Leicester City were the only English club to reach the quarter-finals last term as Real Madrid became the first team to successfully defend their title – but matchday one suggests we won’t see that trend continue in 2017-18 as a flurry of goals and victories restored confidence in the British challenge.
Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool all returned to the competition this season while Arsenal miss out for the first time in two decades.
The returning trio, along with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, all gave fans positivity of a long run in Europe’s premier club cup this year.
Celtic, well, we’ll get to them later, but it’s safe to say there was no surprises in Scotland. Anyway, here’s six things we learned from the first week of the Champions.
Tottenham hero Harry Kane is world class
Two superstar strikers were on show at Wembley on Wednesday night as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and England sharpshooter Kane went head to head under the arch.
There was a clear winner as Kane once again showed why he is fast becoming a contender for the crown of the best natural goalscorer in world football. Yes, Lionel Messi sprinkles more stardust and Cristiano Ronaldo, as we saw again this week, is a machine in front of goal. But Kane is a pure striker and there are surely none better anywhere on the planet right now.
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He’s still only 24 and there is still room for improvement from the Londoner. Just how good can he become? That remains to be seen, but he put Dortmund’s leading light in the shade and a stunning victory and an end to the Wembley curse gives Spurs hope of escaping the Group of Death.
Jose Mourinho has given Manchester United genuine belief
Manchester United and Mourinho in the Europa League just didn’t seem right. The Special One will tell you that he only belongs in the special competitions and there is none more special than the Champions League.
The Portuguese has a wealth of experience in this tournament having won it with both Porto and Inter Milan and will be growing in confidence after watching his team make a strong start to the campaign.
They swept aside FC Basel at Old Trafford despite losing Paul Pogba to injury and even a 3-0 triumph was not enough to satisfy Mourinho. His expectations are high and anything less than making the last four will be a disappointment.
Philippe Coutinho has bridges to rebuild
Coutinho was named on the bench for Liverpool’s Group E opener with Sevilla at Anfield.
The Brazilian handed in a transfer request last month in an attempt to force through a move to Barcelona. However, the deal never got over the line as the Reds stood firm by rejecting several offers for the player.
Many had expected this Champions League encounter to prove the perfect moment for Jurgen Klopp to thrust him back into the starting XI.
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But by benching the attacking midfielder, Klopp appears to be telling his star that he can’t just walk back into a Reds team that look lethal going forward.
Mohamed Salah’s fourth goal in seven appearances put Liverpool in front after falling behind early on and he looks a real bargain signing.
Coutinho, meanwhile, clearly has work to do to convince his manager he is focused enough to put all the drama behind him.
He was called upon when Sevilla levelled things up on Merseyside, whether he starts Liverpool’s next fixture will perhaps paint a clearer picture of just how much grovelling he has left to do.
Manchester City send out a message
You would imagine that Guardiola must win one of either the Premier League or Champions League this season to keep his job. City are desperate to lift the trophy with the big ears and they believe he is the man to deliver it.
That trust does not look misplaced on their showing in Rotterdam. Three goals in the first half against Feyenoord will have sent shockwaves across the continent as the former Barcelona coach oversaw a dominant victory.
Guardiola, like Mourinho, has two Champions League titles under his belt as a manager and his slick style and plethora of attacking and defensive options give him a real chance of making it a hat-trick with this squad.
The job was done after 45 minutes in Holland and City understandably took their foot off the gas somewhat in the second period. Tougher tests will follow but this was a fine start.
It was also pleasing to see Ederson start between the sticks after that sickening collision with Sadio Mane at the weekend. Throwing him straight back into the team reflects the faith Guardiola has in his new goalkeeper.
Celtic need a miracle to progress
We knew it was going to be difficult for Celtic. We knew even a draw would be a good result against moneybags PSG. What did we get? Celtic’s heaviest ever European defeat on home soil.
Five goals without reply gave PSG an easy win. The world’s most expensive footballer Neymar was on target, as was the second most expensive, along with the reliable Edinson Cavani. All three of the Ligue 1 side’s biggest stars shone brightly.
Brendan Rodgers won’t read too much into this result. He won’t be pleased, of course, but he will know his team had no chance against the French big spenders. Bayern Munich and Anderlecht make up the rest of the group. Good luck with that Brendan!
Chelsea do have depth despite Antonio Conte’s complaints
Barely a week went by this summer without Conte complaining about a lack of signings at Chelsea. That was despite the club loaning out a small army of players again, including the likes of Kurt Zouma to other Premier League clubs.
There was talk of the Italian coach quitting the Stamford Bridge if he wasn’t granted his wishes for half a dozen or so new players to add to the team that won the crown with such class and ease last season.
So, the fact that the Blues boss was able to make five changes for Chelsea’s opening clash with Qarabag and still thrash them 6-0 in west London suggests things might not be as bad as he had feared.
Andreas Christensen, Michy Batshuayi, Davide Zappacosta and Willian were all given a chance while captain Gary Cahill returned from his domestic suspension. Two of those stars got on the scoresheet in a game that was so comfortable, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois may as well have sat in the stands.