Published On: Thu, Sep 28th, 2017

4 European giants toiling after opening Champions League matchdays

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Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

Two matchdays down, four to go. It seems a tad premature to forecast disasters for some of Europe’s storied outfits, but the fact that some have begun with a limp is inescapable. Here are the four teams that need an upturn in fortunes for the rest of their respective group-stage conquests.


It’s the same old story at Liverpool – so why hasn’t Jurgen Klopp sorted it out?

Loris Karius didn’t do his already-lagging reputation any favours in how he dealt with Spartak Moscow‘s free-kick on Tuesday. He looked late to react – perhaps leaning too much on his right leg – and then killed his spring with one unnecessary bounce when trying to meet Fernando’s set-piece to his left. The effort whipped into the net, but it could’ve been pawed at.

With goalkeepers like Karius and Simon Mignolet, and a defender like Dejan Lovren, Liverpool is going to be ineffectually scrambling for clean sheets like a substitute teacher ferreting a kindergarten’s waste paper drawer.

To make matters worse, Liverpool’s oft-ferocious four – Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane – were guilty of wastefulness in Moscow.

Considering the fluffed chances against Sevilla and Spartak, just two points on the board is a poor start from Klopp’s lot.

Borussia Dortmund

The opening third of Borussia Dortmund‘s group meetings has been the toughest slate in the competition – Tottenham Hotspur away, then reigning champion Real Madrid at the Westfalenstadion – but the manner of its defeats should cause concern.

Dortmund was on the end of some contentious decisions in north London and outplayed Spurs for periods, but was ultimately banished by a more ruthless and battle-hardened squadron. Then, in Tuesday’s tilt, Peter Bosz’s decision to stick to a high press and his indecision over a formation simply aided Los Blancos in recording a 3-1 win in North Rhine-Westphalia.

(Courtesy: @OptaFranz)

There’s no choice: Dortmund has to win both upcoming tests against APOEL Nicosia to have any opportunity of salvaging an ailing continental term.


Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko, and backup striker Valere Germain. The vast majority of clubs would’ve missed departing talent of that standard, but not enough to surrender a harrowing 3-0 home defeat to FC Porto.

Monaco-Matin, a daily newspaper in the principality, headlined its front page with “Le camouflet” the following day – “The humiliation” – and it wasn’t an overstatement. It was the first time Monaco conceded three goals at home in a Champions League encounter. Players like Rachid Ghezzal and Adama Diakhaby don’t seem up to scratch, and those who should be relied upon in European clashes – an experienced head like Joao Moutinho or precocious talent like Thomas Lemar – were ineffectual.

Ponderous Monaco has to improve, and faces surprise package Besiktas in its next two Champions League bouts. Leonardo Jardim’s lads currently have one point from a possible six.


Victor Lindelof isn’t getting much of a crack at Manchester United, but with his accurate and expansive distribution – he completed 88 percent of his passes in the Primeira Liga and Champions League last season – he has all the assets to become a leading defender in England. He’s the belated successor of Rio Ferdinand at Old Trafford.

To lose that reliable figure in the backline has evidently weakened Benfica‘s foundations. A 5-0 defeat at FC Basel on Wednesday was shameful, with possession squandered by even the more technically gifted players, such as set-piece wizard Pizzi. With the opening match of Benfica’s campaign yielding a 2-1 home loss to CSKA Moscow, the two-time European champion is rooted to the bottom of Group A.

Benfica has been running a more lucrative enterprise than Portuguese rival Porto in buying and selling players in recent years, but not sufficiently replacing Lindelof – and perhaps Ederson Moraes, who’s now first choice between the sticks for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City – seems to be a serious misstep.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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