We’re two games into this season’s Champions League, meaning we officially have all the definitive answers as to how the competition will play out for the rest of the season.
First game nerves are out of the way and the second round of fixtures showed us how the groups are beginning to shape up. A club can get away with a howler of a result in gameweek one, but another in gameweek two and suddenly the alarm bells start ringing.
Football would be much less fun if us fans weren’t so inherently reactive and emotionally charged with opinions, so let’s throw a few more into the gauntlet. Here’s the hottest of hot takes for each side in the Champions League after gameweek two…
Why is it so normal to leave Ajax for pastures new after one good season?
Yes, it probably involves lots of money and arguably more stardom, but the Dutch side always bounce back from summer flash sales, while the players they lose half of the time struggle.
Ajax is the place to be and they’ll prove it with another impressive cameo in the latter stages of the knockout rounds this season.
Be honest – you hadn’t even heard of them 12 months ago, had you?
It’s okay, we’re all still getting accustomed to Atalanta’s sudden rise to prominence. It’s not just a European fluke, either. They’re a much more stable and assured side than defending Serie A champions Juventus this season, and could end up winning the Scudetto themselves.
It’s this simple.
The glory days are gone and the honeymoon period is dead and buried. If Atletico want to capitalise on a gap in the market in both Spain and Europe, they need a refresh.
They’ve got too comfortable under Simeone and could become the best team in Europe under new management. Don’t envy the person having to do the sacking, though.
It sounds mental, because Busquets has been one of the best midfielders in the world over the past decade, but he’s finished. Done. Finito.
Rip up his contract or send him on a three-year loan to Turkey, because he’s holding the side back from progressing with a youthful outlook.
Bayern Munich in attack operate like a Mercedes-AMG SLS that’s been turbocharged even more, but in defence they’re actually more reminiscent of a 20-year-old Volkswagen Golf.
Sure, it’s one for the history books and holds a little sentimental value here and there, but it’s like flogging a dead horse at this point. Loads of mileage, no consistency. David Alaba likely leaving creates another problem, too.
If they don’t address the issue soon, they’ll fall back down the European ladder quicker than they climbed up it.
Keeping hold of Jadon Sancho was a big enough victory for Dortmund this summer, so to keep hold of Erling Haaland too is a huge boost.
The players look inspired and they’ve managed to keep together a seriously talented squad. If they can’t crack the Bundesliga, they’ll have to reign supreme in Europe instead.
They’ll make the final.
There’s not much to say about teams like Brugge, but there’s often a hidden gem waiting to be discovered in there.
Krepin Diatta is 20 years old and looks like a serious talent. Primarily a right winger, he’ll be key throughout what’s left of their group stage endeavour.
Remember the name, he’ll be in the Premier League or Bundesliga soon enough.
That stripy kit – we all thought it looked like a fake Crystal Palace shirt when it was launched.
It’s not that bad though, is it? It’s actually quite nice…
Juventus are a little bit of a train wreck currently, and Dynamo Kiev will absolutely take advantage of that.
Don’t expect anything monumental, but they’ll head into the round of 16 ahead of the Old Lady and might even sneak into the quarter finals.
They claimed their first group stage point in 25 years against Kiev, and will be up for it on the big occasion against a falling giant.
Nothing to lose, all guns blazing, the Hungarian side will snatch a win against Juventus in the group stages.
Expect Antonio Conte’s side to be firing on all fours after narrowly missing out on a Scudetto last season.
The typical mould of the Champions League has fallen away somewhat and teams are breaking back in; Inter’s attack will push them into the final four and cause an upset or two along the way.
This one is a bit outlandish, but hot takes only, right?
Istanbul Basaksehir were only formed in 1990 and won their maiden Turkish Super Lig last season, but a few lavish signings and troublesome owners will find them ceasing to exist in a few seasons.
Destined for a place in a ‘forgotten clubs’ list.
It isn’t shaping up to be a fun season for Juventus fans.
Andrea Pirlo has been thrown in far too deep and the board have asked far too much of him. They’ll struggle to retain the Serie A title and they’ll definitely find themselves booted into the Europa League after failing to make the knockouts.
Krasnodar sound like a team perfectly suited for the Europa League round of 32, but we all know that’s Sevilla’s spot for the taking.
Like John Cena returning at the 2008 Royal Rumble out of nowhere, Krasnodar will pop up in the Champions League round of 16 after a sneaky second place group finish.
It might be hard for Manchester United fans to believe, but there’s a good player in Andreas Pereira.
He’ll provide the creative spark and an edge for Lazio in the group stages and look completely refreshed. With such low expectation, he’ll look completely reborn and remind everyone he’s a more than capable footballer.
In case you hadn’t heard, Liverpool have lost Virgil van Dijk to injury.
The Dutchman is a key piece of the jigsaw and it’s bound to derail their season. They’ll get through a rather easy group, but a nightmare over two legs in the round of 16 will boot them out in disappointing fashion, despite them wanting to avenge last season’s poor showing.
They probably won’t be able to force enough points out of the games they face to sneak into the Champions League knockout stages, but Lokomotiv look tough to beat and will enter the Europa League.
There’s always one dark horse that makes it surprisingly far in the Europa League, and it’s Lokomotiv’s turn this year. Watch this space.
They don’t come hotter than this.
We could praise Guardiola’s genius all day, but he’s failed Manchester City. He was the chosen one to bring them European glory and last season was the chance, but he fumbled it.
The chips are down this season and it feels like the best chance has gone; it’s time to freshen things up. The Citizens need a new man at the helm with fresh motivation.
The PE teacher strikes again.
By no means is Manchester United’s squad good enough to win a Champions League, especially compared to some of the competition, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has tasted this level of European success with the club and knows just how much it means.
Two huge victories over PSG and RB Leipzig have already shown they could do the impossible with some good fortune, making up for a likely underwhelming domestic campaign.
This could’ve been Andre Villas Boas’ chance to rebuild his reputation, but no.
Marseille look poor when thrown into a pool of European elites and are off the pace. Florian Thauvin is the opposite however, and will leave the group stages with a £60m price tag over his head. Expect a big move next summer.
Midtjylland first came to prominence in a Europa League tie against Manchester United in 2016.
They’ve reached Europe’s premier tournament this season, and while they won’t get far this time round, they’re a side growing in confidence with a bright future.
If they keep going the way they are, there’s no reason why they can’t find Europa League silverware in the next couple of seasons.
Almost beating Real Madrid was no fluke.
Marco Rose has seriously impressed as head coach since joining from Red Bull Salzburg and will be at a big club in the next three seasons. Guardiola won’t be in Manchester much longer and Rose’s attacking, organised game would be a solid evolution.
Another season in Germany at most, and then he’ll be at the Etihad. Maybe.
Champions League veterans Olympiacos are a group stage ever-present but typically nothing more.
It’s different this year, though. The world’s gone mad and teams are capitulating when we least expect; they have an experienced squad and will sneak out of the groups and past the first knockout round.
Last season’s finalists aren’t getting out of the group stages.
They’ll finally win some European silverware, though, blitzing through the Europa League.
Porto will also drop into Europe’s B competition, where they’ll likely find their level.
They won’t reach the summit, but they’ll stay in long enough for Felipe Anderson to put together a Player of the Tournament-worthy highlight reel.
Yes, you read that correctly. It’s been a nightmare start for Los Blancos with just one point from their opening two fixtures, but it won’t get any easier.
They haven’t made it past the round of 16 in the last two seasons and will take a further hit when they’re shockingly dumped out of the group stages.
A team on the up, casual fans probably think nothing of RB Leipzig following a ‘fortunate’ semi final last year and subsequent 5-0 thrashing by United this season, but don’t be fooled.
Leading one of Europe’s most tactically adept sides is young coach Julian Nagelsmann. The 33-year-old has a bright future and will no doubt take over the reigns in Madrid when Zidane departs for a second time at the end of the season, if not earlier.
90min exclusively revealed that Manchester City are keeping tabs on Salzburg striker Patson Daka, and with their financial muscle, it’s bound to happen.
If City want him, they’ll likely land him. They need an Aguero replacement, and Daka has the potential to fill the boots.
The 17-year-old is earning rave reviews from just about every angle, which has ultimately boosted his stock no matter how good he actually is.
There’s no ceiling to his potential, and the speculation bumps up his price further. A big transfer is coming, and while it might not break the record straight away, he certainly will when he’s a little older.
The undisputed champions of the Europa League will surrender the title this season.
As mentioned earlier, PSG will storm the competition after dropping out of the Champions League.
The Ukrainian side are mainstays of the group stage but will shock the football world and go one further this year, edging past a poor Real Madrid side.
Knocked out in the round of 16, but a top effort nonetheless.
If speculation is correct and former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino does end up at Zenit, then surely he brings them some European silverware.
The Champions League would be too big an ask, but the Europa League is an attainable prize within the next couple of years.