With the curtain coming down on a successful Champions League group phase for Premier League clubs, let’s have a look at five things we learned over the last couple of days …
Liverpool’s Fab Four on fire
Liverpool smashed seven unanswered goals past a shell shocked CSKA Moscow at Anfield last night to seal their place in the last 16 as group winners.
The Reds attacking quartet of Philippe Coutinho, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino where on fire. Some of the pace and accuracy of their passing and movement was a joy to watch.
The Fab Four scored all of Jurgen Klopp’s sides goals; Coutinho three, Mane two and Firmino and Salah found the net once.
Liverpool scored 23 goals in total in the group phase which is the most ever by a English team. Although, the Anfield’s sides’ defence is often criticised, surely no team will want to face their sensational frontline in their current form, and they have a real chance of making major impact in this year’s tournament.
Llorente finally breaks Spurs duck
After his summer arrival from Swansea Fernando Llorente had played 17 times for Spurs in all competitions without scoring. He did however, finally break his duck with a well taken finish in Spurs comfortable 3-0 victory over Apoel Nicosia at Wembley last night.
The former Juventus striker was signed by Mauricio Pochettino to offer his side that little something different when they were struggling to break down stubborn defences, but it hasn’t quite gone to plan so far for the big Spaniard.
To be fair to him, Spurs have not exactly been playing to his straights when he has featured, and they have not utilised his aerial prowess enough by whipping balls into the box.
However, it was not just his goal that was impressive last night, Llorente’s link-up play was also excellent and his manager will be hoping that this performance can kick start his Spurs career, as they face a important run of fixtures domestically over the coming weeks.
Chelsea have left themselves in a difficult situation
Chelsea’s draw against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday saw them finish the group phase on 11 points, which was level with Roma, although the Italian side progress as group winners due to their superior head-to-head record against Antonio Conte’s side.
With all the other Premier League teams topping their groups, The Blues are facing a difficult fixture in the second round.
Due to Chelsea being unable to face any other English side in the next stage, they can only be drawn against three teams. Unfortunately for Antonio Conte the three teams are PSG, Barcelona and Besiktas.
Chelsea fans will be crossing their fingers, toes, and everything else really, in the hope that Besiktas is the name that comes out of the hat when the the draw is made on the 11th of December.
United’s goal shy strikers get much needed goals
Manchester United attackers Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku went into Tuesday’s Champions League clash against CSKA Moscow in poor form in front of gaol. The pair had managed just a solitary strike between them in their last 20 fixtures for the Red Devils, so both of them getting on the scoresheet in what turned out to be a pretty routine win will do wonders for their confidence ahead of a hectic run of fixtures.
United are not the most entertaining or free flowing of the English sides in the Champions League, but what they do have is a manager with top class European pedigree, and as the tournament progresses into the latter stages, and things become tight, their is no better man to mastermind getting 0ver the line than Jose Mourinho.
City’s winning streak finally comes to an end
Manchester City’s superb 29 game unbeaten run in all competitions this season, finally game to an end as the lost 2-1 against Shakhtar Donetsk in Kharkiv last night.
Pep Guardiola’s side had of course already qualified as group winners, and made wholesale changes to their starting XI. Talented youngsters like Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz both got some game time, and each of them impressed at times.
Having your second string lose to a talented Shakhtar side, who of course still had everything left to play for is no shame, although surely The Citizens will be saddened by seeing their unbeaten run coming to an end.