The Champions League Parallel Universe
One of the great things about the UEFA Champions League is how it acts as a kind of alternative reality for players and teams. It’s almost like the island from Lost; a place where you can reinvent yourself and change your fortune, parallel to the league season you may want to forget.
As a player, you could be having an absolute nightmare of a season in your home league — injury-riddled, allergic to scoring goals — but in the Champions League, you could be a Wednesday night god. For teams, a domestic title could already seem out of reach, but a couple of lucky breaks could see you headed for the knockout stages and European glory.
It’s not uncommon to see players find their form or teams hit their stride in Europe, even while, almost simultaneously, they suffer through forgettable league seasons. With that in mind, and with this season’s Champions League matchday three in the books, let’s take a look at some teams and players who are currently screaming, “We have to go back!” as their planes land back at home.
- One of the most heartwarming scenes in this year’s Champions League campaign played out last night when Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey scored an injury-time winner against Marseille, giving the Gunners a huge, 0-1 win in France. Anyone who saw Ramsey’s horrific injury last February had to wonder whether Ramsey would ever play again, much less reach the heights he had when it occurred. So to see him score the winner last night was all the more meaningful. You could see what it meant to Ramsey as he went sprinting down the touchline toward the hysterical Arsenal fans.
- Maybe all Fernando Torres needed was a night of target practice against Genk. The Spanish striker has been getting it from all sides since being bought by Chelsea in January, unable to find anything approaching the form that led the Blues to pay £50 million for his services. But last night Torres scored two classic “El Nino” goals against the out-of-their-depth Belgian team, including this boss-level header, in Chelsea’s 5-0 rout:
- Two teams in particular are finding the Champions League a lot friendly than their domestic competitions. Bayer Leverkusen are having an uninspired start to their Bundesliga campaign in Germany, but find themselves sitting second in Group E, beating Spanish side Valencia last night. Meanwhile, in Group H, A.C. Milan are going toe-to-toe with defending champions Barcelona, equal on seven points at the top of the group after dispatching Belarusian side BATE Borisov, 2-0, despite being a disappointing 13th in Italy’s Serie A.
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