If nothing else, the first round of the Champions League group matches proved that after all the hype and over-reaction to form and one-off wonders, football is a game of constants (relatively speaking).
In short, here’s what we already know (but often refuse to believe):
- Chelsea‘s success is down to two factors: A top-notch squad and a will to win. Most people underestimate the latter, but you can’t buy a title with just money – Mourinho’s contribution to Chelsea’s rise is sadly under-rated in the media.
This team will do whatever it takes to win the matches that need to be won. They have their flaws but are a tough team to beat.
- Barcelona, AC Milan and Bayern Munich can look awesome against weak teams and are deservedly three of the top European sides, but they are all fallible. I’m predicting a Barca upset in the knock-out rounds – like Chelsea, their opponents have started to catch on to their tricks and have started picking out the flaws in their game.
- Liverpool’s lack of goals will keep haunting them until they change their style of play.
- Inter are yet another example of money and buying sprees not being enough to win matches.
- Arsenal’s emphasis on translating home form into Champions League success has meant that the players are now less motivated for league games than they are for cup games. Strange? Arsenal’s slump in form is a dressing-room problem, not a tactics or form issue.
- Valencia continue to look dangerous but their past is any indication they will again flatter to decieve.
- Lyon proved that it will take more than Diarra, Nistelrooy, Cannavaro and Capello to fix Real Madrid’s problems. Capello has a frighteningly talented squad at his disposal but if he wants to put an emphasis on defensive solidity he’ll need to give Cannavaro more cover.
- Manchester United are still very shaky in the Champions League, and while they should get out of the group stages easily, I don’t know how we’d fare in the knock-out stages. Our form against the big teams is still a concern – defeats against Chelsea and Liverpool last season aren’t exactly encouraging. A lot hinges on Sunday’s match against Arsenal on the 17th.
There are still 5 more group matches to go, plus 3 two-legged knock-out rounds before the 23rd May final next year in Athens.
I’m back from my trip, so for the next round of group games (26th and 27th September) you’ll see more detailed coverage, previews and match reviews (and yes, goal vids as well).