In a week of few upsets, some late comebacks and many routine wins, we take a look at the five things we learned from the second round of groups stage UEFA Champions League fixtures.
- FC Barcelona are bang average without Lionel Messi
The Champions League holders have started the season looking a shadow of the side that won the treble last season. Following the knee ligament injury sustained by arguably the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, the Blaugrana have struggled to compete in the two games since.
While any team would suffer after the loss of a player of the calibre of Messi, the Blaugrana have plenty of World Class talent at their disposal, but look bereft of ideas even against La Liga strugglers Las Palmas. If not for the brilliance of Luis Suarez, the Catalan Giants could have succumbed to defeat in either of the two fixtures.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is the greatest goal-scorer of the 21st century
While the Messi-Ronaldo debate may never come to a conclusion during the duoa s playing time, it can safely be said that the Portuguese is without doubt the greatest goal-scorer of this century. Again, if the debates comes down to the best player during the same time, Messi might slightly edge the Real Madrid superstars on account of the numerous trophies under his belt.
Scoring 322 goals in 305 games is no mean feat and the former Manchester United man doesna t seem to stop. While, we as mere mortals are privileged to see such a great rivalry, the onus was always on Ronaldo to make it as good as it has been.
- Arsenal FC are never going to win the Champions League under Arsene Wenger
With the North London outfita s continuity to reach the group stages under serious threat, it may be stating the obvious that Arsenal FC will never win that elusive Champions League title under Arsene Wenger.
The Emirates outfit were a red-card away from winning the competition in 2006, but have regressed every season from then on. Arsene Wengera s tactical naivety coupled with his failure to address and strengthen key areas has seen Arsenal FC remain as the also-rans of the competition.
This year the Gunners were the strongest that they have been in recent years, and had Arsene gone for it in the transfer window, things could have been different for the struggling Gunners. For now, ita s just a case of what could have been.
- Juan Mata is Manchester Uniteda s current best player
The diminutive Spaniard has been in sensational form recently, scoring in each of the Red Devilsa last two encounters and put in a man of the match display against Wolfsburg last night. His outrageous assist for Chris Smallinga s goal further highlighted the brilliance that Mata is capable of.
When Angel di Maria arrived for a British record fee last season, the curtains looked to have come down on the Spaniarda s Old Trafford career. However, Mata hung in there and has slowly established himself to be the key player in Louis Van Gaala s side, while di Maria has moved to Paris Saint-Germain after failing to get into his stride in the rigours of the English game.
Anthony Martial has headlined the papers since his arrival from Monaco for a record fee, and while the Frenchman has deserved the applause, it is Mata who truly holds the key to Manchester Uniteda s success this season.
- Bayern Munich and not FC Barcelona are the team to beat this season
The Bavarians have started the season in sublime form, and have won all of their matches so far. Robert Lewandowski has been nothing short of inspirational in the last 10 days, notching 10 goals in 3 games and the Bundesliga outfit look unstoppable at the moment.
But, a lot of credit needs to go to Pep Guardiola, who not only has rallied his troops efficiently, but also rectified the one position that Bayern desperately needed to sort out, its wings. The addition of Douglas Costa has helped the Bavarians overcome the loss of Franck Ribery, whose career seemingly is in doubt owing to his current injury troubles, but his trickery has been a welcome addition to complement the plethora of attacking talents already at Guardiolaa s disposal.