Winners, losers from Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League action

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We’ve given our thoughts on the results, but now let’s look beyond the final scores to take inventory of the day’s big winners and losers – what stood out from Champions League Tuesday:

WINNERS

1. Road teams rock – Visiting sides crushed it on Tuesday: Five wins, one draw in eight games. Having Barcelona, Chelsea, and Manchester United on the road helped that total, but as we saw in Minsk, big names aren’t guaranteed results. We may have to call UEFA to figure out how often this happens, because no single day in last season’s tournament produced more than four road wins.

2. Minnows with bite – It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of BATE’s upset over Bayern Munich, winning 3-2 in Minsk. Bayern had been the hottest team in the world, but not anymore. Come minute 91, they were just the latest part of BATE’s perfect Champions League start. In a group with Bayern, Valencia, and Lille, it’s the Belarusians who have an improbable lead.

In Russia, a minnow got a rare road win, though it’s unusual to think of Celtic as minnows. Still, given how they’ve recently performed in Europe, a win at Spartak Moscow looked highly unlikely. But thanks to an early goal, a sending off, and a Spartak overgoal, Celtic was able to take a 3-2 win out of the Luzhniki Stadium. Through two rounds, Celtic sits on four points, more than many would have picked them to claim all competition.

3. The future of Rooney-van Persie – It’s been a big topic of discussion since Robin van Persie traded London for Manchester: How good can this duo be? Fitness issues, poor form, and the bottom of Hugo Rodallega’s boot held Rooney back, but if the last 135 minutes of play are any indication, this duo could dominate. Rooney’s inclusion against Tottenham almost turned Saturday’s match, while a beautiful 35-yard pass in today’s second half helped setup van Persie’s winning goal.

4. Cesc Fábregas – One week ago, Fábregas was worried about his place in the Barcelona team, with Tito Vilanova showing him less playing team than he’d seen under Pep Guariola. There were (thin, comical) rumors of him moving back to Arsenal. Since, Fábregas has three goals in two games, including one on Tuesday against Benfica. Cesc looks just as much a part of Barcelona as he did last season.

MORE: Snap judgments from Tuesday’s action

LOSERS

1. Carles Puyol – Puyol has been a miss for a Barcelona team that’s often had to go with two midfielders (Alexander Song and Javier Mascherano) in central defense. He returned today only to be stretchered off the field, suffering a dislocated elbow. The timetable for his return wasn’t immediately available.

2. Matchday one momentum – Cluj pulled an upset, Juventus got a surprise draw in London, while Spartak Moscow and Galatasaray had close calls at giants on matchday one. Did any of that matter on matchday two? Mostly no, though Cluj played with the confidence of a team that’s thinking second round (even if they still lost to Manchester United).

For the other three teams looking to build on day one results, there were no silver linings. Juventus were played to a draw in Turin while Spartak and Gala were upset at home.

3. Istanbul’s reputation – That upset of Galatasaray deserves an extra bullet point. Coming into the tournament we heard the likes of Ryan Giggs talking about the nightmare that was playing in Istanbul. But how much of a nightmare can it be if Sporting Braga got a 2-0 result at the Turk Telecom Arena?

When you ask a question like that, it’s always easy to overlook the winner’s performance. Still, it’s hard to consider Istanbul such a difficult trip when a team like Braga can go from being embarrassed at home by CFR Cluj to winning at Galatasaray, Turkey’s champions. The Super Lïg’s best can no longer hold their own.

4. Bayern mystique – In the past, the name “Bayern München” would have won these matches before they started. Obviously, BATE does not live in the past. Bayern allowed more goals on Tuesday (three) than they’ve given up all season in Germany. No matter your opinion of BATE (who now sit on six points), Tuesday’s result was an bust for FC Hollywood.

More: Chelsea, Man United get valuable road points

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.

Arena should give Ream a look in Brooks’ absence

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With John Brooks out three months thanks to a horribly timed thigh injury, the United States yet again has to scramble to fill a void at the back. It’s not the first time an injury to Brooks has left the USMNT scrambling for cover at a thin position.

In the successful Gold Cup this past summer, with a largely domestic squad in place, Omar Gonzalez saw the bulk of the time at central defender, with Matt Besler his partner through the final two matches. However, with European-based players now in contention for spots with the early September international break, those two are unlikely to continue, at least not together.

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The most obvious choice to start September 1st against Costa Rica and likely shoo-in should he remain healthy for the next two weeks is Geoff Cameron. The 32-year-old has been back and forth between defense and midfield with club and country, and although he has publicly acknowledged his preference for a spot higher up the pitch, he was used in a back-three in Stoke City’s Premier League opener last weekend and is steadiest at the back.

But with a spot next to Cameron up for grabs in Brooks’ absence, a player who should get serious consideration is United States fill-in extraordinaire Tim Ream.

Ream has had to work hard to earn his place with the U.S., and while he’s seen time of late, he’s not been a first-choice pick. The 29-year-old has four caps so far in 2017, with two of those starts, including one in the impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Azteca with the US still clawing its way back up the Hex standings. Even then, Ream would likely not have earned that spot had Arena not chosen to rotate nearly the entire squad between the pair of qualifiers in that window. His other start this year, the 1-1 draw at Panama, only came after Cameron pulled out of the squad the day of the game with a late injury. The last time Ream started back-to-back matches for the U.S. came back in 2015 when he was somewhat of a regular through the second half of the calendar year.

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But now, with Brooks out, Ream looks like the perfect man to fill in again. The 29-year-old defender finished last season in top form as Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion, earning the official website’s Man of the Match award in a May 2nd draw with Brentford, and won it again in the club’s final match of the season.

Without missing a beat, Ream has picked up where he left off last campaign in the first few matches this month. Last weekend against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Ream’s center-back partner Tomas Kalas was sent off 36 seconds into the match, forcing Fulham to play a man down for 89 minutes. Ream and company solidified the back, conceding just once in the 61st minute en route to a 1-1 draw.

The club still likely requires reinforcements at the CB position – Ream was forced to partner with right-back Denis Odoi against Reading with Kalas suspended and Michael Madl injured – meaning Ream could see an influx of competition in the coming weeks. However, as it stands, the American is far and away the best (and most improved) central defender on a club favored for promotion.

Gonzalez performed well in the Gold Cup, and Matt Besler was serviceable, but with few other options in the heart of defense to take Brooks’ place, Bruce Arena could yet again look to Ream for an in-form replacement.