Aleñá makes his mark, Benfica and Chelsea march on
Friday, 27 November 2015
Benfica made it five wins from five in a UEFA Youth League week where Carles Aleñá rose to prominence, Juventus kept their hopes alive and Chelsea wrapped up Group G.
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Chelsea can rest easy
Chelsea host Porto on 9 December safe in the knowledge they are through to the round of 16 with a game to spare as a result of Tuesday's 4-0 Group G defeat of Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Heading into matchday six, the holders are the only team to have won their group – thereby avoiding a play-off against a Domestic Champions path survivor – meaning top spot is up for grabs in the other seven sections. Among the last-day fixtures are three top-of-the-table encounters: Benfica v Atlético Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona and Valencia v Lyon.
Barcelona's gifted No10
When a young left-footed talent in a Barcelona No10 shirt scores a goal of football genius, which includes drifting past a handful of hard-working opponents and an elegant curling shot beyond the opposition goalkeeper, it is going to get attention.
But when, like Carles Aleñá, you are represented by erstwhile Blaugrana Iván de la Peña and Carles Puyol, you now have five goals in five UEFA Youth League games and the rest of your display in the 3-3 Group E draw against Roma is man-of-the-match standard, then the attention will be intense.
With recent alumni Sergi Roberto, Sergi Samper, Munir El Haddadi and Sandro Ramírez currently establishing themselves in Barça's first team, Aleñá looks to be at the right club at the right time. But do not mention the words 'Messi' and 'successor'.
Despite a valiant Mönchengladbach comeback, the German side's hopes of progress from Group D ended on Wednesday when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Sevilla. Foals striker Dennis Eckert refused to be too downhearted, however.
"The way we fought back from two goals down deserves a lot of credit," said the 18-year-old, who scored Gladbach's first at Fohlenplatz. "We showed great spirit and earned a point against a very strong team."
Prolific Benfica, who have netted 28 goals in winning their five Group C fixtures, possess the group stage's sole 100% record, their latest success a 5-0 triumph at Astana. If they make it a perfect six at home to Atlético next month they will emulate Chelsea (2013/14) and Manchester City's (2014/15) achievement of registering a clean sweep of victories. Neither of those sides went on to lift the trophy, however, both losing in the quarter-finals.
Redemption for Kastanos
"He had to make amends for leaving us down to ten men after a stupid foul in our last league game [against Fiorentina] and I'm happy he did so in style," Juventus coach Fabio Grosso said after Grigoris Kastanos notched twice in a 2-1 win against Manchester City to keep alive the Bianconeri's qualification ambitions.
Already capped twice by Cyprus at senior level, the 17-year-old Kastanos joined Juve, now third in Group D, as the 'Cypriot Messi'. He showed what he can do with his left foot against City. "I was off balance when I scored the first but fortunately it went in," he said. "The second was a more powerful strike. Now we go to Sevilla ready to give everything to get the win we need."