The road to Saint Petersburg in Champions League 2021/22 season has begun. Several former champions like the winner of 1988 edition, PSV Eindhoven, the 1991 champions Red Star Belgrade and the 1967 champions Glasgow Celtic have to start their campaign early even before the play off stage. However, only the Dutch side managed to gain convincing result despite having to face off the Turkish elite team Galatasaray. Roger Schmidt’s men trashed Cim Bom 5-1 at their home turf. The man of the match was Israeli international Eran Zahavi who netted a hattrick plus provided one assist. Yet, the one which caught the eye of the fans is the seemingly revival of Mario Gotze. The world cup winner who was stranded in Eredivisie in 2020 after his failed return to Dortmund due to his lack of physical fitness and tendency of gaining weight, was able to show the world that his time is not over yet. The 29-year old attacking midfielder scored a brace in the process. The German international who has not been called up again yet since 2017 is ready to bounce back this season with PSV Einshoven. He is hopeful to improve his form this season after only contributing five goals and six assists in 18 appearances in his Eredivisie debut last season.
PSV Eindhoven vs Galatasaray 5-1
Goals: Eran Zahavi (2, 35, 84), Mario Gotze (51, 88); Eren Kilinc (42)
PSV: J Drommel – Oliver Boscagli, A Ramalho, Phillip Max, P Mwene – Ibrahim Sangare, Marco Van Ginkel (Serge Gakpo 63), Mario Gotze – Noni Madueke (Ryan Thomas 76), Eran Zahavi (Pablo Rosario 89), Yorbe Vertessen (Davy Propper 63)
Galatasaray: Fernando Muslera– A Ozturk (Yunus Akgun 61), Marcao, Omar Bayram, C Luyindama – Emre Kilinc (Emre Tasdemir 89), A Kara, J Sekidika – Arda Turan (Sofiane Feghouli 61), Ryan Babel (Mustafa Muhammed 61), Falcao (Muhammed Akturkoglu 89)
Meanwhile, the future PSV’s opponent at the play-off stage, Celtic, did not perform his best in the midweek. They could only muster a 1-1 draw while taking on FC Midjtylland. Ange Postecoglu’s side took the lead through Lie Abada’s close range strike after taking advantage of a rebound. Unfortunately, their prospective win was cancelled out by Evander’s free kick. The Danish side now has the advantage as the second leg will be played at their home turf.
Apparently, Celtic’s result was still slightly better compared to Red Star Belgrade. The Serbian champion surprisingly was beaten 1-2 on the road against the unlikely less known Kazakh side, Kairat Almaty. They could not even score a goal as their equaliser was a ‘gift’ from Kairat’s player’s own goal after conceding through Jose Kante’s goal. Bagnack eventually bagged the home side’s winning goal. Dejan Stankovic’s men still have a chance to advance as they will be playing host at the second leg. If they could progress to the play off stage, Red Star certainly has an easier path than Celtic as they only need to face off the winner of Armenian champions Alashkert and the Moldova side Sheriff Tiraspol to qualify to the group stage.