THE European Champions League is back – and with very few surprises in week one.
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United all won 3-0, while Manchester City went one better, Paris St Germain two better and Chelsea – 6-0 winners over Qarabag – three better.
These are the earliest of days in the race to Kiev and to be crowned champions of Europe – but we rank all 32 Champions League teams after the first round of group stage action.
1 Real Madrid
Zinedine Zidane’s side, European champions in three of the past four seasons, opened their defence with a comfortable 3-0 home win over APOEL Nicosia, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice.
Sterner challenges lie ahead (their next three games are against either Borussia Dortmund or Tottenham Hotspur) but they look the part once again.
This was the season that Barça, following a shambles of a pre-season, were supposedly in decline. Instead, they have a 100 percent record from four La Liga and Champions League matches, scoring 12 and conceding no goals, with Lionel Messi looking as good as ever.
The way they beat last year’s runners-up, Juventus, 3-0 at Camp Nou was as clinical as any Barça side from recent years.
3 Paris St Germain
PSG’s elite attacking triumvirate of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani will face tougher challenges than Celtic – not least in their next game against Bayern Munich – but they look ready to take the next step.
4 Bayern Munich
Bayern have made a sluggish start in the Bundesliga but were firing on all cylinders against Anderlecht in their Champions League opener, winning 3-0 thanks to goals from Robert Lewandowski, Thiago and Joshua Kimmich.
THE CHASING PACK
5 Manchester City
City have never progressed beyond the semi-finals of the Champions League but it feels inevitable they will reach a final at some stage given their resources. They could go close this season – and their 4-0 win over Feyenoord again underlined how Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are forging a partnership to be feared.
Chelsea were the last English club to win the Champions League – in 2012 – and English football’s only roles in the past five finals have been as hosts in 2013 and providing the match officials in 2016. Reigning English champions Chelsea are among five Premier League clubs hoping to re-establish the league as a force in Europe – and they made a clinical start, beating Qarabag 6-0.
7 Manchester United
Another Premier League club with hopes of bringing back the good times are United, who qualified via the back door of the Europa League but are leading their league domestically and look much improved under Jose Mourinho.
Last season’s runners-up and Italian champions ran into Barcelona in week one, and were well beaten, but their squad brims with quality and their early domestic form suggests they will be a force in Europe once again this season.
9 Atletico Madrid
Atletico earned a decent point by drawing 0-0 at Roma and look as compact and solid as ever, although that will be tested when they host Chelsea in their second game.
Napoli have won all three of their Serie A games so far this season, and should probably not be judged on their 2-1 defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk in their Champions League opener. They should get back on track against Feyenoord in their next game, before a true test of their progress at Manchester City in week three.
11 Tottenham Hotspur
Having overcome their Wembley issues in spectacular style by beating Dortmund 3-1 thanks largely to two Harry Kane goals, Spurs should be taken seriously in Europe. Their battle with Dortmund to qualify for the knockout phase, along with likely group winners Real Madrid, will be fascinating.
12 Borussia Dortmund
The early Bundesliga leaders were drawn into arguably the most difficult group – and made a far from ideal start by going down 3-1 at Wembley. They host Real Madrid next, while Spurs go to APOEL, so could be six points adrift after only two games. Their quality, though, should be enough to keep them in contention – and their home match against Spurs in game five could be pivotal.
19 Shakhtar Donetsk
20 CSKA Moscow
21 RB Leipzig
24 Spartak Moscow
31 APOEL Nicosia