UCL Roundup: Real Madrid Off To Slow Start



Karim Mostafa Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates a goal past David de Gea of Manchester United in the first half during International Champions Cup action at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Tuesday, July 31, 2018. Manchester United won, 2-1. (Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Mohamed Ahmidouch

One of the most prestigious competitions in world football, the UEFA Champions League, or UCL, has just begun its 2019-2020 season. In the 2019 Final, Liverpool defeated Tottenham Hotspur, both Premier League (England) squads, in Madrid, Spain. The 2020 Final will be played in Istanbul, Turkey in May.

Qualification for the UEFA Champions League is based on each club’s performance in their domestic league in the previous season, in this case, the 2018-2019 season. With the more competitive leagues, such as the “Big Five” listed above, qualifying more teams. After a preliminary round, a few qualifying rounds and a playoff round for clubs in weaker leagues, a draw for the group stage is held, where 32 teams are drawn into eight groups of four. Each team will play the other three teams in their group twice. And the top two teams, points-wise, will move on to the knockout phase. Group A: Paris (FRA), Real Madrid (ESP), Club Brugge (BEL), Galatasaray (TUR); Group B: Bayern (GER), Tottenham (ENG), Olympiacos (GRE), Crvena zvezda (SRB); Group C: Man. City (ENG), Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR), Dinamo Zagreb (CRO), Atalanta (ITA); Group D: Juventus (ITA), Atlético Madrid (ESP), Leverkusen (GER), Lokomotiv Moskva (RUS); Group E: Liverpool (ENG), Napoli (ITA), Salzburg (AUT), Genk (BEL); Group F: Barcelona (ESP), Dortmund (GER), Internazionale (ITA), Slavia Praha (CZE); Group G: Zenit (RUS), Benfica (POR), Lyon (FRA), Leipzig (GER); Group H: Chelsea (ENG), Ajax (NED), Valencia (ESP), Lille (FRA).

Matchday 1 Results & Summary

Probably the most anticipated game of Matchday 1, Paris Saint-Germain defeated Real Madrid 3-0 with two goals from Ángel di Maria in the first half and another from Thomas Meunier in the 90th minute. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe both sat out due to serving a three-game ban and a muscle injury, respectively. This result puts Paris Saint-Germain atop Group A, setting them up for Matchday 2, where they will face Galatasaray .

Juventus and Atlético Madrid produced the most exciting game of Matchday 1, resulting in a 2-2 draw. After finding themselves 2-0 down in the second half, Atlético came back, scoring a goal in the 70th minute, with the game-tying goal coming in the 90th minute from Hector Herrera. Cristiano Ronaldo, now with Juventus, is looking to continue his world-class performance in European competition after a disappointing 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.

In the most surprising result of Matchday 1, Liverpool, winners of the 2019 Final, were defeated by Napoli (ITA) 2-0, with both goals coming late in the second half. An unfortunate penalty kick put away by Dries Mertens in the 82nd minute and a goal from a defensive mistake was scored in the 92nd minute, putting Liverpool in third in Group E.

Matchday 2 Results & Summary

The biggest shock of Matchday 2 was definitely Bayern Munich’s thrashing of Tottenham, a 7-2 win. Winger Serge Gnabry had a stellar performance notching four goals against the Spurs. The recent talk of the decline of FC Barcelona ended up being a little exaggerated, as the Catalan side was able to come from behind and beat Inter Milan, 2-1. With both goals coming from Luis Suarez, one in the form of a spectacular volley in the 58th minute and the other in the 85th minute, coming from an assist from Messi.

Liverpool survived a Red Bull Salzburg comeback, with Mohamed Salah scoring the fourth and winning goal in the 69th minute, his second of the game, making the final score 4-3. Youngster forward Erling Braut Håland had another great performance with a goal in the second half to tie it at 3-3 for Salzburg.

Juventus found their first win of the competition by beating Bayern Leverkusen by 3-0 at the Allianz Stadium. Gonzalo Higuaín opened up the score at the 17th minute and assisted Frederico Bernardeschi to increase the lead. Cristiano Ronaldo added final numbers with a quick strike to the lower left corner past the goalie in the 88th minute.