6 Champions League takeaways: So close to major upsets, and a star emerges
FOX Soccer staff
The group stage of the Champions League means that the matches come thick and fast. Here's a breakdown of some of the best from Wednesday, including a narrow escape for Barcelona and the emergence of a star at Celtic Park.
Moussa Dembele is on his way to being a star
Moussa Dembele was one of the best teenagers in Europe last season, scoring 17 goals for Fulham and setting off a bidding war for his services when his contract expired in the summer. Seemingly everyone chased him, and for a while it looked like he would end up at Tottenham, but Celtic signed him out of nowhere and it was clear on Wednesday why the entire continent wanted him. The Frenchman scored two goals in Celtic’s 3-3 draw against Manchester City and generally terrorized the Citizens all match long. The kid showed he can get the job done against one of the best teams in the world and it won’t be long before he’s on one of those mega clubs, shining on the biggest of stages week-in, week-out.
Getty ImagesMichael Steele
Luis Enrique nails it with his substitutions
The question for Barcelona in the absence of Lionel Messi will always be: How the offense function? Barca aren't a one-man team, but their reliance on Messi is as obvious as it is understandable. With his team down a goal and on the back foot, Luis Enrique turned to his bench to turn the tide, and the squad did it. Arda Turan came on in the 59th minute and scored the equalizer, giving him two goals and an assist in his last two games for the Blaugranas. Gladbach will feel they deserved a point (and Yann Sommer's scattered performance definitely helped Barcelona), but it was the visitors that exhibited their superior depth to snatch the full bounty of points.
VI-Images via Getty ImagesVI-Images
Arsenal might finally win their group
Arsenal get out of their group in the Champions League, but year after year, they find themselves up against one of Europe’s powers in the knockout stages and go out of the competition early. Part of that is because they haven’t won their group since 2011-12, but it looks like the Gunners might finally top their group this time around. They went away to Paris Saint-Germain to get a draw on the opening matchday and thumped Basel on Wednesday. Now they’re sitting on top of Group A and look a lot better than PSG do so far this season. The Gunners might finally get an easy road in the knockout stages and a run deep into the Champions League.
AFP/Getty ImagesGLYN KIRK
Simeone shines bright again
Diego Simeone’s future may be in doubt at Atletico Madrid, but in the present, he’s still possibly the most intimidating manager in the game. His Colchonero side completely shut Bayern down, and there was no question Atletico were better on the day. It’s not easy to outcoach Carlo Ancelotti, but he did it.
AFP/Getty ImagesJAVIER SORIANO
PSG lack intimidation
The final scoreline 3-1 might not indicate as much, but PSG seem to be missing the fear factor that powered them for so many years. The fact that imposing striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has left the club probably isn't a coincidence, either. That's not to say that PSG are talentless; they clearly have the goods to compete at a high level. Nevertheless, minnows Ludogorets held their own for nearly the entire first half and took it to the Parisian giants, only really having their confidence shaken with a meek penalty miss. PSG can get away without a killer instinct against the likes of Ludogorets, but likely not against clubs of a higher level.
AFP/Getty ImagesNIKOLAY DOYCHINOV
Napoli successfully reinforced their offense
Napoli may have lost Gonzalo Higuain this summer, but it looks like they haven’t lost a step without him. Led by Marek Hamsik and new man Arkadiusz Milik, they’ve been just as exciting as last year, and may even be a better team overall. They also already have a four-point lead atop their group.