Germany’s big two of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund may have dominated the Champions League last season, but it is Spain’s top three who have delivered a real statement of intent in the group stages of this year's edition.
The combined record of Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona in the group stages is played 18, wins 14, draws 3, losses 1, goals for - 51,gGoals against - 13. That is some performance from the Spaniards.
An inexperienced Real Sociedad side may have missed out, but the other three more than made up for it. Even Barcelona, playing in second gear through most of the games and still adjusting to life under a new coach in Tata Martino, managed to top their group. They signed off with a 6-1 thrashing of Celtic, with new boy Neymar grabbing a hat-trick.
Real Madrid scored goals for fun. Cristiano Ronaldo’s imperious form was the driving force for them. The former Manchester United idol grabbed a record nine goals in the Champions League group stages. New signing Gareth Bale also impressed, especially with a well-taken goal past Gigi Buffon against Juventus.
Finally, we come to Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. Second in La Liga, their progress was serene. There is so much to like about them - a young side playing eye-catching football with terrific energy, they will be a challenge for any side.
In fact, they might well be the dark-horses for this season’s competition. The Copa Del Rey final win against Real Madrid at the end of last season seems to have taken them to the next level in terms of confidence.
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