The second half of the Champions League group stage got underway on Tuesday night with eight games bringing the excitement and continuing the route to the last-16.
Some of the competition’s biggest sides were in action including six-time champions Bayern Munich and five-time winners Barcelona, with the latter looking to get their second victory of the group stage and improve their chances of finishing in the top two.
So, what might you have missed?
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1. Lewandowski makes history (and Ballon d’Or claim) to send Bayern through
After the first kick of the game between Bayern Munich and Benfica, Robert Lewandowski made Champions League history as he became the first Polish player to reach 100 appearances in the competitions – and also the 42nd overall.
In true Lewandowski fashion, the Polish striker marked the occasion with a hat-trick in Bayern’s 5-2 win to secure top spot in Group E and a place in the last 16. He became just the sixth player to score on his 100th Champions League appearance, joining Toni Kroos, Andrea Pirlo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thierry Henry.
Robert Lewandowski has scored more goals (8) than 26 teams have managed in the #UCL this season.
This is only the fourth game of the group stage. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/XR1ru3u5Aq
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 2, 2021
It wasn’t all perfect for Lewandowski as he missed a penalty having previously scored 14 from 14, though he did also record an assist.
In total in 2021 Lewandowski has scored 56 goals in 48 games across all competitions for Bayern and Poland. Surely, surely the Ballon d’Or is his to lose.
2. Leroy Sane thriving under Julian Nagelsmann
There was a lot of hype when Leroy Sane joined Bayern Munich following a long transfer saga, but the German’s move from Manchester City hadn’t really worked out. Until Julian Nagelsmann turned up at the Allianz Arena that is.
In his first season at Bayern Sane was directly involved in 20 goals in 44 games across all competitions, scoring 10 and recording a further 10 assists. That isn’t a bad return considering Sane was returning from a long-term injury, but it is less than Bayern had hoped, at an average of 0.69 involvements per 90 minutes.
Leroy Sane in the #UCL in 2020/21:
◉ 8 games
◉ 3 goals
Leroy Sane in the #UCL in 2021/22:
◉ 4 games
◉ 4 goals
Massive improvement. 💪 pic.twitter.com/E7QnSKhElc
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 2, 2021
Any worries will have flown out the window this season, however, with Nagelsmann getting the best out of Sane even at this early stage. In 17 games across all competitions, Sane has already been directly involved in 17 goals, scoring eight and recording a further 90 assists. That works out as 1.35 goal involvements per 90 minutes, which is frankly a ridiculous return.
Sane brought up 17 in 17 with a goal and assist against Benfica, scoring Bayern’s third and setting up their fourth to put the game to bed and squash any worries of a comeback. It truly is Sane season.
3. Barcelona’s young boys put them in control of own destiny
Barcelona haven’t been good this season and in truth they weren’t very good against Dynamo Kyiv but they managed to get over the line thanks to their latest young hero.
The Blaugrana started the game with three teenagers in their starting XI, the first Spanish side to do such a thing in the Champions League. Nico Gonazalez, Gavi and Ansu Fati were the teenage trio, and it was the latter who would prove the difference.
3 – @FCBarcelona will be the first Spanish team to start a @ChampionsLeague match with three players under the age of 20 in their starting XI: Gavi 🇪🇸 (17 years and 89 days), Ansu Fati 🇪🇸 (19 and 2) and Nicolas Gonzalez 🇪🇸 (19 and 303). Bravery. pic.twitter.com/XtGbcqqHwq
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 2, 2021
Having seen a penalty (rightly) overturned, Fati was the man for Barcelona, reacting quickest to a slight deflection on a cross to absolutely rifle the ball into the roof of the net with 20 minutes left to play. It was an excellent finish from the man who only turned 19 at the weekend and his first in the Champions League since donning the iconic No.10 jersey.
The goal capped off what has been an exceptional return for Fati following his long injury layoff, with the Spaniard scoring three goals in seven games, allaying any early fears of his progress being hampered. And it also saw Barcelona move up to second in Group E, knowing a win over Benfica in their next game will see them into the knockout stages – something that looked a distant dream after gameweek two.
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4. Dybala bags brace as Juventus secure last 16 spot
Juventus went into gameweek four knowing they had the chance to become one of the first teams to secure their spot in the last 16 of the Champions League and, although there was a minor hiccup, they achieved that. In fact, they were actually the first team through as their match finished before Bayern’s.
Paulo Dybala was the star of the show at the Allianz Stadium, scoring two goals in their 4-2 win over Zenit including one penalty. But the Argentine wasn’t just about the goals.
He created three chances, completed all four of his take-on attempts, won five duels and completed 93.6% of his passes.
Juventus now just need a point against Chelsea to secure top spot in Group H, having the better head-to-head record following their 1-0 win earlier in the group stage.
Paulo Dybala's game by numbers vs. Zenit St Petersburg:
93.6% pass accuracy
8 shots (most)
6 ball recoveries
5 duels won
4 take-ons attempted
4 take-ons completed (=most)
3 chances created
Juventus' main man. 😍 pic.twitter.com/XBJLCIwhXq
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 2, 2021
5. Fortress Volkswagen Arena
When you think of the great German Champions League teams your mind will automatically go to Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and even Schalke at one point in time. But they all bow down to Wolfsburg when it comes to making their home a fortress on the big continental stage.
Despite being one of the more well-known Bundesliga sides, Wolfsburg are only in their third season of Champions League football and first since 2015/16. Tuesday’s game against Red Bull Salzburg was Wolfsburg’s 10th home game in the Champions League and brought their seventh victory (two draws, one defeat).
7 – VfL Wolfsburg have won seven of their first 10 home matches in the #UCL (D2 L1) – more wins than any other German side has managed in their first 10 CL matches at home. Fortress. #WOBSAL pic.twitter.com/H894wOL1rq
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) November 2, 2021
No German side has managed that many wins in their first 10 Champions League home matches, with Manchester United the only team to leave the Volkswagen Arena with a victory – beating Wolfsburg 3-1 on the final day of the 2009/10 group stage thanks to a Michael Owen hat-trick.
Since that defeat, Man Utd have returned to Wolfsburg and lost with the likes of PSV and Real Madrid also tasting defeat at the Volkswagen Arena.
6. Lille keep Group G extremely open
While some teams are already securing their spots in the last 16, Group G remains one of the most open groups in the Champions League.
Just four points separate group leaders Red Bull Salzburg and fourth-placed Sevilla with two games left to play, meaning any team could still finish in any of the four positions. Remarkably, all teams in the group have lost just one game, with Salzburg leading the way on two wins while Sevilla’s three points have come from draws.
On the night, the two Jonathans were the main men for Lille, with David equalising after Lucas Ocampos’ opener and Ikone securing all three points just after half time. Keep your eyes on Group G in the final two gameweeks.
7. No more perfect defences
At the start of gameweek four, there were two teams in the Champions League yet to concede a goal. Bayern Munich and Juventus were the only sides to have kept three clean sheets in their opening three matches, but they were both made to wait for a fourth.
Yes, all 32 teams have now conceded in the 2021/22 Champions League group stage, though two sides have let in just one.
Juventus were the first to fall on the day with Leonardo Bonucci putting into his own net against Zenit before Morato scored for Benfica against Bayern – and both would concede another before the day was out.