Champions League Matchday 1 Review


Nick Maiz, General Assignment Reporter

Fans who watched the first matchday of the UEFA Champions League experienced some serious déjà vu. This year’s Champions League group stages produced similar storylines and results to games played in this competition’s past. Solskjaer’s Manchester United somehow upend a strong PSG side, Real Madrid struggle in its first group match and almost escape with more points than it deserves, and Bayern is cruising.

The last time Manchester United were in the Champions League, the 2018-2019 season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was on the hot seat because he struggled to win games in the Premier League. However, he made a run all the way to the Champions League Round of 16. His opponent, PSG, was considered one of the favorites of the tournament and took a commanding 2-0 lead in the first leg. Manchester United came back and won in Paris 3-1 to advance to the quarterfinals. Marcus Rashford scored a late penalty to clinch their quarterfinal berth, and then he scored late again this year, in Paris! PSG just came off a run to the final last season, and for some reason, the club still can’t beat Manchester United at home. Once again, Rashford temporarily erased any doubt that this team had going into the competition and possibly extended Solskjaer’s stay as manager. Manchester United didn’t dominate this game; according to Infogol’s expected goals statistic, PSG narrowly won 1.59 to 1.47. PSG also had 61% possession according to ESPN. This was an even game by all accounts, but Rashford’s goal changed the storyline completely. One thing to watch with United is its knack to win penalties, as the club had one in this game as well as four of their last six matches in all competitions. United’s next test is against RB Leipzig, one of last year’s semifinalists in the Champions League. If United wins that game, the group is its to lose.

Last year, in Real Madrid’s first game of the Champions League, the club fell behind 2-0 against Club Brugge before coming back in the second half to escape with a draw. This might be a reoccurring theme because this time, Madrid fell behind 3-0 to Shakhtar Donetsk. Madrid shouldn’t be dropping points to either of these teams, especially at home where both of these games were played. In the second half, Madrid fought back and almost drew. However, its final goal was chalked off because Vinicius Jr. was in an offside position and impeding the Shakhtar keeper’s vision. Madrid’s backline did not play well at all, and Shakhtar seemed to find so much space in the final third. Tete finished with a goal and played a beautiful backheel assist to Manor Solomon. Those two players had excellent games and should have more success in future matches. But the story will be that Real Madrid disappointed early again, and the question remains if the club could still advance to the knockout stages. This is a tough group with Borussia Mönchengladbach and Inter Milan being the other two teams. This game is a huge setback for Madrid and it will need to win at least three of these next five games to have a chance.

Bayern cruised to a victory against an Atletico Madrid side through two goals from Kingsley Coman. If it can beat Atletico Madrid with ease, Bayern shouldn’t be expected to lose a game in the group stage for the second straight year, as the schedule only gets easier from here. Other storylines include Atalanta thrashing FC Midtjylland 4-0, Liverpool scraping a 1-0 win over Ajax, and Lazio beating Dortmund 3-1. Atalanta is a serious dark horse to make another deep run in the Champions League. The club scores so many goals and has already proven that it has what it takes to win in this competition. Liverpool doesn’t look strong after its first game. Unfortunately, Van Dijk is going to be out for a while which means this team shouldn’t be viewed as a favorite to win the group, much less the whole thing. Yes, Atalanta may have a better shot at winning the group than Liverpool does. Lazio seems to be focusing on the Champions League because its form in Serie A hasn’t been outstanding, but the club dominated Dortmund anyways. This puts Lazio on top of the group where the two favorites are itself and Dortmund; this game was a statement. Immobile unsurprisingly ended up on the score sheet and will continue to be a key player for Lazio moving forward.

The games that are important to watch on Matchday 2: Mönchengladbach at Real Madrid, Inter Milan at Shakhtar Donetsk, Ajax at Atalanta, Barcelona at Juventus, and RB Leipzig at Manchester United.

Nick Maiz is a general assignment reporter for WDBM Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @MaizNick.