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Champions League excites, Swiss format looms

Posted: Sep 29, 2021
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The Champions League will be all new, all different, come 2024. No more groups of four fighting it out for top spot and a supposedly favourable seeding for the knockouts. Instead, it's a full-fledged league, and every team's opponents of the game will be left to the luck of the draw.

Chelsea weren't one of the favourites to win the Champions League last season, particularly after the stuttering run in December and January. Thomas Tuchel worked wonders in taking them all the way. Following that, the 2021/22 season has brought immensely exciting groups and unfancied results. As we look on towards a change in format, the Champions League in its current form is producing great excitement!

Champions League: Big group match-ups


This season there are some big, big groups in the Champions League. Group A has heavyweights Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain pitted against one another. Along with RB Leipzig and a competitive Club Brugge side, this is by far the group with the highest overall quality. Group B is close in that regard, as 2018/19 winners Liverpool face defending La Liga champions Atletico Madrid. There's also Porto, quarter-finalists last season, and six-time winners AC Milan, who admittedly are very far from those title-winning sides.

Group C is different, but still fiercely contested. Borussia Dortmund play in the knockouts every year. This time, Ajax stand in their way along with Portuguese league champions Sporting and Turkey's Besiktas. Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk meet again, with Sheriff Tiraspol making up Group D. And, in fact, leading after two games with six points.

Bayern Munich have a weakened, but still dangerous Barcelona in Group E. Manchester United face Villarreal, who defeated them in last season's Europa League final, along with Atalanta and Swiss league champions Young Boys. Surprise Ligue 1 winners Lille have Sevilla, Salzburg and Wolfsburg to negotiate in Group G.  Finally, defending champions Chelsea take on Juventus, Zenit and Malmo in Group H.


Champions League: PSG and Manchester United on the wrong side


Champions League - Group A - Club Brugge v Paris St GermainWhile the big matchups were the talk of the town, it was the unlikely ones that produced the shocks. In fact, the much-vaunted Bayern-Barcelona game was very one-sided as the Germans dominated. Instead, it was PSG and Manchester United who failed to do what everyone expected of them.

This was a summer with some unbelievable transfers, none more so than probably the two best footballers of the century - Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Ronaldo took the field first, and even opened the scoring for Manchester United against Swiss side Young Boys. However, everything unravelled after Aaron Wan-Bissaka's red card. They ended up on the losing side, despite the fact that many considered this fixture as one of the easiest for Manchester United in their group. Paris Saint-Germain then began their Champions League group stage campaign with a frontline that included Lionel Messi beside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. In a group with Manchester City and RB Leipzig, Club Brugge were supposedly the easiest opponents, but the Belgians held their star-studded attack to a draw.

Indeed, the Champions League is offering a reminder of exactly why it attracts viewers from all over the world.


New Champions League format may take the fun away


Jordan Siebatcheu wins the game for Young BoysWhen the new format kicks in, there will be more Champions League games to watch. Indeed, instead of six group stage games for every team, there will be ten. But is that really so much better? Right now, the possibility of difficult groups with big games keeps the excitement alive. Moments such as Young Boys and Club Brugge avoiding the big losses they were supposed to get are what adds jeopardy to the competition.

There is no guarantee what kind of stakes the new format will bring. For a start, not everyone will begin on an equal footing, particularly if the rule about so-called 'big' clubs getting a lifeline stays. As it stands, clubs such as Manchester United or PSG will still be able to play in the Champions League even if they do not qualify in the traditional way. This takes away deserved spots from teams lower in the ladder of European football. In a way, it is an appeasement of the clubs which raised the idea of Super League. The ill-fated Super League idea, of course, is still kept alive by Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus. It is understandable, of course, considering the pandemic's effect on their finances.

There's still time for the changes to kick in, of course, but it isn't long now. This season's group stage is already one game in, and the second matchday is on the horizon. Soon enough, the knockouts will be here and in the excitement, we'll temporarily forget about the problems.


European football will continue, however


Champions LeagueWhatever the format may be, European football will continue, as it always has. The current format of the Champions League has been in existence for a couple of decades. Before that, there were two different group stages involved. Slowly, fans will get used to the new format, for sure. In some years' time, no one will be speaking of how good the previous years were. The trophy will change hands between the clubs, and certainly, the big names such as Real Madrid will be there in the list of winners.

 

For now, all we can do is enjoy the football and hope for the best!