CELTIC’S three Champions League rivals – Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach – all celebrated league triumphs at the weekend.
CQN turned the spotlight on the teams barring the Hoops’ path to the last 16 of football’s most prestigious club competition for an up-to-date form guide.
BARCELONA had to thank Ivan Rakitic’s first-half header for their 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in La Liga last night.
The Croatian midfielder timed his run to perfection to head home Arda Turan’s cross after 21 minutes at San Mames, earning Luis Enrique his 100th win as Barca boss.
Luis Suarez squandered two excellent opportunities to make the game safe for the visitors, but they held on to move level with Real Madrid and Las Palmas at the top of the table after only two games.
The hosts started strongly and should have gone ahead when Benat capitalised on a mistake by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but the Barca ‘keeper made up for his error, standing tall to save well from point-blank range.
And Barca’s first slick move of the half resulted in Enrique’s side taking the lead. Suarez turned and fed Turan, who picked out the run of Rakitic to head past Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz.
The visitors continued to carve out chances in the second half, with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez both guilty of missing the target when well placed to test the Athletic ‘keeper.
Ter Stegen, returning from a knee ligament injury to start in goal following the departure of Claudio Bravo to Manchester City, was largely a bystander, although Raul Garcia and Benat did go close for Athletic.
Luis Suarez teed up Messi with 20 minutes to play, but the Barca superstar, uncharacteristically, blazed over, while the Uruguayan did likewise after surging through on goal.
MANCHESTER CITY manager Pep Guardiola heaped praise on his players following their 3-1 win over West Ham, their third successive Premier League victory.
The Etihad outfit were in total control at half-time at 2-0 up through goals from Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho, but had to hold on when the Hammers pulled one back, before Sterling’s stoppage-time second goal secured the points.
When asked if Sterling’s late goal was a relief, Guardiola replied: “Yes. Here you have to win two, three, four nil to think that the game is over.
“They played long balls behind our full-backs, they won the second balls, they are taller than us, they jump more than us.
“Again, we played a really, really good game. I think our fans enjoyed it. We are happy with what’s happening this month.
“I don’t know how many chances we created, how many shots on the goal, but the performance in general was again really, really good. With the ball, without the ball, with the quality of our players we can be satisfied. Here, we played the best minutes in the Premier League.”
However, Argentina international Sergio Aguero could face retrospective action after appearing to aim an elbow at West Ham’s Winston Reid.
While the referee missed the incident in real time, the English FA are likely to investigate and could hit Aguero with a ban ahead of next month’s Manchester derby.
Guardiola claimed: “I didn’t see anything.”
BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACHcontinued their good form with a 2-1 triumph over Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday evening.
Andre Hahn put them ahead just before the interval, but they were rattled when Joel Pohjanpalo levelled for the visitors in the 79th minute.
Lars Stindl scored their points-gathering goal five minutes from the end to kick off their Bundesliga campaign with a win.