Sunday, July 21, 2024

Champions League takeways: Barcelona could be contenders, Newcastle disappoint and Feyenoord are back

Champions League play is back and the group stage kicked off with a bang. Julian Alvarez inspired a Manchester City comeback, a goalkeeper scored a goal, Celtic received two red cards and Barcelona scored five goals. But even with all that happening, there were a few matches worth digging into as some of the contenders and pretenders could already be beginning to separate.

Here are some takeaways from Matchday 1:

Scoreboard

All times Eastern

  • AC Milan 0, Newcastle United 0 
  • Young Boys 1, RB Leipzig 3 
  • PSG 2, Borussia Dortmund 0 
  • Shakhtar Donetsk 1, Porto 3 
  • Manchester City 3, Crvena zvezda 1
  • Feyenoord 2, Celtic 0 
  • Barcelona 5,  Antwerp 0 
  • Lazio 1, Atletico Madrid 1 

Matchday 1 TV schedule

All times Eastern

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 20 TIME HOW TO WATCH

Real Madrid vs. Union Berlin

12:45 p.m.

Paramount+

Galatasaray vs. Copenhagen

12:45 p.m.

Paramount+

UEFA Champions League Today Pre-Match

2 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Network

The Golazo Show

3 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Golazo Network

Bayern Munich vs. Manchester United

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Benfica vs. RB Salzburg

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Braga vs. Napoli

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Arsenal vs. PSV

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Sevilla vs. Lens

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Real Sociedad vs. Inter Milan

3 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Network

UEFA Champions League Today Post-Match

5 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Network

The Champions Club

6 p.m.

CBS Sports Golazo Network

Kickin’ It Premiere

8 p.m.

CBS Sports Golazo Network

Barcelona blow out Antwerp

Last season, while Barcelona had one of the best defenses in the world, their attack left much to be desired. With Ousmane Dembele now at Paris Saint-Germain, it seemed like the attack would take another step back, especially considering Barcelona’s dire financial situation. However, through loans, Barca were able to add Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo to the mix, and they have shined in the early going. Felix bagged a brace and assisted on another goal in Barcelona’s 5-0 victory over Royal Antwerp. While Cancelo didn’t have a direct contribution to a goal, he created a chance and put a shot on target, having already scored for the club in La Liga play. 

Xavi employed either Ronald Arajuo or Sergi Roberto at right back last season, where the duo combined to create only 23 chances across La Liga, Champions League and Europa League. Meanwhile, on the left, Alejandro Balde created 23, and Jordi Alba created 45. This led to a lack of balance in Barcelona’s attack, which Felix and Cancelo are helping to address in the early going.

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However, it’s important to consider perspective. Antwerp are making their first-ever Champions League appearance, and Cancelo was previously unwanted at Manchester City and didn’t perform well at Bayern Munich. Even Felix found himself on the bench for Chelsea by the end of the season, amidst club dysfunction. If Xavi can maintain this momentum, Barcelona will be among the last teams standing in the competition. But, based on history, keeping this success going may be easier said than done.

Feyenoord are back with a bang

Feyenoord vs. Celtic is one of the matches more likely to determine who will have a place in the Europa League, as opposed to being true contenders for the knockout stages, but it still brought quite a bit of action. The Dutch club were without Santiago Gimenez, who was suspended, and they still delivered, taking control with a stoppage-time free-kick for their first UCL goal in six years.

Then, the second half saw the game descend into chaos, with Joe Hart saving a penalty and Celtic picking up two red cards, showing how high the stakes are despite it only being the first day of group stage play. A team needs to get as many points as possible off of their direct rivals since four points can be enough to advance to Europa League play. Feyenoord now have three of those points, while Celtic are left pondering how they can pick up the pieces.

Can Newcastle compete?

The Magpies are back in European competition, but they were lucky to escape with a draw against Milan. Allowing 23 shots and nine on target, someone needs to get Nick Pope quite a nice present for earning a point from that, but the more concerning number may be zero – the number of shots taken by striker Alexander Isak. Newcastle’s attack struggled to get into the game, which was surprising since the defense hasn’t been one of Milan’s strengths.

There are differences between Newcastle and an experienced Inter side that dismantled Milan over the weekend, but one of the biggest disparities is the striker core of Lautaro Martinez and Marcus Thuram compared to Callum Wilson and Isak. While talented, Isak hasn’t been someone who can consistently create his own chances, and when Joelinton isn’t in midfield, no one has been able to provide him with opportunities.

Even Sandro Tonali only attempted 10 passes in 72 minutes of action in his return to the San Siro, well below his average of 37 per match in Premier League play. That won’t be enough to get Newcastle to the Europa League in what is one of the toughest groups in the UCL. It will be up to Eddie Howe to figure out how to address this before PSG come to town on Oct. 4.

Goal of the day

Ivan Provedel scored an equalizer for Lazio with the last touch of the game. It doesn’t matter what anyone else did today, a keeper scoring a goal is the goal of the day every time and twice on Tuesdays.

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