The Champions League, or European Cup as it was known for many years before the competition was revamped in the early 90s, was all about the best teams across the continent coming together, facing off against each other to decide who truly was the best in Europe that year.
While the tournament has been expanded to include 32 teams (and with plans for it soon to feature 36 sides) which might have slightly diminished the overall competitiveness of the early rounds, especially the group stages which can be tedious at times, it still pits the best teams, players, and managers against each other, with fascinating matchups that we would otherwise never get to witness.
The most successful side of all time in the competition are Real Madrid, who have lifted the famous trophy a mighty impressive 13 times. They completely dominated the tournament between 2014 and 2018, where they won it four times in five years.
Not far behind them are AC Milan, who have seven titles to their names. Their last win was in 2007, though since then the Italian side have struggled to make an impact in Europe, even missing out on qualifying for the tournament for a number of years. Thankfully, for their fans and neutrals all over the world, they are back in the group stages this year for the first time since 2014.
Bayern Munich and Liverpool arenâ€™t far behind, with six wins each. Liverpool were triumphant over Tottenham in 2019, while Bayern bested Paris Saint Germain in the 2020 final.
All of these teams, plus many more, were involved in the first round of fixtures in the 2021/22 edition of the Champions League, which kicked off this week. We saw a number of big clashes, plus a few sides that are relatively new to the competition. Fans of football, and those who look for the best Vegas odds on their preferred sports betting apps, were eager to witness all of the action and excitement, with some great goals scored, and a few upsets being caused. Letâ€™s review some of the best games from matchday one, and focus on some of the teams who were the standout performers.
Young Boys dominated the men of Manchester
In every round of the Champions League, there is always one shock result, that no one could have predicted, that will throw off peopleâ€™s betting accumulators. It will usually be a big side with a rich history in the competition facing off against a much smaller team, one who doesnâ€™t have much of a European pedigree. Then, somehow, the smaller team will emerge victorious, with the bigger side looking very silly indeed.
This exact scenario played out at the Wankdorf Stadium in Bern on Tuesday night. Young Boys, the Swiss champions last year, were hosting Manchester United, the side who famously won the trophy in 1968, 1999 and 2008. With an expensively assembled squad full of top players like Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire and one Cristiano Ronaldo, United were expected to destroy the Young Boys. However, it was the Swiss side who came out on top, grabbing a last-minute goal to secure a 2-1 win against the Red Devils. It was a truly remarkable result, which was fully deserved as Young Boys were the better side throughout. Letâ€™s hope they can continue their form in the next game against the Italian team Atalanta.
PSG held by their Belgian neighbours
Paris and Brugge are only 300km apart by car. In financial terms, there are quite literally hundreds of millions of Euros between the two teams. PSG are backed by wealthy Qatar owners, whereas Club Brugge are not quite so lucky. Again, punters and oddsmakers only could see an away win in this fixture, as PSG could boast the talent of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in their squad.
Despite the odds being against them, Club Brugge earned a very credible draw against the French side, with captain Hans Vanaken equalising after PSG had taken the lead through Ander Herrera. Whether the Belgian side can continue this good run against RB Leipzig and Manchester City remains to be seen, but they certainly proved themselves to be one of the sides of the rounds with this result.
Other honourable mentions
In Group C, Dutch side Ajax had a potentially difficult assignment away to Sporting CP in Portugal, but Erik ten Hagâ€™s side had no problems dispatching Sporting 5-1, in what was the biggest margin of victory in this game week. Another result worth noticing was FC Sheriff, the Moldovan champions, picking up a 2-0 win against Shakhtar Donetsk, a side who has appeared far more frequently in the competition than the side from Tiraspol, who are the first Moldovan side to qualify to the group stages.
It was a truly great opening week in the Champions League, and thankfully we donâ€™t have to wait too long until the action starts again on matchday two.