Although the UEFA Champions League 2022 Odds group stage is still in its early stages,
it is not too early for clubs and people with high expectations and mandates to begin sweating.
With an initial round that has already produced some unexpected results—Young Boys over Manchester United, Club Brugge over Leipzig, Sheriff Tiraspol over Real Madrid—the possibility for some longer-lasting surprises is both substantial and very real.
The irony for some of those under the greatest early pressure in the UEFA Champions League 2022 Odds is that if they had their way last spring, similar situations would not be as frightening. For the initial Super League dozen, their position in Europe’s top tournament would have been assured in perpetuity, and although failure to play well would have been disappointing, there would be no worry about returning next season with the opportunity to do it again. The cash windfall they so urgently want to retain and the position among the elite they want to keep must still be achieved under the present system, which means the next matches have an additional layer of significance.
The positive feelings around Manchester United after the summer transfer window and Cristiano Ronaldo’s unexpected homecoming are fading. The Red Devils have now gone three games without a victory in the league, slipping to sixth position in a very tight, crowded top half of the standings. They would have gone winless in five games in all competitions if not for Ronaldo’s stoppage-time heroics against Villarreal in the previous Champions League encounter.
Given the summer’s spending and expectations, United may be in serious danger if manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can’t turn things around against Atalanta on Wednesday at Old Trafford. A loss would keep United out of the top two in the group, and if Villarreal beat Young Boys on Wednesday and United loses, the team would be relegated to last place.
With Raphael Varane out injured, United’s flaws being exposed more often
and a grueling schedule until next month’s international break, it seems like Solskjaer’s time on the bench is drawing to a close. When faced with adversity in the past, he’s usually reacted by coaxing the results needed to keep the team on track, but failing to defeat Atalanta at home would push things to the edge, particularly given the resources devoted to bolstering the squad.
The revival of Inter and AC Milan in Serie A has not transferred to the Champions League, where they have a combined one point from four games played and three losses compared to their one joint loss in domestic play. As the midway point of the group stage approaches, both must be feeling a sense of pressure.
With Liverpool and Atletico Madrid expected to dominate AC Milan’s group, a loss to a Porto side that is still undefeated in Portugal’s premier division would mean disaster. Milan would be minus a point and four points out of third place, thus ending its chances of reaching the knockout stage.
Things are not as bad for Inter, particularly given the composition of its quartet. However, Sheriff Tiraspol’s storybook-like run to the top of its group has been a real surprise, and Inter’s inability to score against Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk, as well as its weekend loss to Lazio, have sown some seeds of doubt. If Inter becomes Sheriff’s newest victim, it, too, may face the real prospect of a third-place finish as its best-case scenario. It’s not quite the comeback to European glory that both teams hoped for, but it’s still early enough to change direction.
Inter and AC Milan’s resurgence in Serie A has not translated to the Champions League, where they have a combined one point from four games played and three defeats, compared to their one shared loss in domestic play. As the group stage’s midpoint approaches, both must be experiencing a sense of strain.
With Liverpool and Atletico Madrid anticipated to dominate AC Milan’s group, a defeat to a Porto team that is still unbeaten in Portugal’s top flight would be disastrous. Milan would be down a point and four points below third place, thus eliminating its hopes of reaching the knockout round.
Inter’s situation is not as severe, especially considering the makeup of its quartet. Sheriff Tiraspol’s fairy-tale run to the top of its group, on the other hand, has been a genuine surprise, and Inter’s failure to score against Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk, as well as its weekend defeat to Lazio, have planted some seeds of doubt. If Inter becomes Sheriff’s next victim, it, too, may confront the actual possibility of finishing third as its best-case situation. It’s not the triumphant return to European glory that both teams had hoped for, but it’s still early enough to alter course.