Three things we learned from Atletico Madrid – Chelsea, Lazio – Bayern

Atletico Madrid - Chelsea
Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

The UEFA Champions League returned with two more first legs on Tuesday, with clubs from some of Europe’s busiest cities matched up around the continent. (video)

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Chelsea took a small advantage back to London while Bayern Munich has an embarrassment of away goal riches after 90 minutes.

Three things we learned from Atletico Madrid – Chelsea

1. Growth is good (and so, maybe, is better management): A year after being demolished by Bayern Munich 7-1 over two legs in the Round of 16 — with 5.5 months in between — Chelsea took advantage of a sloppy Atletico Madrid and might’ve been happy to head back to Stamford Bridge at 0-0. No one’s going to mistake Atleti’s attack for Bayern and the reigning champs out-scored the Spanish side 5-1 over two group stage games, but holding the hosts without a shot on target, even away from the Wanda Metropolitano, is no small feat. Turns out Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger are good at defending.

2. Atleti’s hunger hard to find: Diego Simeone will be raging, curious if his players took Chelsea for granted. Even if the Madrid side was within 22 minutes of a clean sheet and an advantage heading to London, it was difficult to identify some of the side’s stars. Luis Suarez was hungry and midfield tandem Saul Niguel and Koke ready to go, but there wasn’t much more coming from the field players.

3. Gymnastic Giroud: Regardless of how many goals Olivier Giroud scores in his career, the 34-year-old is going to be remembered for the bangers. It seems every year he generates at least one Puskas Award nominee and his sixth Champions League goal of the season was no exception. The Frenchmen got *up* to smash an overhead kick home for 1-0 to the Blues on Tuesday with Chelsea’s fourth shot on target.

Bonus. Pulisic plays: The American winger got some minutes under his belt after injury and selection worries, playing 10 minutes with seven touches.

Man of the Match: Olivier Giroud

Unsure how it could be anyone else, although Azpilicueta was wonderful.

Three things we learned from Lazio – Bayern Munich

1. The champs are very real and almost through: Bayern entered on a two-match winless run following the Club World Cup in Qatar and didn’t look like a team missing Douglas Costa, Serge Gnabry, Benjamin Pavard, Thomas Muller, and Corentino Tolisso. That’s a five-a-side team that would stomp most. Even with all the injuries, where were the holes? Bayern had Niklas Sule at right back and started a teenager at center mid in Musiala, neither who was anywhere near poor over 90 minutes. Bet against them? Hardly.

2. Lazio’s back line overwhelmed: Four away goals, as Pepe Reina had as many saves as goals conceded, Mateo Musaachio and Patric struggled and were both subbed out, and the club’s best defender on the day, Francesco Acerbi, managed an own goal to blight his record. Sure Ciro Immobile, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Luis Alberto, and Joaquin Correa can put up a performance against anyone, but the Romans can start thinking about 2021-22, thank you very much.

3. Nice to meet you: Bayern Munich isn’t afraid to hand chances to youth, even more than usual under Hansi Flick. Enter Jamal Musiala, an ex-Saints and Chelsea youngster who made his Bundesliga debut in the summer alongside USMNT back Chris Richards (now on loan and playing regularly at Hoffenheim). Seventeen for three more days, Musiala played in the middle of a 4-2-3-1 and collected his fourth goal of the season in all competitions. Yeah, you read his age correctly.

Man of the Match: Robert Lewandowski.

He scored because of course he scored. A man who needs to be discussed as in the class of his generation with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo was economical, powerful, and ready to roar.

Not that he had to work hard for his goal.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]