Champions League: What the German clubs can learn from matchday 1 | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 19.09.2019
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Champions League: What the German clubs can learn from matchday 1

The opening matchday of the 2019-20 Champions League saw a mixed bag of performances and results for the German clubs. Bayern Munich's new signings caught the eye while an old hand impressed for Borussia Dortmund.

Hummels slowly fixing Dortmund defense

While Dortmund’s ferocious zeal in attack, albeit without an end product, took the plaudits in a 0-0 draw against Barcelona, just as impressive was their solidity in defense.

That was largely down to Mats Hummels, whose positioning and composure led the way to Dortmund keeping its second consecutive clean sheet. He was imperious in the air, quick to identify dangers and made a number of crucial challenges and blocks.

After an underwhelming first few matches sliding back into BVB life, Hummels looks like he can fix Dortmund’s Achilles’ heel from last season. His partnership with Manuel Akanji is blossoming and with Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney screening the backline from midfield, Dortmund’s defense could improve to the point where the Black and Yellows are able to become credible contenders both in Europe and back home.

Bayern's new signings starting to find their feet

The German champion did its major business either early (Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez) or late (Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Perisic) this summer and, as a result, those four senior signings started together for the first time on Wednesday night.

Though Coutinho's long distance radar was a little off, he looked bright and his teammates looked attuned to finding him the opportunity to score from range, a useful tactic against a side like Red Star (and several in the Bundesliga) with limited ambition. Perisic is already off the mark in the Bundesliga and almost opened his Champions League account for Bayern with a wonderful piece of chest control and lofted finish which came back off the bar. Hernandez, deputizing for David Alaba on the left, also looked comfortable offering width when Perisic, who also demonstrated his aerial power, drove infield.

There are signs Bayern might now have the tools to smash the door down when they're struggling to pick the lock.

RB Leipzig have depth to fight on two fronts

Julian Nagelsmann rallies the troops (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Woitas)

Julian Nagelsmann rallies the troops

Just days after battling to a 1-1 draw with Bundesliga champions Bayern, RB Leipzig proved in their 2-1 win over Benfica that they have the stamina, but also the squad, to back up in the Champions League.

In Leipzig’s first ever Champions League campaign the Bulls fell disappointingly short, losing three and drawing one of their six matches. Last season, they also failed to navigate through the Europa League group stages.

Now, however, the squad is brimming with options and looks ready to contend on both fronts. Julian Nagelsmann only made one change from the team that faced Bayern, but any of his options on the bench could have stepped up –Dayot Upamecano, Lukas Klostermann, Amadou Haidara, Christopher Nkunku, Matheus Cunha, or Ademola Lookman.

It’s a complete change of scenery for Nagelsmann, who struggled to replicate Hoffenheim’s fourth and third place finishes while competing with the extra load of European football in his last season. The new Leipzig coach will be buoyed by the luxury of having a deep squad.

Same old woes for Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen face an uphill battle in the Champions League (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Vennenbernd)

Bayer Leverkusen face an uphill battle in the Champions League

Bayer Leverkusen commanded 78 per cent of the possession in their clash with Lokomotiv Moscow, completed 89 per cent of their passes and took 17 shots to their opponents’ 8. But they still lost 2-1 to hand them a near impossible battle to qualify out of a group also featuring Atletico Madrid and Juventus.

While Lukas Hradecky’s brain snap to hand Lokomotiv the winner was a major talking point – continuing Leverkusen’s traditional woes in defense – of increasing concern is the team’s lack of attacking punch. Clearcut chances were at a premium.

It was a similar story in their 3-0 loss to Dortmund last weekend, where they boasted 67% possession and outshot their opponents 12 to 9, but failed to truly trouble their opponents.

From the combined 29 shots in both games, they have only managed to place seven on target. Peter Bosz’s penchant for possession football isn’t going to change, but he needs to find a way to make it more effective or Leverkusen will only go backwards.

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