Barcelona and Bayern Munich began their 2016-2017 Champions League campaigns with resounding victories as they each produced extremely impressive performances.
Both teams are aspiring to win a sixth European Cup title and commenced their respective quests to achieve that in a supremely confident and positive manner.
In doing so the two sides showcased their credentials as strong contenders to once again reach the latter stages of European’s football’s elite club competition, the final of which is to be held in the Cardiff National Stadium on 3 June 2017.
Barcelona breeze past Celtic
In terms of Barcelona’s potential journey to Cardiff, that started with Luis Enrique’s side inflicting a 7-0 defeat on Celtic at the Nou Camp, which represents the Glasgow club’s heaviest ever European loss.
As they have so often done since first playing together at the start of season 2014-2015, Barcelona’s forward triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez delivered an attacking masterclass to ruthlessly torment Celtic.
Whereas Messi scored a hat-trick, the 29-year-old’s sixth in the Champions League, Neymar beat Celtic goalkeeper Dorus De Vries with a wonderful free-kick and also provided four goal-scoring assists, whilst Suarez completed the scoring with Barca’s sixth and seventh goals.
Subsequently in just over two seasons playing alongside one another, the South American trio have now scored a combined 266 goals and assisted a further 128. Equally as influential a figure for Barcelona as Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez are, is Andres Iniesta, who also scored against Celtic as the 32-year-old strives to become a five times Champions League winner with the Catalan giants, after helping them triumph in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015.
Ancelotti guides Bayern to impressive win over Rostov
In the latter of those four years, Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in the final, after recording a 5-3 semi-final aggregate victory over Bayern Munich. The Bavarian giants opened up their current Champions League campaign by comprehensively beating FC Rostov 5-0, as Bayern’s Carlo Ancelotti became the first man to manage seven clubs in the competition. The 57-year-old Italian’s wealth of Champions League managerial experience was previously built during spells with Parma, Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid.
Although it took almost half-an-hour for Bayern to take the lead through Robert Lewandowski’s expertly converted a penalty, thereafter they confidently dismantled their Russian opponents, with Joshua Kimmich playing a particularly prominent role.
Specifically the 21-year-old scored twice in between goals from Thomas Mueller and Juan Bernat. In doing so, on a personal level, Kimmich capped an excellent 10-day period, during which he scored his first goal for Germany, first league goal for Bayern and first Champions League goals, after his brace against Rostov.
Atletico win in Eindhoven
Bayern’s next Champions League game is against the team who beat them at the semi – final stage of last season’s competition, Atletico Madrid, with Diego Simeone’s side also winning their first group – D – game. In order to do Los Rojiblancos produced a typically determined and resolute display as their 21-year-old midfielder Saul Niguez’s scored a spectacular scissor kick to earn Atletico a 1-0 victory over PSV, although they were fortunate to do so. As well as Luuk De Jong having a goal disallowed, PSV missed a penalty when Andres Guardado had his spot – kick saved by Jan Oblak.
As such each of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich have enjoyed successful, albeit differing, starts to this season’s Champions League, whilst so too did Napoli.
A quartet of close contested affairs
Arkadiusz Milik scoring twice for the Serie A side in the Ukraine as they recovered from a goal down to win 2-1 against Dynamo Kiev, for whom Oleksandr Shovkovski kept goal to become the second oldest player in Champions League history at 41 years and 255 days. The oldest player remains former Lazio goalkeeper Marco Ballotta at 43 years and 252 days.
The other game in Napoli’s group – B – was drawn 1-1 between Benfica and Bestikas as the Brazilian striker Talisca struck a superb free-kick in the last minute to equalise for the Turkish Super Lig team against his parent club. Specifically Aguias enabled the 22-year-old to go on a season long loan to Besiktas, for whom Portugal’s Euro 2016 winner Ricardo Quaresma played an important role.
Whilst Benfica’s match with Besiktas ended in a draw, so too did the two games in Group A.
Specifically whilst the Bulgarian side Ludogrets withstood intense pressure from Basle in Switzerland to earn a 1-1 draw, that was also the same score line between PSG and Arsenal, as Arsene Wenger’s side recovered from conceding a first minute Edison Cavani goal, to equalise through Alexis Sanchez.
2016-2017 Champions League underway to an entertaining start
Therefore whereas Barcelona and Bayern started their Champions League campaigns with resounding victories, each of the other five games played on the first night of the competition were closely contested affairs. One match scheduled to take place but which did not was Manchester City’s fixture against Borussia Monchengladbach.
The Bundesliga club are set to be Barcelona’s next opponents in Group C on 28 September, whilst City will host Celtic on that same night.
In the interim each team’s focus will be upon domestic football commitments, whilst aiming to ensure that they enter their second group stage game in optimum form.
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