10 Things We Learned In The Champions League This Week….Real Madrid Have Lost Their Aura Under Zinedine Zidane And Ajax Aren’t Missing De Jong And De Ligt

Ajax played brilliantly to beat Valencia 3-0 at the Mestalla and they face Chelsea next

It’s been another thrilling week of action in the Champions League as the clubs completed their second matchday in the group phase.

Highlights included Bayern Munich’s stunning 7-2 thrashing of Tottenham, a seven-goal thriller at Anfield and a superb game between Barcelona  and Inter Milan.

We reflect on the midweek action with 10 things we learned.

IT’S THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR POCH

The brutal reality is that healthy clubs don’t lose 7-2 in their backyard, however ruthless the opposition may be.

Bayern Munich are unquestionably a first class European force but Spurs, as Champions League finalists just four months ago, would rightly consider themselves as their peers.

The way Spurs collapsed to the heaviest home defeat ever suffered by an English team in European competition confirmed that the club are coming to the end of the Mauricio Pochettino era.

Once results and performances start moving in this direction, there is always only one outcome for the man in charge.

Pochettino hasn’t looked happy for quite some time now, he’s been irritable and it’s very sad to see.

There is also the very real sense that reaching the final in Madrid was the absolute limit of where Pochettino can take Spurs – at least without enormous investment in new players.

Spurs would have to pay Pochettino £32million if they dismiss him but the sense that he wants to leave after five years is very real and things could easily deteriorate further if he remains in place.

It will be easier for all concerned to make a clean break and as quickly as possible.

The way Tottenham collapsed was not symptomatic of a healthy club and change is needed

BAYERN HAVE DONE A WONDERFUL JOB WITH GNABRY

While delighting in his four-goal performance to humiliate their north London rivals, Arsenal fans will have been left questioning if this was the very same Serge Gnabry who left them in 2016.

This was the player who could never seem to get fit enough to win a place in Arsenal’s first team and who fell out with Tony Pulis when farmed out on loan to West Bromwich Albion.

But since Werder Bremen signed him for around £5m in the summer of 2016, his trajectory for both club and country Germany has been emphatically upwards.

His form in one season with Bremen was enough to earn a move to Bayern Munich but the best decision he made was to immediately join Hoffenheim on loan for greater game time.

Another impressive season followed and when he returned to the Allianz Arena, he was ready to perform for Germany’s best club and hasn’t looked back.

His performance on Tuesday night showed neatly how far he’s come from the kid languishing in Arsenal’s reserves.

Bayern Munich have transformed Serge Gnabry from Arsenal also-ran to world class talent

FIKAYO’S ONE FOR THE FUTURE

Chelsea’s academy coaches must keep saying ‘we told you they were good’ as their young charges keep impressing in Frank Lampard’s first team.

The club’s transfer embargo could prove to be the best thing that happened for the club now that the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have formed a homegrown spine to the side.

After excellence from Abraham and Mount in the early weeks of the season, 21-year-old defender Tomori was the latest to be singled out for praise by Lampard.

‘Fikayo was outstanding again. He has to keep on with that,’ the Chelsea boss said after their 2-1 win in Lille on Wednesday night.

Lampard rightly believes that the best way for these kids to learn their trade is to be thrown in at the deep end on the big occasions.

Tomori showed composure in what was a lively atmosphere and he looks increasingly likely to cement his place at the heart of Chelsea’s defence.

What’s more, he supplied the assist for Abraham to open the scoring and his form has won him an England call-up.

And another academy hopeful, 19-year-old full back Reece James, also caught the eye in northern France.

Fikayo Tomori was described as 'outstanding' by Frank Lampard in Chelsea's win over Lille

NOBODY FEARS REAL MADRID ANY MORE

The hat-trick of Champions League titles won by Zinedine Zidane during his first spell in charge of Real Madrid won an indelible place in football history.

But the aura of invincibility that accompanied those triumphs has quickly faded. The way Club Brugge came and took on Real in the Bernabeu showed that nobody fears them now.

The Belgians swarmed all over their hosts during the first-half and took a two-goal lead thanks to their elusive frontman Emmanuel Dennis, just 21.

Sergio Ramos and Casemiro at least spared Real from the embarrassment of defeat but they have now conceded two or more goals before half-time in their past three European games.

To put this into context, they’d only done that twice in their previous 124.

Zidane, who finds himself under pressure each and every time Real fail to win, has myriad problems to resolve and may well be regretting going back there.

Though they are bottom of Group A with just one points from their opening two games, you’d still expect Real to get through. But their chances of lifting the trophy again seem remote.

INTER ARE BACK… AND IT’S GREAT TO SEE

People of a certain age will remember with great fondness the Inter Milan side featuring the likes of Ronaldo, Ivan Zamorano and Diego Simeone winning UEFA Cups in the 1990s.

Then there’s Jose Mourinho’s vintage of 2010 who beat Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern Munich on their way to winning the Champions League.

The years since have been pretty barren for the Nerazzurri, who have become very much a Europa League outfit and not a very good one at that.

But, as their performance in defeat to Barcelona on Wednesday night proved, Antonio Conte is getting Inter slowly back to something like their old self.

Not only are they currently top of Serie A but the way they attacked Barca in the Nou Camp, taking an early lead through Lautaro Martinez, was good to see.

They repeatedly exposed Barca down the wings in the first-half and had chances to be out of sight by half-time before succumbing to two Luis Suarez goals.

And there was more evidence that Alexis Sanchez might even remain a half-decent player despite his Manchester United nightmare.

However, Inter must take at least four points from their upcoming double-header against Borussia Dortmund if they’re to get out of a tricky group.

Lautaro Martinez celebrates his early goal for Inter Milan against Barcelona on Wednesday

SALZBURG SHOWED UP LIVERPOOL VULNERABILITIES

Jurgen Klopp rightly thought that Liverpool’s defensive woes had been cured by the arrival of Virgil van Dijk.

But although they have made a flawless start in the Premier League, just two clean sheets from their opening seven games has suggested a renewed vulnerability at the back.

And that was shown up by RB Salzburg on Wednesday night, who exposed defensive weaknesses to launch a comeback from three goals down.

The Austrians certainly have a prolific attack and once they started probing Liverpool the cracks started to show.

Joe Gomez was guilty of terrible positioning when Erling Braut Haaland tapped home Salzburg’s third goal and the night proved that Liverpool’s centre back pairing of Van Dijk and Joel Matip, who was missing through injury, is their strongest.

Joe Gomez is beaten by Erling Braut Haaland during Liverpool's match with RB Salzburg

FODEN MIGHT FINALLY GET A GAME

It’s been a real source of frustration for Manchester City fans that their academy graduate Phil Foden, considered English football’s next big talent, doesn’t play often enough.

The 19-year-old has only played 10 minutes of Premier League football so far this season and that came with City 3-0 ahead at West Ham on the opening weekend of the season.

Foden’s only start came in the Carabao Cup tie at Preston North End last week and the clock was showing 90 when Guardiola brought him on against Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday night.

But moments later, Foden had scored a tension-relieving second goal to keep City on track in their Champions League group.

And afterwards Guardiola actually issued him an apology: ‘He has incredible finishing and made an incredible step forward tonight.

‘I am so sorry for him – he deserves to play more minutes. I am sure he will contribute and help us more.’

Well in that case, let’s hope Guardiola is true to his word.

AJAX CLEARLY AREN’T MISSING DE JONG AND DE LIGT

It was inevitable that Ajax’s Champions League semi-finalists of last season would be picked apart by the carnivorous vultures that are Europe’s elite clubs.

And we duly saw Frenkie de Jong join Barcelona, Matthijs de Ligt move to Juventus and Kasper Dolberg join Nice.

However, on the evidence of their opening two group games, Ajax remain as strong as ever.

They beat Lille at home in their first match and recorded an even more eye-catching 3-0 win at Valencia this week. They’re also unbeaten in the Eredivisie and sit top. 

Hakim Ziyech and Donny van de Beek, two of the stars of last season who remained in Amsterdam despite attracting interest from elsewhere over the summer, were on the scoresheet.

As was summer signing Quincy Promes in a highly satisfying night for Erik ten Hag and they’ll give Chelsea two good games on matchdays three and four.

Ajax played brilliantly to beat Valencia 3-0 at the Mestalla and they face Chelsea next

WERE REAL WRONG TO LOAN OUT HAKIMI?

Given the aforementioned issues at Real Madrid, you have to wonder whether it was wise for them to loan out their Moroccan full back Achraf Hakimi.

The call to send him to Borussia Dortmund for two seasons wasn’t one made by Zidane but it’s looking increasingly like they should have kept hold of him.

Not only do Real look vulnerable in defence but Hakimi, 20, is maturing fast into a potentially world class player with Dortmund.

His qualities were much in evidence in their 2-0 win at Slavia Prague on Wednesday as he rounded off two sweeping counter attacks to keep Dortmund on course in the ‘Group of Death’.

It’s already clear that Hakimi has benefited immensely from his time in the Bundesliga and Real will no doubt get back a vastly improved player next summer.

But you wonder if they might have been better served keeping hold of him.

Achraf Hakimi celebrates scoring in Borussia Dortmund's win away to Slavia Prague

RONALDO’S RECORD WILL NEVER BE BEATEN

Cristiano Ronaldo scored in European competition for the 15th consecutive season as Juventus beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 on Tuesday night.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored for the 15th consecutive season in European football on Tuesday

This is stating the obvious but his legacy in European competition will stand for the rest of time.

Ronaldo now has 127 goals in the Champions League, which is 15 more than Lionel Messi, and is a record that will take some beating.

In European competition, Ronaldo has an astonishing 128 goals in 170 matches for Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juve.

Such quality over a sustained period of time is truly unique.

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