Champions League: 5 issues we realized from Matchday 5

There’s just one spherical of video games left within the group stage of the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League following Wednesday’s slate of six contests. 

Listed below are 5 fast ideas following a consequential Matchday 5: 

Mohamed Salah propels Liverpool into the knockout stage   

For the primary 41 minutes of Wednesday’s match between Liverpool and Ajax in Amsterdam, the guests had been on the again foot. The Dutch aspect had been everywhere in the Reds. It appeared solely a matter of time earlier than they’d rating. 

As an alternative, Mo Salah did what he’s been doing all season within the Champions League. He put his woefully inconsistent group on his again, scoring his competition-leading seventh objective to ship Jurgen Klopp’s aspect into the second spherical: 

The strike modified the match. Liverpool doubled their lead by way of Darwin Núñez’s free kick 4 minutes after halftime, and Salah helped put the sport out of the hosts’ attain when his seeing-eye cross arrange Harvey Elliott for the Reds’ third rating.

Throughout an up-and-down season for a membership that has reached three of the final 5 Champions League finals, the place would Liverpool be this season with out Salah?

No fast repair for Barcelona, who exit early once more

Earlier than internet hosting Bayern Munich on Wednesday, Barca supervisor Xavi stated his group wanted “more than a miracle” to qualify for the knockout part of the Champions League.

They didn’t get it; the five-time European champ was mathematically eradicated from knockout stage competition by Inter Milan’s 4-0 victory over Czech aspect Viktoria Plzen, which kicked off a few hours earlier, earlier than the match on the Camp Nou even began.

With nothing however pleasure left to play for, the lifeless Blaugrana suffered a deserved 2-0 loss to a Bayern group fielding a number of reserves after punching their ticket to the second spherical final week. So now it’s again to the second-tier Europa League for one of many continent’s superpowers for the second yr in a row.

That this embarrassing state of affairs was a forgone conclusion after Barca took simply 4 factors from its first 4 Champions League matches is little comfort for a membership that gained 4 of these European titles this century. It’s now clear simply how damaging the monetary mismanagement that prevented Barcelona from re-signing Lionel Messi final summer time (and compelled them to half methods with a number of gamers, like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who may’ve helped) actually was.

Perhaps Messi, who’ll be a free agent in July, returns for 2023-24. However there’s no fast repair right here for Barca. The gulf in school between them and Bayern on Tuesday solely bolstered that tough reality.

Bayern, Napoli keep good

Bayern’s scientific away win upped their document to 5-0. The one different group nonetheless good within the competitors is Napoli, which simply dispatched Group A cellar dweller Rangers on Wednesday.

It’s been a magical 2022-23 to this point for the Neapolitans, who additionally sit atop Serie A as they chase their first Italian title since Diego Maradona performed for the membership greater than three a long time in the past. The Scudetto is extra essential to their followers than the European Cup, to make sure. And the Champions League will get more durable beginning subsequent week, when Napoli visits a Liverpool group bent on exacting revenge on an opponent that performed them off the pitch on Sept. 7 to open this yr’s event.

Nonetheless, 5 video games in, it’s unimaginable to disregard: Napoli seems like a real contender.

Chelsea completes spectacular turnaround underneath Graham Potter 

The 2021 champs appeared like they is perhaps headed for a primaryspherical exit this marketing campaign based mostly on their first two matches. A stunning loss in Croatia to Dinamo Zagreb within the Blues opener price then-manager Thomas Tuchel his job. Chelsea then drew FC Salzburg at dwelling of their second recreation. 

When the calendar flipped to October, the Blues slowly started to show issues round — culminating with their third straight win this month on Tuesday. The two-1 victory in Salzburg despatched them into the knockout stage with yet one more group stage recreation — at dwelling to Dimamo — to come back on Nov. 2. 

Kai Havertz, who scored the objective that gave Chelsea the title two seasons in the past, transformed the winner within the second half with a postage-stamp strike: 

The Blues are starting to search out their toes underneath Potter in Premier League play, too. It’s too early to foretell the place they’ll be when the enterprise finish of Europe’s prime membership competitors resumes early subsequent yr, particularly with a World Cup between from time to time.

But when Chelsea’s first two Champions League video games had one of many continent’s most gifted squads wanting like also-rans, their final three counsel that one other deep run this spring is a practical objective.

The place does Juventus go from right here? 

Juventus wanted to beat Benfica Tuesday to keep away from a humiliating group-stage exit. Not solely did they not get it, they had been totally and soundly overwhelmed in Portugal — even when the 4-3 rating line makes it appear to be it was shut. 

It wasn’t. Benfica, who together with Paris Saint-Germain certified for the second spherical Tuesday, had been up 3-1 at halftime. 5 minutes after the break, simply while you’d count on essentially the most pushback from Max Allegri’s aspect, Rafa Silva punished a sloppy giveaway by scoring his second to make it 4-1. 

This wasn’t the way it was purported to go for Juve this season after they let the likes of Federico Bernardeschi, Álvaro Morata and Aaron Ramsey go away the membership for nothing. New signings Paul Pogba and Ángel Di María have been injured, whereas fellow recruit Leandro Paredes missed Tuesday’s contest after hurting his biceps final week. 

Understandably, Juventus see themselves as one in every of Europe’s main golf equipment. They’re determined to win their second Champions League title and first since 1996. However they couldn’t do it with a close-to-his-prime Cristiano Ronaldo within the fold from 2018-2021, and so they haven’t even completed within the prime three in Italy since their nine-season successful streak got here screeching to a halt three years in the past. 

Proper now they’re eighth in Serie A. Juve will play for pleasure subsequent week towards PSG. They need to relish it. Except one thing adjustments quickly, they gained’t have to fret concerning the Champions League in any respect subsequent marketing campaign. 

One of many main soccer journalists in North America, Doug McIntyre has coated United States males’s and ladies’s nationwide groups at a number of FIFA World Cups. Earlier than becoming a member of FOX Sports activities in 2021, he was a workers author with ESPN and Yahoo Sports activities. Comply with him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

Get extra from UEFA Champions League Comply with your favorites to get details about video games, information and extra