The results of several of midweek Champions League matches may have been fairly predictable but the performances of the Italian Serie A teams were modest by their own standards. Not a single win was recorded among the teams playing and second placed Napoli were definitely second best in their 2-1 defeat against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.
Napoli’s loss was their first reversal of the season and their poor showing in midweek was in sharp contrast to their display against Borussia Dortmund just a fortnight earlier. Yet Napoli still need to play Marseille twice in their group which offers some hope for further progression as the French team appear the weakest team by far among the four teams.
Meanwhile, Juventus were expected to qualify from Group B with a degree of comfort and must have been disappointed with their 1-1 in Copenhagen in their opening match. Roberto Mancini ensured that their qualification hopes have been dented still further.
After Galatasaray suffered a 6-1 defeat at home to Real Madrid in their opening match, the appointment of the ex-Manchester city boss as manager has since been announced and he guided them to a 2-2 in Turin in his first game at the helm. A Fabio Quagliarella goal just three minutes from time looked to have sealed victory for Juve, but Umut Bulut claimed an equaliser almost immediately afterwards.
Juve must now play Real Madrid twice and visit Istanbul with their appearance in the knock-out stages far from guaranteed especially with Galatasary now looking to at least replicate reaching the quarter-finals from last season. Two relatively easier fixtures against FC Copenhagen also await the Turkish team.
As for AC Milan, a rather dubious penalty converted by Mario Balotelli in added time spare them a defeat in Holland against Ajax who had opened the scoring in the ninetieth minute. Late goals are becoming quite common for Milan both in Serie A and in the Champions League and they needed 2 goals in the final 10 minutes to beat Celtic in their first group match.
With Celtic lacking the quality in attack to mount a serious challenge in Group H, Milan appear favourites behind Barcelona to progress especially as Ajax still need to visit San Siro. Ensuring Balotelli stays free from suspension and injury will be the key to their hopes for further success in the current Champions League campaign.
Only two of the six rounds of fixtures have been completed in Europe’s primary club competition, but already it is clear that none of the Italian teams can be considered as genuine favourites to be involved in the draw for the knockout stages later in the season.
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