After the opening exchanges in the Champions League group stage, a certain amount of predictability appeared to emerge with comfortable victories for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in particular. However, the performance of FC Basel against Chelsea serves as a reminder that shocks are still possible in Europe’s most prestige club tournament.
It was expected to be a formality for big spending Chelsea, under the guidance of the returning Jose Mourinho, to not only earn a comfortable win against their Swiss opponents but to exert their authority in Group E. Having won the Champions and Europa Leagues in successive seasons, perhaps a hint of complacency has prevailed at Stamford Bridge.
With Oscar firing Chelsea into a first half lead, the home crowd probably expected another comfortable evening. Yet Basel refused to accept defeat and scored two second half goals to claim the points and fill second place in the group behind Schalke 04.
It may have appeared a surprise result on paper but Basel defeated Tottenham on penalties in the quarter-finals in last season’s Europa League and were beaten by Chelsea in the semi-finals in a much closer tie than the aggregate scoreline of 5-2 suggests. A ten minute spell in the second half of the second leg, during which Chelsea scored three goals, proved to be the difference between the teams.
Chelsea should have been prepared for a defiant display by Basel and maybe they will have learned a harsh lesson from the evening display which may bode well for their forthcoming encounters with German team Schalke 04.
Elsewhere in the Champions League it was virtually business as usual with Manchester United taking advantage of a surprisingly subdued performance by Bayer Leverkusen in winning 4-2 and Real Madrid demonstrating their intent with a 6-1 win at Galatasaray. The latter result was even more convincing when considering the intense match between the two teams when the Turkish outfit won 3-2 in the second leg of their quarter-final tie last season.
In the same group as Madrid, Juventus were held to a surprising draw by FC Copenhagen and were thankful to Fabio Quagliarella for scoring a second half equaliser. Goalkeeper Johan Wiland was probably man of the man in denying the Juventus attack with some excellent saves but this just proves that one decent performance by the outsiders can derail the aspirations of the more favoured teams.
The Champions League resumes in two weeks and Barcelona will need to bear in mind the likelihood of inspired performances from the apparent weaker teams. They play Celtic at Parkhead, a repeat of an encounter last season when they were beaten 2-1 in Glasgow.
Barcelona have been warned.