I was keen to see how the English teams did against their German counterparts. Last year when I was in charge at Inter Milan, we came up against Werder Bremen who we beat 4-0 in the first match and I had the impression that there was a big difference between a team who are the Champions of the Bundesliga and the other European ‘giants’ like Inter. In the return game they beat us (3-0) but we had already qualified and we used young players to give more time to our injured players to recover for the FIFA Club World Cup.
After the first two encounters last night, Chelsea - Bayer Leverkeusen and Borussia Dortmund – Arsenal, I got a much better impression of the two German teams.
There was nothing special about the systems. A 4-2-3-1 for both sides as a match strategy which at times converted to 4-4-2 with good organisation, work rate – a high work rate – and some flashes of ability. Both teams played with a high intensity throughout the game as you would expect at this level and in the first match.
Arsenal got a good result against the German Champions, a club that generates a great atmosphere at home and makes their players give more which shows in their challenges. A lot of initial pressure by Dortmund with Arsenal gradually getting in to the game. Even more pressure in the second half by Borussia Dortmund, with Arsenal holding out well to gain a point which will give them confidence for the future games. One point though – great goal by Perisic.
On their part, Chelsea got 3 points but also had a difficult time against Leverkeusen. Villas-Boas had to use the bench and change players’ positions to find space against the organised German lines of defence. There was a lot of speculation before the game about whether Torres would play and he did start. Fernando’s passes to David Luiz and Juan Mata for both goals will take a bit of pressure off him and may give him confidence in the next few games.
As I said, I was looking forward to see how the Germans did against the English teams and I think that the Bundesliga is getting closer. They have some good young players with ability and they are guaranteed to work hard as the Germans always do. If we assume that Bayern Munich may be the strongest German team, it will be interesting to see how far they get this year.
Of the Barca – Milan match, nothing stood out much except that the Italians scored two goals, one in the first and one in the last minute, making Barcelona pay for lack of concentration and defensive intensity. Barcelona did not deserve such a punishment, but...Genk – Valencia, the stat still holds that Valencia don’t lose in the first game of the Champions League group stages. It followed the pattern but I would have liked to see a more favourable result for them, they would have deserved it.
An historic result at the top level for Apoel Nicosia, their first win in the competition, and against Zenit, not a bad milestone to remember in years to come. And to complete the set of games in an intense night of European football, the hard-earned win for Porto over Shakhtar, a win for Olympique Marseille against Olympiakos and a share of the points between Viktoria Plzen and Bate Borisov which leaves the Barca group as it was. And more to come today...