Welcome to The Champions League debrief, the place Jack Lang takes you thru the massive speaking factors — and issues you could have missed — from the second spherical of matches. This morning, the main target is on Paris Saint-Germain’s disasterclass on Tyneside, Rico Lewis incomes excessive reward from Pep Guardiola, and a few Chelsea previous boys displaying they nonetheless have what it takes…
Plus ça change pour le PSG…
Shut your eyes. Think about a metropolis of resplendent glamour. Think about a soccer membership with no actual native rivals and one of many world’s deepest expertise swimming pools on their doorstep. Now think about that membership having virtually limitless monetary assets. Be that membership. Really feel the chilly, elemental energy of the cash, of its rationality. Hearken to the throb of it. Think about the place it would take you. Image the glory. Style it. It’s no much less candy for its inevitability.
Now… hold on. Wait. This… this wasn’t a part of our psychological itinerary. The sunshine is fading. It’s obscured now by huge, billowing, malevolent clouds. Ache. Anguish. Incomparable struggling. And now some new photos dance throughout the infinite gray, spectral within the gloom. Dan Burn (what?). Sean Longstaff (who?). Your annual nadir. Huh. Early this yr.
Stroll into the darkness. It’s heat there.
Sure, welcome again to the Schadenfreude Roadshow, aka Paris Saint-Germain within the Champions League. We’ll get to the specifics of Wednesday evening’s disasterclass in a second, nevertheless it’s first value pausing to take heed to the background music. And no, you weren’t imagining it: it actually was meant to be a bit totally different this time.
Luis Enrique is a correct supervisor, an improve on Christophe Galtier in nearly each respect you may probably title. He spent the summer season overseeing the mom of all squad clear-outs. Away went Lionel Messi, Neymar, Marco Verratti, Sergio Ramos, Leandro Paredes, Renato Sanches, Georginio Wijnaldum and the performance-art venture previously generally known as Julian Draxler. Their replacements have been youthful and hungrier. Extra Parisian, too, within the circumstances of Ousmane Dembele and Randal Kolo Muani. It felt like a reset.
The crew now could be much less louche, much less decadent. However is it — you understand — higher? That half just isn’t so clear.
PSG are fifth in Ligue 1. The French champions have already dropped factors in opposition to Lorient, Toulouse, Good and Clermont. If all that seemed like an anomaly earlier than their journey to St James’ Park, it doesn’t now.
Theirs was a wretched efficiency in opposition to Newcastle. With Luis Enrique selecting all of his senior attackers, PSG lined up in a form of time-capsule formation, an entry-level 4-2-4 with all of the sub-options set to ‘clunky AF’. Neglect passing triangles; this was a collection of rectangles, of relentless proper angles wherever you seemed. Kylian Mbappe had nobody to hyperlink up with. Kolo Muani and Goncalo Ramos appeared to be competing to see who might affect the sport the least.
Nobody drifted between the traces. Nobody tried one thing totally different. It was simply thud, thud, thud in opposition to the Newcastle defence, like a toddler attempting to knock down a hearth door.
Watching this by the filter of Newcastle’s mania, it was simple to overlook the word of melancholy right here. PSG have all the time been enjoyable to snort at as a result of even past the geopolitical resonances, the spectacle of wealthy individuals failing is essentially humorous. However they have been additionally, at instances, a thrill to observe, to not point out a genuinely disruptive pressure.
Assume again to the golden midfield of Thiago Motta, Verratti and Blaise Matuidi, or the extra top-heavy groups of latest seasons. There was all the time, even of their most hilariously inept moments, an endearing swagger to PSG.
In opposition to Newcastle final evening? Not a lot. At no stage was there any devilment, any sense of mischief.
Does anybody nonetheless have Neymar’s quantity?
Newcastle 4 PSG 1: Native heroes Burn and Longstaff star, Mbappe goes lacking
The Rico act
It’s typically value taking Pep Guardiola’s pronouncements with a pinch of salt.
He will be excitable, an inclination finest exemplified by his declare, in 2022, that Matheus Nunes — then enjoying for Sporting Lisbon — was probably the greatest gamers on the planet. Beneficiant? Very. Additionally objectively incorrect.
Nonetheless, his reward for Rico Lewis on Wednesday evening appeared heartfelt. The teen was the standout participant in Manchester Metropolis’s 3-1 away win over RB Leipzig, scuttling round with goal in midfield and organising Phil Foden’s opening aim with a intelligent pullback.
“Wow,” mentioned Guardiola on TNT Sports activities. “He’s an impressive participant. Excellent. I’ve been a supervisor for 14 or 15 years and fortunate sufficient to coach a number of the finest gamers on the planet. To discover a participant who strikes rather well, within the center, within the pockets, as a holding midfielder, as a full-back coming inside… it’s troublesome to search out somebody like him.
“He’s simply 18 years previous and has an enormous persona. He can play in 4 or 5 positions. He’s not scared. His defending is de facto good. He’s a improbable, improbable participant.”
The making of Manchester Metropolis’s Rico Lewis – son of a former boxing champion
Lewis has needed to be affected person within the opening months of this season — he has solely performed 81 minutes within the first seven Premier League video games — however this efficiency, in his first away begin in Europe, felt like a well timed reminder of what he would possibly convey to the Metropolis facet within the years forward.
Morata discovering type
The present iteration of Atletico Madrid can look a bit like a tribute act.
You’ve bought Antoine Griezmann, who went away, spent two seasons wanting like a post-traumatic Todd Cantwell at Barcelona, then got here again. You’ve bought Saul Niguez, up there with Alexandre Pato and Radamel Falcao within the Chelsea mortgage signings corridor of fame, additionally now again on the Wanda Metropolitano and again within the beginning XI. Koke, Stefan Savic, Jan Oblak and Jose Maria Gimenez are nonetheless knocking round.
Diego Simeone, now into his thirteenth season answerable for Atletico, seems to have entered the Stars in Their Eyes part of his reign. “Tonight, Matthew, we’re going to be… the 2017-18 season.”
Additionally emitting sturdy second-chance vitality is Alvaro Morata, one other participant who drifted off earlier than returning. The Spain striker has all the time been a divisive determine, partially as a result of he simply appears to lack a number of the primary hardscrabble grit that often takes a participant to the very prime. There’s something plaintive, virtually mournful about him. Confidence doesn’t appear to circulate by his veins. A whole lot of the time he seems like he might do with a giant hug.
The fragility of Alvaro Morata
How that matches in with Simeone’s core philosophy (‘In case you’re nonetheless feeling human feelings, you’re not working exhausting sufficient!’) is an ongoing thriller, however issues have began effectively this season. Morata’s brace — his first Champions League objectives in virtually two years — helped Atleti previous a cussed Feyenoord facet on Wednesday evening and took him to seven for the marketing campaign.
“That is the Morata we want,” Simeone mentioned after the ahead’s match-winning show within the Madrid derby final month. “We all know he can do it.”
If Morata, who turns 31 this month, can internalise that perception, he has the power to win over a number of extra of the doubters but.
The early chicken catches the thriller
Return to the mid-Nineties — 7:45pm video games throughout the board; overseas groups you’d by no means even heard of; Bob Wilson — and also you’d have been laughed out of the constructing for even suggesting that the Champions League ought to be performed over two nights, not to mention have two totally different kick-off instances on every. When UEFA did make the leap, the early video games all the time appeared to be fairly unappealing fare. Oh wow, one other CSKA Moscow dwelling match! You actually shouldn’t have!
This season, although, issues have been somewhat extra thrilling. The week’s 4 early video games produced 17 objectives and included two unbelievable fightbacks: Shakhtar Donetsk rallying from two objectives right down to beat Royal Antwerp, and Braga breaking Union Berlin hearts on the final. Throw in Galatasaray’s madcap 2-2 draw with FC Copenhagen a fortnight in the past and you’ve got an excellent argument for turning the tv on earlier than making dinner.
Union Berlin on the Olympiastadion: Extra followers, a mighty event – however a giant controversy
Aim of the gameweek: Bruma for Braga in opposition to Union. Nook from the left, cushioned contact from Ricardo Horta and WHOOSH. The end — whipped, exact, violent — took the breath away. As soon as seen as a wonderkid, the now 28-year-old Bruma has by no means been way more than a Europa League specialist, a prince amongst C-listers, however this was straight out of the highest drawer.
Golden oldie: Pedro. 36 years younger, now a bit-part participant for Lazio, however nonetheless popping up with last-gasp winners within the Champions League. Chapeau.
Champions League gameweek 2 outcomes
FC Copenhagen 1-2 Bayern Munich
Manchester United 2-3 Galatasaray
Lens 2-1 Arsenal
PSV Eindhoven 2-2 Sevilla
Union Berlin 2-3 Braga
Napoli 2-3 Actual Madrid
Pink Bull Salzburg 0-2 Actual Sociedad
Inter Milan 1-0 Benfica
Atletico Madrid 3-2 Feyenoord
Celtic 1-2 Lazio
Borussia Dortmund 0-0 AC Milan
Newcastle United 4-1 Paris Saint-Germain
Pink Star Belgrade 2-2 Younger Boys
RB Leipzig 1-3 Manchester Metropolis
Royal Antwerp 2-3 Shakhtar Donetsk
Porto 0-1 Barcelona
(Prime picture: James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Pictures)
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- PSG have misplaced all swagger, however Lewis has Guardiola purring — Champions League debrief
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