When the groups were drawn for this year’s UEFA Champions League on August 27th, Group D looked like one of the most “open and shut” of the entire tournament. Between Juventus (last season’s runners-up) and Manchester City (so clearly dominating the English Premier League this season), the group’s top two teams were easy to identify. What were the chances of either of these top-ranking football clubs bowing out of the UCL before the knockouts? Never mind the fact that Sevilla were coming off two straight Europa League titles, or that Borussia Monchengladbach had just played one of their best seasons ever in the German Bundesliga. In the eyes of most soccer fans and experts alike, Champions League 2015 – 2016 Group D belonged to the Zebras and the Sky Blues.
After week one of the Champions League group stage, though, nothing looks quite so clear anymore.
Of the four football clubs competing in Group D this year, it wasn’t Juventus or Manchester City that scored a big win on September 15th; it was Sevilla. The reigning Europa League title-holders tore through Borussia Monchengladbach to earn a 3-0 home victory—a perfect start to a long shot UCL campaign.
One thing that might be working in Sevilla’s favor here is that they aren’t facing a ton of pressure. If they finish in the top two in Group D, they’ll progress to the round of 16, which would be an accomplishment. If they finish third, they’ll transfer over to the Europa League, where they’ll be able to try their hands at winning a third straight title. It’s more or less a win-win situation for the Red and Whites, so long as they don’t drop to fourth.
Borussia Monchengladbach: Too Weak to Contend?
Sevilla seem just about guaranteed a finish in the top three after Tuesday’s game—though that has more to do with a shoddy Monchengladbach squad than anything else. Sevilla may very well show a few cracks when they face Juventus and Manchester City later this fall. Borussia Monchengladbach, though, seem unlikely at the moment to even win a group stage fixture—let alone cause trouble for any of the other soccer squads in Group D.
Monchengladbach flourished in last year’s Bundesliga partially because Borussia Dortmund were having such an off year. The downfall of one of Germany’s top football clubs left openings near the top of the table, and the Foals took one of them, soaring to third place on the league standings table. This season, though, with Borussia Dortmund evidently back from the dead, Monchengladbach have tumbled to the very bottom of the table.
In other words, the team’s players can’t be in very high spirits right now, and that showed in their September 15th fray with Sevilla. Between poor defending and dirty play (the Foals picked up three yellow cards in the space of three minutes), Monchengladbach virtually gave the game away to their opponents. Indeed, two of Sevilla’s three goals came from penalty kicks, and a third free kick went unconverted.
Bottom line, Borussia Monchengladbach are going to have to clean up their play if they are going to be more than a blip on the radar in a tough group. For now, though, Sevilla benefit from the German club’s weaknesses, with three points in the group standings and a +3 in the goal difference column.
Juventus Edge out Manchester City
Elsewhere, Juventus broke Manchester City’s home field advantage to win 2-1 in their first 2015 – 2016 Champions League fixture. Man City were tipped as the favorites to win the match, not only because they were hosting, but also because they’ve been having a good domestic league season and Juventus have not.
Juve looked down and out after giving the Sky Blues the lead at 57 minutes, in the form of an own goal. But the Zebras rallied to score two goals in the last 20 minutes of regulation time, ultimately winning the match. The win is a solid dose of morale for Juventus, who needed it after such a crummy season opening.
The next Group D UCL matches are scheduled for September 30th. The first game will see Borussia Monchengladbach hosting Manchester City while the latter will send Sevilla to Italy to face Juventus. The former match should be an easy win for the Sky Blues, who need to redeem themselves a bit to get back into the running. The latter, meanwhile, could go either way: Juventus are the historically better team, but Sevilla’s momentum from match one could carry them. Stay tuned to see what happens.
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