The Champions League group stage is underway and Matchday 1 is wrapped up as Real Madrid defend their title and 31 other clubs vie to claim the honor of being Europe's best team. After a thrilling first round of games, we asked our writers James Olley, Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens to answer some of our burning questions.
What caught your attention from Matchday 1?
Marcotti: So many storylines ... Shakhtar Donetsk, whose team was gutted as so many players were granted permission to leave the club as a result of the war but won 4-1 at RB Leipzig. Robert Lewandowski's hat trick. Atletico Madrid's 101st-minute winner from "Mister half hour," Antoine Griezmann. Liverpool, who lost 4-1 and could have conceded six in Naples and, of course, Thomas Tuchel getting sacked after that horrible display in losing 1-0 at Dinamo Zagreb.
Laurens: I loved the fact that some of the supposed weakest sides in the groups put up great performances in this first week. Sporting CP, Dinamo Zagreb and Club Brugge are not favorites to go through and yet they all started with famous wins. Sporting rode their luck first at Eintracht Frankfurt before winning 3-0. Dinamo created a huge upset by beating Chelsea and got Tuchel sacked, while Brugge poured more misery on Gerardo Seoane and Bayer Leverkusen with a great 1-0 victory at home in an amazing atmosphere! Well done to all of them and let's see if they can continue like this.
Olley: Tuchel enjoyed such remarkable success with Chelsea in the Champions League, winning the competition in 2021, that it almost feels an insult to the 49-year-old that his final appearance in the competition with the Blues was a dismal defeat in Zagreb. There was discontent behind the scenes for some time prior to Wednesday's decision to sack Tuchel but nevertheless, it's conceivable that he may have clung onto his job for a little longer had Chelsea not been so wretched in the Croatian capital.
What was the biggest shock result?
Marcotti: For me, it's Shakhtar winning 4-1 at Leipzig. They lost more than 10 players over the summer because FIFA, understandably, gave them the right to become free agents given the situation in Ukraine with the war. And here they are beating Leipzig, complete with Timo Werner, Andre Silva and Christopher Nkunku. Away from home, too. I know Leipzig have been struggling (and sacked boss Domenico Tedesco the day after) but this was huge and a great story.
Laurens: It has to be Chelsea's defeat in Zagreb against Dinamo. Their performance was a summary of all the issues that the Blues currently have and everything they are missing right now: lack of inspiration, lack of patterns of play with the ball, lack of efficiency when they actually manage to create something, lack of aggression, lack of cohesion, lack of confidence and lack of defensive solidity. They were punished by Mislav Orsic, who always scores against English clubs and exposed Chelsea's problems.
Olley: Hard to avoid Liverpool here. It is getting harder and harder for Jurgen Klopp to explain away Liverpool's slow start to the season as not symptomatic of something deeper. Their defending in Naples was shambolic while the midfield was often overwhelmed, continuing a general theme of underperformance which raises questions about Liverpool's ability to reach the same impressive levels as in recent seasons. It is only Matchday 1 -- that's about the only good piece of news for Klopp -- but things have to start improving quickly and Ajax will likely provide a stern test of their resolve when visiting Anfield next Tuesday.
Who are the players that impressed?
Marcotti: Big shout out to Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Victor Osimhen and, of course, Kvaradona (the nickname for Khvicha Kvaratskhelia) in Napoli's win over Liverpool. Not exactly news, but I love Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe continuing their Next Gen (or is it This Gen) rivalry with some tremendous goals for Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, respectively. Can't ignore Lewandowski's hat trick (and the backheel) either. Also, how about Tottenham Hotspur Academy graduate Marcus Edwards, the former "Enfield Messi," scoring one and setting up another in a big away win for Sporting?
Laurens: Neymar was outstanding for PSG against Juventus on Tuesday. The 30-year-old touched the ball 92 times and was so influential and hard to play against. It was a joy to see him at this level and enjoying his football. I was impressed with the performance of Mohammed Kudus, 22, for Ajax against Rangers. He scored his first Champions League goal in style and was outstanding all game. Finally, the name of Mykhailo Mudryk was mentioned a lot in England in the last days of the transfer window and the Shakhtar winger showed against RB Leipzig why he was so coveted. He scored one goal and assisted two more and was unplayable at times. At 21, the sky's the limit.
Olley: Lewandowski doing Lewandowski things. It was only Viktoria Plzen at Camp Nou, but amid all the financial tumult and upheaval this summer, the 34-year-old proved he is as close a thing to a bankable goal scorer in this competition. In the process, Lewandowski becomes the first player to score a Champions League hat trick for three different teams (Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich were the others) and this represents the perfect warm-up for a trip to face Bayern next week. Bayern will palpably make it tougher, but Lewandowski will be ready.