Do you remember this time last year when every Tom, Dick and Harry thought the English sides were back to reclaim European dominance due to a good start in the group stage? Ah yes, glory days.
After playing eight games, England’s finest have racked up three wins, one draw and four losses between them.
It’s like Soul II Soul once said. Back to life and back to reality, even if they were singing about unconditional love as opposed to Spurs giving up points from winning positions.
Manchester United v Juventus: Tuesday – 20:00
The Ronaldo love-in is it? You can’t really blame them y’know. If we ever get drawn against Barcelona there will probably be a massive Suarez mosaic on the Kop, and rightly so. Hopefully, it’ll be one of him doing the dive in front of Moyes.
For a while there, it looked like Cristiano was going to start his gradual mid-thirties descent into mediocrity. But having consulted Google (because you’ve got too much spare time on your hands if you’re watching the foreign footy), he’s actually scored five goals in nine Serie A appearances.
When him and Messi do leave, everyone else is going to look so crap in comparison, aren’t they? It’s mad to think that before those two superhumans came along, the likes of Michael Owen and Fabio Cannavaro were winning Ballon d’Ors. One of them went on to play for Tony Pulis at Stoke, the other almost went to jail.
Then again, Ronnie might be doing one of those as well…
Mourinho looks like he’s weathered the storm for now with the aid of an international break and two spirited performances from behind, even if a win at Stamford Bridge eluded them on Saturday.
United have to go for this. Sooner or later, someone’s going to have to tell them they’re not going to win the league, and that the F.A. Cup, ever decreasing in prestige, probably won’t be enough for Jose in his never-ending battle for self-preservation.
Getting first place in the group could be huge in securing Mourinho’s men a route to the latter stages of the tournament. As much as it scares me, and would keep me up nights in April, United could do something from there.
The worldwide fan base are split and perhaps even despondent over the current status quo at Old Trafford, but those inside the ground still seem to be behind him.
If they could go on a run like Liverpool went on last year, they could find themselves actual challengers before long.
0-0 it is so.
PSV Eindhoven v Tottenham Hotspur: Wednesday – 17:55
Not lookin’ great lads, is it? It would be very easy to say ‘typical Spurs,’ but in fairness, losing 4-2 against Barcelona is no embarrassment, and it didn’t help that Inter had the 2018 real-life version of PES Adriano to send home a worldie.
A bit like City, they don’t seem to be that arsed about the Champions League, do they? They never make much of a song or dance over it, regardless of when they’re winning or losing. Even when they became like the 1970 Brazil side last season, getting 16 points in a group with Dortmund and Real Madrid, they managed to exit the competition without disturbing anyone, narrowly losing out to Juve as we all got on with our lives with minimum fuss.
In one sense, you have to feel a bit sorry for Spurs, they keep on getting handed these weird 5:55 PM kick-off times. It feels very Europa League.
Eindhoven are surely just in this for a few good aways at this stage. London, Barcelona and Milan isn’t bad as groups go.
Hard to see Pochettino’s lads not winning it.
Liverpool v Red Star Belgrade: Wednesday – 20:00
Ah, the Reds. (Joint) top of the League despite looking about as impressive all season as a Newcastle United/Cardiff City combined eleven.
I have a theory about every side east of Poland, it’s that none of them have ever flown before or even slept a single night in a foreign bed, because fucking hell they know how to play ball in their own ground but then conspire to look like Port Vale’s reserves when they come over to England.
Eleven years ago this week, Liverpool jetted off to Turkey to play Besiktas. They lost 2-1, conceding a goal to a man named Bobo.
Two weeks later, Liverpool beat the same side 8-0 in the reverse fixture at Anfield.
Red Star subscribe to this theory. They managed to get a 0-0 draw at home against the Neapolitans on matchday one, before getting thumped 6-1 at the Parc des Princes earlier this month.
A whole match-fixing scandal has arisen from that game, with a Red Star official allegedly placing 5 Million euros on his side to lose by five goals. The French authorities are investigating the claims, clearly unaware of how good their native side are, and that Paris winning by anything less was about as likely as Belgrade supporters making it through the group without a single UEFA sanction.
Unfortunately, they’re not allowed any fans at the match on Wednesday due to a ban for creating the greatest moment the Champions League has ever seen back in August.
Very tempted to leave Liverpool for Red Star Belgrade pic.twitter.com/O27LUfTHUW
— Liam Ó Duibhiolla (@TGTTGA) August 29, 2018
As it so happens, I’ll be sitting in what normally is the away end tomorrow night, in what will be a solely Liverpool crowd. I’ll be honest, I’d much rather be in there with a bunch of topless ultras from Belgrade, but that’s life.
It’s at home, but as mentioned earlier, we’re quite crap and no one seems to have noticed yet. Two-nil the Reds.
Shaktar Donetsk v Manchester City: Tuesday – 20:00
My other theory that City should just give their Champions League berth to whoever finishes fifth has also been strengthened this season.
? The Etihad stadium vs Lyon…
? 15,000 empty seats…
⚽️ On Matchday 1 of Champions League!
— FootyBall (@footyball10) September 21, 2018
They didn’t even sell out the ground lads.
In a fourth-round league cup tie against Wolves last year, they managed to get 10,000 more people through the gate than against Lyon.
It would be a bit mean trying to slaughter them, they’re just a very, very odd club.
They don’t want to be there. Give it to Arsenal and we at least get the Bayern Munich joke back again.
Donetsk are one of those sides who get to the group stages every year, but you never know anything about them. They just disappear without a trace around the last sixteen. A bit like Schalke, I couldn’t possibly tell you the name of anyone who plays for them. I imagine they’ll be wearing orange and black shirts though, so there’s that.
Shaktar, along with having the coolest name in European football, also managed to beat City last season, albeit in a dead rubber.
Then again, every game in this competition is a dead rubber for those lads. The boys from war-torn Ukraine to knick it 1-0.