The Champions League is back and already we’ve seen a number of shocks and surprises as the group stages get underway. Of course, to play in the tournament amongst Europe’s elite is one thing, but to go one better and win the prestigious trophy is another – and all participating teams will be vying for a place in the final, in Istanbul next year.
In a whirlwind opening round of fixtures, there were plenty of talking points, and here we focus on the statistics of note. Of course, records are there to be broken, and these individuals and teams are already record breakers at this early stage in the competition. There’s no doubt that these, and other records, will be surpassed as the Champions League progresses.
Online betting fans probably wouldn’t have got very good odds for a Barcelona win, as they took on Hungarian minnows Ferencváros. And while fans were certain of a dominant display and plenty of goals, few could have predicted that records would be broken. Barça’s forward, Ansu Fati became the youngest player to score a Champions League goal last season, when the Catalan giants took on Inter Milan in December. And scoring again in this game, he became the first player under 18 to score multiple goals in the competition. In fact, when Pedri added a fourth, Barcelona made history – and became the first team in Champions League history to have more than one 17-year-old score in the same game.
…And Messi’s magic!
When it comes to the GOAT (greatest of all time) debate, we should just appreciate that the two of the best players ever are on show at the same time. Both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have incredible statistics, have created and broken numerous records. But in their Group G game against Ferencváros, the Argentine made history. In opening the scoring, from the penalty spot, Messi netted his 116th career goal in the Champions League. But he became the first player to score in 16 consecutive Champions League seasons.
Ring the Bell for the young Jude
Jude Bellingham has become the youngest Englishman to play in the Champions League. While his team, Borussia Dortmund suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Lazio, Bellingham started the match, before eventually being substituted in the second half and replaced by Giovanni Reyna. At 17 years 113 days, the Stourbridge-born youngster breaks the record previously held by Phil Foden, who played in Manchester City’s tie against Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2017-18 season. Foden was 17 years 192 days old at the time. The midfielder joined Dortmund in the summer, from Birmingham City – and turned down advances from Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
Ole’s Red Devils are in red-hot form!
And to Manchester United now, who recorded a surprise win over last season’s runners-up, Paris Saint-Germain. It was a confident and clinical display from a side who have had a mixed bag of results in the Premier League so far this campaign – including a 6-1 hammering at Old Trafford against Tottenham Hotspur. And manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has managed a feat even Sir Alex couldn’t during his 25-year tenure – 10 away games without defeat, in all competitions. The run started last season, with a 2-1 extra-time win against Norwich City in the FA Cup. Since June, United have beaten Brighton (three times), Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Luton Town, Newcastle United and now PSG – all on the road. After that dismal defeat against Spurs, the only way is up for Ole and United – and this most recent victory is sure to bring a bit of confidence back.