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5 things we learned from the Champions League this week

And breathe out! It was another action-packed couple of nights in Europe’s elite club competition. Here’s what we’re taking away from it all.

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane (right) working for ITV at the Arsenal game last night.
Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane (right) working for ITV at the Arsenal game last night.
Image: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

MATCHDAY THREE OF the Champions League is in the books with the opening phase of Europe’s Premier football competition having reached the halfway stage.

The usual suspects remain to the forefront of their respective groups with Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Bayern Munich looking certain to qualify for the knockout stages.

Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund are the surprise early strugglers with a Cypriot club showing the Germans how it should be done and sitting pretty at the summit of their group.

The four Premier League clubs all won (surprisingly) on Matchday 3 but each has plenty of work to do before qualification for the last 16 can be secured.

Here’s what we took from the action:

1. APOEL rule OK

When the draw for Group G was made most media pundits observed that FC Porto would finish top leaving Shakhtar Donetsk and Zenit St Petersburg to fight it out for the runners-up spot. Cypriot side APOEL were simply there to make up the numbers yet at the halfway stage the Nicosia based club sit proudly atop the group standings.

The 83rd-ranked club in Europe ground out a gutsy 1-1 draw away to Porto last night to add to their previous 2-1 win over Zenit and a terrific 1-1 result away in Donetsk. APOEL are a breath of fresh air in a tournament full of multi-million euro clubs and will make history if the reach the knockout stage at the expense of their more illustrious rivals.

2. Dortmund flops

Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund are the biggest disappointment of this season’s Champions League with no wins from their opening three group games.

The reigning Bundesliga champions were expected to make a big splash this term but a 3-0 reversal away to Marseille followed by last night’s 3-1 loss at Olympiacos has left the Die Schwarzgelben (the black and yellows) with a mountain to climb if they are to prolong their European odyssey.

3. Chelsea on fire

Chelsea’s ascension to the summit of Group E is not unexpected but the swash-buckling manner in which Andres Villas-Boas’ side has achieved two wins and a draw from their three outings suggests the Pensioners are in good health heading into the knockout phase.

The trophy that club owner Roman Abramovich covets more than any other is well within reach if Villas-Boas continues to get the best out of Torres, Mata and Sturridge.

4. Boring, boring Arsenal

The Gunners’ European exploits has provided a nice distraction from an otherwise woeful domestic campaign with Arsene Wenger’s side sitting top of Group F after three rounds of fixtures.

True, their Champions League performances have been less than stellar but Arsenal won’t care one bit as last night’s last-gasp win away to Marseille garnered three points despite a fitful display. Arsenal aren’t expected to go far in the second phase but with the pressure off expect the Gunners to cause an upset or two before the season is out.

5. Manchester calling

Both City and United registered important Champions League wins during the week with Wayne Rooney making headlines by becoming the top-scoring Englishman in Champions League history.

Rooney’s two converted penalties helped United win 2-0 away to FC Otelul Galati while Sergio Aguero’s late winner at home to Villarreal kept City’s fading hopes of making the knockout phase alive. What are the odds the two Manchester club’s currently battling for supremacy at the top of the Premier League will cross swords in Europe before the end of the season?

Follow Ger on Twitter: @offcentrecircle

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