5 Things we learned from the Champions League this week

1 – Curtis Jones has been going under the radar as a future star

After an injury ravaged Liverpool side managed to edge past Ajax, Jurgen Klopp was full of praise for his team, however, one of the main focuses of his praise was young Curtis Jones. It would be harsh to say that the midfielder has only earned a chance in the side due to the number of absentees, however, he has certainly become a more important part of the squad as a result. If this is to truly be his breakout season then Tuesday night’s showing against Ajax could well be his ‘coming of age’ performance.

Jones was excellent against the Dutch Champions and the praise of his performance should absolutely not be limited to the fact that he nabbed the winning goal. Outside of this, he was ever present in the Liverpool midfield, covering so many yards in a real box-to-box display. Jones showed up in the right place at the right time on many occasions to break up Ajax attacks before showing incredible composure on the ball to keep Liverpool ticking over. Never once looking hurried, Jones was almost his team’s outlet, backing himself to retain the ball until he can find a teammate in a better position or evade any Ajax pressing. You could argue that Ajax perhaps underestimated the youngster and afforded him too much time on the ball, but Jones also used the ball well whenever he got it and constantly tried to make things happen.

Perhaps just a symptom of being lost amongst Jurgen Klopp’s star studded side, Curtis Jones has rarely been mentioned in the same breath as some of England’s other young stars like Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho. The Liverpool born midfielder has quietly manoeuvred his way into Klopp’s plans more and more in the last year and if he can cement a place in the side more often (perhaps if Gini Wijnaldum is to depart) then he can be considered to be knocking on Gareth Southgate’s England door sooner rather than later.

2 – Chelsea are really starting to click

Wednesday night saw Chelsea cruise to victory away at Sevilla with Olivier Giroud rampant in his four goal display. Having won the Europa League last season, Sevilla are certainly no mugs and have been formidable in Europe for some time now, especially at home. With that said, Chelsea’s performance was as professional as it gets. Lampard chose to rest a number of players with a second string back four comprising of Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Christensen and Emerson, however, that didn’t stop the Blues recording their 9th clean sheet in 12 games.

It could be argued that the starting XI was almost entirely made up of back ups with only really Kai Havertz and Mateo Kovacic being regulars in the team. As impressive as Chelsea have been defensively lately, they were fantastic in attacking sense too. Olivier Giroud continued his excellent form and became the oldest hatrick scorer in Champions League history before adding a fourth to his tally later on. Almost spoilt for options up front, the Frenchman has provided Lampard with a real headache in terms of whether he opts to start Giroud more often with the likes of Werner and Abraham generally considered higher up the pecking order.

You might be starting to consider Chelsea as dark horses in this Champions League campaign and it seems that the Blues are getting stronger with every coming week as the team really starts to gel after a number of summer acquisitions. Their display in Seville sent out a statement and you have to wonder if that’s how good their second XI is, then what damage can their first XI do to some of Europe’s powerhouses?

3 – The final gameweek in Group H is going to be a blockbuster

With three teams tied in Group H on 9 points, next week’s Champions League fixtures leave it all to play for. Manchester United find themselves away to RB Leipzig and although they absolutely blew the German side away at Old Trafford in a 5-0 thumping, Leipzig definitely aren’t a side to be underestimated. Aside from their Manchester drubbing, Leipzig have beaten Istanbul Basaksehir twice, PSG once and narrowly lost to PSG in their other fixtures.

United have blown hot and cold in their Champions League campaign and after wiping the floor with Leipzig and winning impressively at the Parc Des Princes, find themselves needing a result against the Germans after disappointing defeats to Basaksehir and PSG. The Red Devils showed great promise in their display against the French champions at times but ultimately came up short on the night and will need to add some consistency to their game if they’re to making it deep into the competition.

PSG are arguably in the strongest position going into the final set of fixtures and face Basaksehir at home. The focus will definitely be on the Leipzig vs United game but PSG will know that they must avoid defeat to ensure progression to the next round. Having already sprung a surprise against United previously Basaksehir are no mugs and could make the Parisians sweat.

4 – Real Madrid are a shadow of the side they were in Europe

After becoming the first team ever to win the Champions League 3 times in a row, Real Madrid seem to have taken their foot off the gas in continental competition. Zidane’s men have been lacklustre at best in Europe lately and rather uninspiring in the league too. The Galacticos find themselves 3rd in Group B going into next week after another slump against Shakhtar. The Ukrainian side previously put Madrid to the sword in gameweek 1 with their ‘B team’ and once again highlighted some real frailties. Missing Sergio Ramos, Los Blancos stumbled again and don’t look anything like the dominant side of a few years ago.

Despite winning La Liga last season, Zidane’s men look to be stumbling over the line rather than smashing through it like we’re used to. Benzema has papered over many cracks in recent times with his goals, whilst Modric and Kroos are starting to make you feel like Madrid’s golden era could be starting to edge closer to it’s expiry date. They will feel hard done by after investing so much in a player of Eden Hazard’s quality, yet seeing very little return so far, but it’s clear that Zidane and his team need to buck their ideas up quickly, or else they could find themselves falling into the Europa League or out of European competition altogether.

5 – Bayern aren’t a shadow of the side they were in Europe

Continuing on from the previous point, Bayern Munich’s performance in the Champions League has been stereotypically efficient. Sitting pretty at the top of Group A, Bayern have 13 points with second placed Atletico Madrid way below with 6. In a group that would have presented a real challenge for almost any team in Europe, Bayern have swept away their competition and found themselves able to rest a number of key players against Atleti this week. Despite this, they picked up a very respectable point at the Estadio Metropolitano whilst fielding a side that included youngsters such as Arrey-Mbi, Bouna Sarr and Jamal Musiala.

Hansi Flick’s team were head and shoulders above the rest in Europe last season and they seem to have picked up where they left off. They started their Champions League campaign off with a 4-0 demolition of Atleti earning a further point this week against the Spanish side who are currently sitting 2nd in La Liga. The acquisition of Leroy Sane has strengthened an already juiced Bayern Munich attack and you have to imagine that every side that progresses to the next stage of the competition will be absolutely praying that they don’t draw the Germans in the next round, especially having seen their ruthless destruction of Barcelona last year.

Who do you think are the favourites for this year’s Champions League? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

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