Matchday Five of the Champions League kicked off on Tuesday evening with disappointing results for the two Manchester based clubs while Bayern Munich and Real Madrid underlined their European pedigree with some powerful displays. Inter Milan and Benfica also added their illustrious names to the knockout phase of this season's competition but what did we learn from an exciting evening watching Europe's premier football competition?
The boy Cavani is good
EDINSON Roberto Cavani Gomez looked superb value for the 16m Napoli paid Palermo to acquire his services. The Uruguayan international striker hit both goals for the hosts in their 2-1 defeat of Manchester City at the Stadio San Paolo Cavani plays at the apex of an exciting attack along with Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gokhan Inler and the Naples club looks set to make the knockout phase thanks to those strikes.
Cavani's near post header and sublime first-time volley proved crucial but the tall striker's ability to lead the line and link midfield with attack ran Roberto Mancini's defence ragged. How Harry Redknapp must be kicking himself for not following through on a rumoured Tottenham Hotspur bid for him after World Cup 2010.
Mourinho's Madrid are the real deal
PLAYED five, won five. Sixteen goals scored and only two conceded. Real Madrid's Group D record is by far the most impressive of any European club in the opening phase. Tuesday night's 6-2 demolition of Dinamo Zagreb was effortlessly achieved without the services of star player Ronaldo as Jose Mourinho continues his quest to bring the biggest prize in European football back to the Santiago Bernabeu. The squad is building momentum for the second half of the season following a thrilling 3-2 defeat of Valencia at the weekend. Madrid are three points clear of bitter rivals Barcelona at the top of the Primera Liga following a devastating run of victories since losing 1-0 to surprise package Levante in September. Mourinho has developed a siege mentality and is getting the best out of his star players including Ronaldo, Ozil, Alonso and Higuain. Even Karim Benzema is scoring regularly again plus tracking back to help out his defenders! If any manager is capable of breaking Barca's dominance it is Mourinho.
United never make it easy
ALEX Ferguson looked an irritated figure in his post match interviews following Manchester United's disappointing 2-2 draw to Benfica at Old Trafford. One home victory out of three ended hopes of topping an easy Group C and United must travel to Switzerland on Matchday Six and avoid defeat to FC Basel to ensure progression to the knockout phase. Worse still, an inability to defeat Benfica on home soil means the Portuguese side will go through as top seeds if they overcome bottom of the table Otelul Galati in a fortnight. In a domestic campaign where their noisy neighbours continue to pull away at the top of the standings Manchester United can ill afford to miss out on the lucrative financial rewards of making the latter stages of the Champions League. Unless Ferguson stamps out a worrying increase in defensive errors a trophy-less season beckons.
City falter at first hurdle
ROBERTO Mancini walked off the Stadio San Paolo pitch with his hands shoved into his pockets as the Napoli supporters celebrated his side's 2-1 defeat on Tuesday night. Manchester City are on the brink of elimination from the Champions League at the first time of asking following their second away Group A defeat. It was only when City fell 2-1 behind that the Premier League side were compelled to commit further numbers to their attack and began to look menacing against an otherwise untroubled Napoli back four. Mancini's decision to bench Sergio Ageuro and not introduce the Argentinean until the 81st minute was questionable as was the Italian's inclusion of a clearly out of sorts Aleksandar Kolarov ahead of the more attack-minded Gael Clichy and Nigel de Jong instead of Gareth Barry.
There is little doubt that his side lack the fluency and cohesion in Europe that they have used to destroy all before them in their domestic league this year. Defensive mistakes in the build-up to both Napoli goals will also have drawn the ire of Mancini who must now defeat already qualified Bayern Munich on December 7th and hope Villarreal can prevent Napoli from winning in Spain to progress to the knockout phase.
Bayern will take some stopping
JUPP Heynckes' Bayern Munich rebounded from their shock 1-0 loss at home to Bundesliga title-rivals Borrusia Dortmund at the weekend by overpowering Villarreal 3-1 at the Allianz Arena to solidify a place in the last sixteen of the Champions League. Munich are playing with a verve and tenacity not seen for many seasons thanks to the midfield promptings of Toni Kroos who was once again at the centre of all Bayern's best moments. The pace of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben (when fit) marks Bayern down as a team capable of reaching the latter stages of this season's competition and if Mario Gomez (6 goals) can reproduce his Group A goal-scoring form in the knockout phase then Bayern are going to have a big say in the destination of this year's trophy. The Fusball Arena in Munich is the venue for the 2012 Champions League final on May 19th and a favourable second round draw plus the continued form of Kroos, Gomez and Ribery gives Bayern ever chance of making the decider being played on their home pitch.
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