UEFA Champions League first leg roundup – Part I
Josh McNally

As we are in the midst of yet another international break, take a look back at the UEFA Champions League's first legs with CGTN.

Standings of Group A in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League after three games. /Screenshot from UEFA.com

Standings of Group A in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League after three games. /Screenshot from UEFA.com

Group A

Topping Group A, of course, is the reigning Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League champions Bayern Munich. They crushed the opposition in last year's tournament but, following the departure of key player Thiago to Liverpool and the talk of unrest between the team and David Alaba, were expected to do well – just not as well. As it turns out, they've done absolutely fine with three wins out of three games, putting them on a maximum of nine points.

From there, the drop off is pretty significant. In second place are the expected group runners up Atletico Madrid of La Liga, however, they're on an equal split of a win, a loss, and a draw. Based on the size of the club and the depth of their squad, they should have been gunning for and, by now, confirmed their second-place spot in the group.

Instead, they only have four points overall, just two ahead of the third-places side Lokomotiv Moscow from Russia's Premier Liga, the team Diego Simeone's men should have thrashed but instead scraped a 1-1 draw with. Russian sides tend to always perform poorly in the Champions League, so it should have been an easy scalp for Atletico – especially as they are have played three games and yet to have a win.

At the very bottom at RB Salzburg from the Austrian Bundesliga. As with their German Bundesliga counterpart Red Bull Leipzig, the side gets plenty of money from their titular parent company and so absolutely boss their domestic league – they are currently in the first place – and so will have been expecting to make an impact in this group stage by at least finishing third well enough to drop into the Europa League.

On only one point, with a goal difference of -1, and their best result coming from a 2-2 draw against Lokomotiv Moscow (and their worst being a 6-2 assault by Bayern Munich), it looks like the European campaign for the Austrian champions is already over.


Unless a significant tragedy hits Bayern Munich (COVID-19 is the main threat right now), they should have no problems winning the group, and the bottom two sides should struggle sufficiently to allow Atletico Madrid to skate through into the knockouts, even if they have been less than convincing so far.

Standings of Group B in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League after three games. /Screenshot from UEFA.com

Standings of Group B in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League after three games. /Screenshot from UEFA.com

Group B

If Group A has been business as usual, Group B has been the polar opposite. At the top with only five points from a win and two draws are this year's Bundesliga have-a-go heroes Borussia Monchengladbach. Fourth place domestically last year, currently seventh this year, Monchengladbach are in a position where they don't have much to lose in Europe and, not only that, they're actually doing OK.

With impressive draws against the big boys Real Madrid and Inter Milan and a 6-0 battering of Shakhtar Donetsk, Marco Rose's side is taking every opportunity they can get. The largest is the COVID-19 pandemic, which is currently working its way through European football, most notably through Shakhtar Donetsk of the Ukrainian Premier Liga.

It's hard to criticize a side that is currently in second place and only one point off the top spot, but they have been ravaged by the coronavirus this year, with eight of their starting players missing from action in the first three matchdays. As their results show – a 3-2 win, a 0-0 draw, and a 6-2 loss - they have simply been too depleted to compete evenly with the rest.

One side that lacks that excuse is La Liga's Real Madrid. They are also on one point with a win, loss, and draw to their name. Their first game, the 3-2 loss to Shakhtar, could have been seen as a one-off were it not because they were comprehensively beaten by Monchengladbach for 87 minutes and were lucky to get a last gasp equalizer from Karim Benzema.

At the very bottom, with no wins, two draws, and a loss are Serie A's Inter Milan. Well known for underperforming in Europe and also facing their own coronavirus struggles, Antonio Conte's side spent two games forcing the ball to the mercurial Lukaku and little else, so should take solace that their best performance – even if it ended in a loss - came in a game where the Belgian wasn't playing.


Who knows. Shakhtar's COVID-19 woes all but guarantee that they will drop down, and the group is so close that Champions League veterans Real Madrid should get their act together sooner or later and progress alongside Borussia Monchengladbach, who show no signs of slowing down.