrid all would be part of the conversations, alongside other teams whose first incursions in the tournament have been lackluster at best. After two rounds of competition it seems like some of those before mentioned favorites are already making their cases for putting together strong bids for the 2021 UCL title.
Liverpool for example are riding high on two wins over AC Milan and Porto in group B of the competition, also known as the “group of death” given that it also hosts Atlético de Madrid, who after tying with Porto in Madrid and taking down AC Milan in Italy are looking like Liverpool’s real threat for group supremacy moving forward. PSG, with Lio Messi scoring his first official goal as a member of the Parisian giants, all while helping route Pep Guardiola’s Man City squad in Paris, are showing why if there was ever a year for PSG to want to go all the way it’s 2021. Bayern Munich are in their usual dominant selves, after taking down Barcelona by 3-0 in Camp Nou and smashing Dynamo Kyiv at home in Munich by 5-0.
All this just goes to prove that when pitted as favorites there are teams that know how to rise to the title and occasion in every single round of the competition, while others have some more warming up to do before truly taking off. For now, we can just wait and hope for some more thrilling action in the next round of group stage matches.