Pa Doug McIntyre
Posted by FOX Sports Soccer

Lionel Messi killed a gem Erling Holland the storming of the record book continued and Barcelona lost again, putting them in danger of missing the knockout stage UEFA Champions Leaguewhich returned this week after a 20-day hiatus.

Here are five quick thoughts after round 3 is over – the middle of the group stage.

Messi heats up at the perfect time

After an average (by his otherworldly standards, anyway) first season in Paris last year after more than two decades with Barcelona, ​​it was fair to wonder if age was finally starting to catch up with Messi, who turned 35 in June.

Messi may have needed a year to feel comfortable in his new surroundings. Bo GOAT entered the 2022-2023 campaign looking more like a man 10 years his junior than a shadow of the self he was for most of his first season with PSG.

Messi scored a superb free-kick in the Ligue 1 match last weekend. On Wednesday, he converted another beauty to put the Parisians ahead Benfica – a record 40th different team he has scored against in the Champions League.

PSG couldn’t hold on to Messi’s beautiful goal, settling for a 1-1 draw. But Messi now has eight goals and as many assists in 13 matches in all competitions. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, in what is sure to be his final World Cup starting next month, is looking to prove he is not done yet.

Haaland, Manchester City keep rolling

At this point, Erling Haaland is must-watch television for a reason: He delivers. The rampant Norwegian striker needed just seven minutes to put City ahead on Wednesday FC Copenhagen. He then scored the second goal in the 33rd minute.

Haaland’s superb, unprecedented early season performance has seen him net a staggering 19 goals in just 11 Premier League and Champions League games. The only surprising thing about his performance on Wednesday was that he didn’t score a hat-trick in a contest that ended 5-0 to the hosts.

Chelsea finally win as Christian Pulisic watches

The 2021 European champions finally won a Champions League game at the third attempt this season. After a defeat to Dinamo Zagreb (a defeat that cost then-manager Thomas Tuchel his job) and a draw RB LeipzigThe Blues led the seven-time champion Milan 3-0 on Wednesday in goals for the summer signings Wesley Fofana and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and fourth-year quarterback Rhys James.

It was the Blues’ most encouraging performance under new boss Graham Potter. USA headliner Christian Pulisic marked the first time all season that he did not come off the bench.

Tuchel’s departure should have helped Pulisic, at least in theory. But after Potter’s four games, there are no signs that the winger will get more minutes than before. If Wednesday is anything to go by, he could play even less. That clearly doesn’t bode well for Pulisic or the Americans with the World Cup looming.

Juventus Get back on track

Juve have been the opposite of their Serie A rivals this season, suffering a terrible start to the 2022-23 campaign both domestically and in European play. Max Allegra’s side lost both of their opening two matches in Group H, to PSG and Benfica respectively.

So Juventus needed a big win on Wednesday against Maccabi Haifa, who have no more matches. They got it. Adrien Rabiot scored either side of Dusan Vlahovic’s 50th-minute strike in the home side’s 3-1 victory. Angel Di Maria scored all three goals for Juve.

Barcelona in trouble

It’s a 5-1 win Victoria Pilsen in the first match of the 2022-2023 Champions League. Barcelona have lost two in a row since their opening day rout, including a 1-0 defeat Inter Milan on Tuesday.

There is no shame in the fact that they were defeated by such a strong team as Inter at the San Siro Stadium. In Munich, even fewer lose to the powerful Bavariawhat is what Barca made it in the 2nd round. The position Javi Hernandez’s side find themselves in is partly a product of back-to-back away games in the toughest of eight groups.

The other part is that Xavi has been unable to get anything out of his side in attack – one that has a La Liga-best 19 goals in seven games in Spain – in two Champions League defeats. Whatever the reason, Barcelona have just three points from three games and sit third in Group H.

It means they go into next week’s second leg with Inter at the Camp Nou needing a win – especially with the German champions’ visit on October 26. If they don’t get it, Barca will be on course for the group stage for the second consecutive season.

maybe They attacked make a run?

Top of the Italian Serie A table, Napoli are eyeing their first Scudetto since Diego Maradona wore a sky blue shirt over 30 years ago. This is the title that the Neapolitan wants most; lifting the European Cup is probably beyond most fans’ wildest dreams.

Which is understandable. On the other hand, there has been no light in the Champions League for Napoli so far. They extended their perfect start to the competition on Tuesday by getting a good shot Ajax side 6-1 β€” in Amsterdam! This came after they also beat Liverpool in the first leg. In three games, Napoli have scored as many goals as all teams in Groups D and E. Their goal differential is +11 even after Man City hung five Wednesdays on their Danish visitors.

The second leg at Liverpool on November 1 will tell us more about what Napoli are capable of this season. So far, there’s no reason to think they won’t be able to challenge the continent’s elite when the knockout stages begin next year.

One of North America’s leading soccer journalists, Doug McIntyre has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at numerous FIFA World Cups. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Written by Doug McIntyre.

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