0 out of 7
Kylian Mbappe (Philippe Signe/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Big wins. Ridiculous goals. Manager fired. The Champions League is back again.
Match day 1 delivered a huge dose of #story, some of which could be season-defining for the clubs involved.
Read on if you’re a fan of drama…
1 of 7
Fran Santiago/Getty Images
Erling Haaland has now scored 4,798 goals with just 86 goals for Manchester City. At least that’s how it feels. The fearsome striker hit the mark in his new club’s 4-0 win over Sevilla, taking him to an incredible 12 goals in seven appearances in all competitions this campaign.
What we see here is maximum efficiency. Haaland may only touch the ball a limited number of times per game, as indicated by OptaJoe, but he is always defending. Its movement and speed changes keep central defenders from taking on challenges they would normally do forward.
Phil Foden’s goal against Sevilla was a good example of this. Haaland’s outburst forward took away two defenders, both of whom decided not to put additional pressure on Foden. The Englishman turned and fired a precise shot into the corner of the net. Admittedly, good strikers need to influence the game without the ball, but at the moment it is only the presence of Haaland holding back the quality teams.
Time to invent a new song to keep up with those goalscoring records.
2 of 7
Harry Langer/DeFodi Pictures via Getty Images
Like Haaland, there are times when you wonder if Kylian Mbappé is unstoppable.
His pace for the opener in Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 win over Juventus took five players out of the game. Juve’s back line was turned to stone by Neymar’s lobed assist and shattered by Mbappe’s volley.
While PSG did their best to keep Juve back in the game, Mbappe’s second goal summed up an attack that looks as sharp as any on the continent at the moment. The one-touch passing, the first time finish, it’s extremely hard to stop.
Two more deadly goals for the Frenchman, who, after signing a historic new contract in May, will be desperate to finally lead the Ligue 1 side to their first Champions League trophy.
3 of 7
Jurij Kodrun/Getty Images
Chelsea shocked the football world on Wednesday morning by announcing the departure of Champions League, Super Cup and Club World Cup winning manager Thomas Tuchel.
This came after the Blues surpassed everyone else in a transfer window that was closed for less than a week. It came just days after Tuchel found the striker he wanted in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a player who was excited? to team up again with his former Borussia Dortmund colleague.
That reunion lasted 59 minutes. Auba was swept away after barely having a sniff in Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday night. The Blues poked into the wood several times and were kept at bay by the great Dominik Livakovic, but it’s hard to suggest they were unlucky.
A leaky defense and inability to score is in many ways the defining image of the latter part of Tuchel’s reign.
The controversial win over West Ham last weekend, confirmed via a questionable VAR decision, failed to give Tuchel enough time to make his players believe again. He had a lot to deal with in his last few months at Stamford Bridge, from club sanctions that sparked unrest among players and fans, to reinventing the team under the eye of new owner Todd Boehly. It all turned out to be too much.
Whether it’s Graham Potter, Zinedine Zidane, Mauricio Pochettino or anyone else replacing him, Chelsea’s goal should now be about getting back to basics: letting the attackers shoot and stop letting opponents walk across the defence.
4 of 7
Mykhaylo Mudryk (Cathrin Mueller/Getty Images)
Tuchel was not the only manager to receive the shoe after this week’s action. RB Leipzig sacked Domenico Tedesco after Shakhtar Donetsk beat the Bundesliga 4-1 with a stunning performance at the Red Bull Arena.
The Ukrainian Premier League only resumed in August after the Russian invasion in February. Shakhtar lost key players during that time, culminating in the arrival of David Neres in January and departure in June.
They were excellent against Leipzig. New signing Marian Shved put on a cold display of finishing, notching a brace to stun the fans in Germany. Mykhaylo Mudryk also resigned, scoring one and assisting two, adding to his reputation which has already linked him with a big-money move to the Premier League.
Shakhtar have put themselves in a great position to progress out of Group F. While games against Real Madrid are unlikely to bring in points, they will gladly take six from Celtic, which withered in their 3-0 defeat to Los Blancos. They will also be sure to beat Leipzig one more time.
5 of 7
Virgil van Dijk (Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
A getaway to Naples is not what you want when you are struggling. Liverpool stumbled into the Premier League, with just two wins from six games, and seem a world away from the side that challenged for the quadruple last year.
Jürgen Klopp’s men just couldn’t handle Napoli. The 4-1 defeat underlined problems that continue to arise in this campaign: poor defense, a bluntness in front of goal and the inability to get Mohamed Salah into the game.
Perhaps most telling is that the fear factor is starting to disappear. Napoli played with Liverpool and should have won by a bigger margin after missing a penalty and a handful of good chances.
On the recent signing of Khivcha Kvaratskhelia, probably unknown to many until Wednesday night, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez played in slow motion. Victor Osimhen was sharper than Gomez and Virgil van Dijk, causing the central defenders to make constant mistakes. Liverpool never got a grip and the whole defensive unit lacked intensity or willingness to fight.
Alexander-Arnold’s lack of effort on the third goal could really have resulted in his substitution at half time. Beaten easily by Kvaratskhelia on the flank, the England fullback gave up. No sprint back to help his teammates. He slowed and walked when the net bulged again.
Of course, Liverpool are struggling with constant injury problems, with Thiago Alcantara, Joel Matip and Diogo Jota missing time. The midfield is forced to rely too much on 36-year-old James Milner. But the fans expect better. Losing games is one thing, but being destroyed by zero fight is another.
6 of 7
Robert Lewandowski and Ousmane Dembele (ADRIA PUIG/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Robert Lewandowski’s hat-trick in his first Champions League appearance for Barcelona seemed hardly a surprise.
The prolific striker has scored eight goals in five appearances for the Blaugrana and predictably starred in Viktoria Plzen’s 5-1 destruction. He has now taken hat-tricks for three different clubs in the league. Who expected anything else?
Ousmane Dembélé, however, did not want to be left behind. The French winger, who has been hampered by injuries so many times during his Camp Nou career, put in a stunning performance against the Czech visitors. His directness and willingness to work hard propelled Barca forward, creating opportunities that would not have arisen otherwise.
Dembele’s great performance was summed up by two assists, but especially the first, for Lewandowski. He won a sliding tackle when he was not entitled to it and played a razor-sharp cross to the striker, who simply won’t miss from close range. Barça’s immediate future on the pitch looks very exciting indeed.
7 of 7
Antoine Griezmann (Berengui/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Finally, a word about Antoine Griezmann.
The French attacker is rumored to have limited minutes to play while on loan to Barca due to a contract clause that would otherwise force Atlético to pay £35million to their La Liga rivals. He has not played more than 29 minutes of regular playing time in any game this season.
However, he has three goals, including a 101st-minute winner in a 2-1 defeat to Porto that rounded out this week’s games.
This game has definitely saved its drama for the last moments. Porto’s Mehdi Taremi was sent off in the 82nd minute before Mario Hermoso gave Atleti the lead in the first minute of stoppage time. Porto hit back in the 96th, then Griezmann sent his fans and sprint manager Diego Simeone wild.
“Griezmann time” is going to be one of the most interesting and memorable stories in football. This ongoing super-sub story gains momentum and makes it one of Atletico’s most impactful weapons, regardless of the limited minutes.