On Tuesday, Shakhtar Donetsk had the day’s biggest win, taking three points on the road against a team (Real Sociedad) that’s set to rival them for a Champions League spot. While that exact scenario didn’t surface again on Wednesday, Basel’s victory at Stamford Bridge may prove more valuable. Though Chelsea are still likely to win Group G, the Swiss champions can now afford a home slip against Schalke (or Steaua) without falling behind in the group. Surprise points can make up for a lot of evils.
For Chelsea, the loss may not have been as detrimental to them as La Real’s was to Shakhtar. The Blues are better equipped than Sociedad to make up those points. Despite today’s result, Chelsea are likely to reverse this result when they go to Switzerland. The same can not be said for La Real’s visit to Donetsk.
There were two other home losses on Wednesday. For Austria Wien, Porto’s win was a setback but not an unexpected one. The way the group is shaking out, a more realistic goal for them is challenging Zenit for third place. They’ll have to see how Porto performs in St. Petersburg before knowing if they’ve lost ground.
Marseille’s loss at home to Arsenal was a setback, though, as things won’t get easier going forward. With Napoli and Borussia Dortmund rounding out Group F, it’s possible l’OM have played their easiest Champions League game. We’ll have to wait to see if Arsenal sustains their current form, but given how today’s game played out, Marseille may find their Italian and German visitors even more troublesome.
Here’s where Groups E through H stand after the second day of Champions League action:
* – To each of these standings we’ve added a column labeled +/-: a crude attempt to track how many points a team has dropped at home (minus) or picked up on the road (plus). It’s a very crude attempt to gauge the extent to which teams are holding serve.
|FC Schalke 04||1||1||0||0||3||0||3||1-0-0||0-0-0||3||+0|
We discussed this earlier, but today’s big loser may not be Chelsea. It may be Schalke.
Stay with me.
Chelsea is going to be favored to win the rest of their group stage games, and if they can claim 10 points in those five, they’re probably through. If they play to their potential, today’s loss is a non-issue. If they don’t, today’s loss is the tip of the iceberg. Either way, the result will look a lot different in a couple of months.
Schalke, on the other hand, merely held serve. Their record looks good and that goal difference is nice, but look at that +/- column: +0. They’re right where they should be.
Now look at Basel – the team that’s supposed to fight them for second place: +3.
Yeah, this could turn out to be a bad day for Schalke.
Borussia Dortmund may be upset about how things went down in Florence, but they shouldn’t be. First, Neven Subotic wouldn’t have been marking Gonzalo Higuaín on that goal, and that’s not the first (or last) time Mats Hummels has been beaten. Second, though, they can still get through this group without points in Naples. It just makes holding serve at home more important.
For Marseille, today was a reminder of their unfortunate reality. With as heated as the competition’s likely to be among the group’s big three, l’OM could become a whipping boy. A punching bag. A post-Harry QPR. After Arsenal won at the Velodrome today, Napoli and BVB can’t afford to drop points in France.
Nine or 10 points may not be enough to get through. At least, Arsène Wenger, Jurgen Klopp, and Rafa Benítez shouldn’t count on it. Getting that crucial 13th point (meaning you’ve swept at home, won in Marseille, and got another draw) should be each team’s goal.
|Zenit St. Petersburg||1||0||0||1||1||3||-2||0-0-0||0-0-1||0||+0|
Atlético Madrid’s performance made their case for being the group’s favorites (a case Diego Simeone might reject), but it was Porto who gained ground. Their possession-hungry win in Vienna makes the group’s top seed the first team to claim road points.
Perhaps Atlético should be expected to do the same, but road points in Champions League are never a given. Unlike Porto, Simeone’s team is not a squad that’s navigated these waters together before. Trips to new places could see them fail to grasp the stakes. Porto’s +3 could be Atlético’s +1.
Move along. Nothing to see here. Home teams win. Road teams lose. Dogs and cats remain at war.