Opinion: Grealish proves he belongs in the Champions League with dazzling debut

As a £100m player, Jack Grealish will be expected to perform on the biggest stage for Manchester City and stages don’t get much bigger than the Champions League. The 26-year-old will therefore be relieved that his debut in the competition went so well, scoring and assisting in a 6-3 win over RB Leipzig.

Indeed, Grealish was among the most impressive on the pitch as City started their Champions League on the front foot against a visiting team willing to go toe-to-toe with them. In the end, the Premier League champions just had too much firepower for RB Leipzig to handle with so much of City’s attacking play flowing through Grealish.

In midfield and attack, only Kevin de Bruyne (55) had more touches of the ball than Grealish (42) while nobody managed more shots on target. He has very quickly become an attacking hub for Manchester City on the left side and might have produced even more had Pep Guardiola not withdrawn him with 10 minutes remaining, when the match opened up further.


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“I loved it. I’ve been waiting a while,” Grealish reflected on making his Champions League debut afterwards. “The past few weeks, I couldn’t wait for this game. It’s a great night. It was one of those games. It had absolutely everything. In the end we’re delighted to get the win against a good team full of energy and young players. I’m delighted to come away with the three points – and the goal and assist.”

Grealish also made some charming comments about hearing the Champions League music for the first time as a player. At 26, Grealish is somewhat late in playing his first season as a Champions League player. For context, 18-year-old Jude Bellingham is embarking on his second season in the competition while Phil Foden, another England teammate, made his 26th Champions League appearance against RB Leipzig.

However, everything about Grealish’s display in the win over RB Leipzig suggests he belongs in the Champions League. This is a competition made for players like him, players who have the conviction and courage to decide a match. Players who sparkle with the spotlight on them.

And yet Guardiola still wasn’t entirely satisfied with Grealish’s performance, pulling the England international over to the touchline after one RB Leipzig goal to forcefully make a point amid a lot of hand gestures. It was a moment reminiscent of when Guardiola lectured Raheem Sterling on the pitch just moments after City had won the 2019 FA Cup final.

“That was about defensive work,” Grealish admitted. “I won’t go into it too much because he might want the same tactics for the weekend. That’s what the manager’s like. He’s always wanting more, defensively and offensively. Obviously he’s someone I’m going to listen to after everything he’s done in the game.”

This was most likely just Guardiola being Guardiola, with the Catalan known for his obsessive focus on the details even in victory, but the interaction between the City boss and Grealish hints at how there is even more to come from the £100m man even after a strong start to life in sky blue.

Grealish has two goals and two assists in the five matches he has featured in for Manchester City this season, yet it still feels as if he is settling into his new surroundings. He is playing within himself, which says a lot about the level he is capable of reaching. This is just the start and Grealish better get used to the sound of the Champions League music ringing in his ears.


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Warum Guardiola während des RB-Spiels mit Grealish und Mahrez schimpfte

Beim 6:3 gegen RB Leipzig offenbarte Manchester City Schwächen in der Defensive. Was Pep Guardiola schon während des Spiels an zwei Spielern festmachte.

Nicht zufrieden: Pep Guardiola mit Jack Grealish und Riyad Mahrez.

Nicht zufrieden: Pep Guardiola mit Jack Grealish und Riyad Mahrez.

imago images

16 Tore hat ManCity in den vergangenen drei Heimspielen erzielt. Da ist es naheliegend, wenn Guardiola sagt, dass seine Mannschaft über keinen Spieler verfügt, der in dieser Saison 25 Treffer oder mehr schießen kann. Deshalb wollte er ja auch Harry Kane und, als das nicht ging, Cristiano Ronaldo verpflichten. Und auch das ging schief.

Das Mitleid mit dem englischen Meister darf sich trotzdem in Grenzen halten, immerhin gibt es ja jetzt 118-Millionen-Mann Jack Grealish, der beim 6:3 gegen Leipzig sein Champions-League-Debüt feierte und gleich traf. Kevin De Bruyne gibt es auch noch, Gabriel Jesus, Ferran Torres oder Ilkay Gündogan.

Gegen RB bewies City mal wieder, dass der schnellen Passmaschine nach vorne keine Grenzen gesetzt sind. Mal rückt Riyad Mahrez vom Flügel rein, mal zieht Bernardo Silva von der Acht in die Spitze. Und wenn es gerade nicht schön und schnell geht, hilft auch, wie beim 1:0, eine Standardsituation (Nathan Aké), oder, wie beim 5:3, ein Distanzschuss (Joao Cancelo).

Offensichtlich ist er jemand, auf den ich hören werde.

Grealish über Guardiola

Überschwänglich lobte Guardiola nach dem Neun-Tore-Spektakel den geschlagenen Gegner (“Die spielen alles oder nichts, die ganze Zeit”) und war deshalb “unglaublich zufrieden” mit seinen Spielern.

“Unglaublich zufrieden” sah Guardiola nur während des Spiels selten aus – zwei Spieler erfuhren das am eigenen Leib. Während der zweiten Hälfte schnappte sich der Katalane sowohl Rekordeinkauf Grealish und Mahrez und schimpfte gestenreich mit den zwei Flügelstürmern, weil sie, wie er später sagte, seine Halbzeitanweisungen missachtet hatten.

Grealish will Guardiolas Strategie lieber nicht verraten

Wie Grealish selbst erklärte, ging es dabei um die Defensivarbeit, ins Detail wollte der Nationalspieler aber nicht gehen, “weil er”, also Guardiola, “am Wochenende vielleicht die gleiche Taktik anwenden will”.

Auch Grealish weiß nach nur wenigen Wochen in Manchester, dass Guardiola, der mit seinem 87. Champions-League-Sieg Arsene Wenger von Platz drei verdrängte, gerne dazu neigt, der Öffentlichkeit nicht vorzuenthalten, wenn ihm etwas nicht passt. “Er will immer”, meinte Grealish. “Und offensichtlich ist er jemand, auf den ich nach allem, was er in diesem Spiel getan hat, hören werde. Also gibt er offensichtlich nur nützliche Informationen weiter.”

The Champions League is back! Defending is not – The Warm-Up


Here We Go Again

You know how it goes by now. Anfield. Europe. The crowd. The floodlights. The noise. Weird stuff doesn’t happen every time but it does seem to happen more than is sensible. And last night, we have to credit both Liverpool and AC Milan for reading the room correctly. When the crowd haven’t been allowed in for a while, what do you do? You play the hits.


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Which for this fixture, means comebacks. Lots and lots of lovely comebacks. About halfway through the first half, AC Milan were taking such a pummelling that they seemed to have just one option left: pick up a load of quick red cards and take the forfeit. “Form an orderly queue and call the ref something obscene,” we’d have shouted, if we’d been managing Milan. “Not that obscene. It’s a family occasion.” This is just one of the reasons we’re not managing Milan.

But the pummelling on the pitch wasn’t matched on the scoreboard. Mo Salah even missed a penalty, which is a thing that simply does not happen. And it’s times like that when football likes to get hilarious. Liverpool’s opening storm ebbed, and that gave Milan the chance to introduce themselves to the ball, and then Liverpool, to quote Jürgen Klopp, “lost a little bit of the plot”. They also lost the entire right hand side of their defensive structure, twice. One-nil to one-two.

They say the five minutes either side of half time are good times to score. Whether this is actually true is beyond the Warm-Up’s analytic capabilities, but after Milan (42′, 44′) and Liverpool (48′) took turns, we can confirm that they are certainly the most entertaining times to score. It’s the up-ending of expectations. You thought half-time was going to be this? You thought wrong! You thought the second half was going to be that? Wrong again!

And if you were writing the script for a Famous European Night At Anfield™, you would of course write the ending first. You’d write “The captain blams one in from the edge of the box and wins the game.” Then you’d sit with that for a bit, and eventually you’d think “too obvious”, delete it, and come up with something a bit more original. Maybe with a car chase. People like car chases.

Football isn’t scripted, and that means it can get away with the obvious ending. Jordan Henderson’s winning goal probably won’t achieve full Gerrard-against-Olympiakos significance: this wasn’t a must-win game, he wasn’t quite as far out, and he didn’t give it quite so much in the celebration. And those of us at home had no Andy Gray to shout at us.

But it was a precise finish, and not just in terms of its technique. It was narratively precise. It was the right finish at the right moment to deliver the result that Liverpool wanted and the occasion that the crowd needed. Two good teams, one great game, lots of frantic nonsense. These are the best teams!

Retro Stylings

Meanwhile, down the other end of the East Lancs Road, Manchester City and RB Leipzig were putting on their own nostalgia festival. 6-3 is not a scoreline from this moment in footballing history. It is a scoreline from the 50s, when Brylcreemed men in large shorts strolled around in black and white and defending hadn’t really been invented yet.

We don’t know what Jack Grealish uses in his hair— and now we think about it, that’s quite strange, isn’t it? The Grealish haircut has to be one of English football’s ripest marketing opportunities. Maybe there’s a frantic bidding war going on behind the scenes. Maybe he’s about to get poached by Aesop. Maybe his hair will look better but his form will collapse, like a golfer changing their clubs when they hit the big time.

Oh right, the match. It is mildly odd that a footballer as talented and expensive as Grealish had never played in the Champions League before. For all that people fret about players taking a step up at international level, this is almost certainly a bigger deal, at least in terms of the quality of the opposition. And the anthems.

All modern football points to this competition, which is why players half as good as Grealish get snapped up twice as early by the big boys. Still, he coped okay. Scored a goal pretty enough to grace any decade; took a corner well enough to remind everybody that Nathan Aké exists, and plays for City.

The scoreline, the own goal, the fact that Leipzig scored their second after the ref tripped Kevin de Bruyne: all this takes the game as whole out of the realm of seriousness. But that’s fine. Seriousness is overrated, and so is defending. Control is for cowards. Manchester City are going to no-hands this competition again.

Jack Grealish of Manchester City celebrates after scoring their fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Manchester City and RB Leipzig at Etihad Stadium on September 15, 2021 in Manchester, England

Image credit: Getty Images

When Three Become One

A historic night in Belgium. The greatest front line ever assembled took the field together, for the first time. Messi, Neymar, Mbappé: the greatest triple-combination since the Earl of Sandwich looked at his bacon and tomato number and said “Hey! Hey guys! Let’s get some lettuce in here!”

Annoyingly for PSG, it turns out that however much you spend on players, the opposition are still allowed to turn up. Club Brugge were the chosen sacrificial victims, and they went and ruined everything by playing well and keeping PSG to just the one goal. And that was scored by Ander Herrera, the least galactic Galactico imaginable.

The reasonable thing to do here is to note that this is still early in the MNM project, and that even geniuses need time to get to know each other. We haven’t even worked out a good acronym for this front three, we can’t expect them to be fizzing and firing yet.

The excitingly unreasonable thing to is to write the whole thing off. One player that doesn’t press can be carried. Two, maybe. But three? This isn’t the 1950s, whatever Manchester City might be up to. The Shankly piano equation — eight men to carry it, three who can play the thing — has been pressed, counter-pressed and squad-sized into something much more demanding. A church organ, perhaps. You need about five who can play it, and maybe 20-odd to get the thing moving. We’re calling it now. The project is doomed.


Ohhh, ya beauty! What a hit, son! What a hit!


Happy 63rd birthday to Neville Southall, a great goalkeeper and a great man. Here is five minutes of him demonstrating the former …

… and here, to confirm the latter, is that time he warmly congratulated Michael Owen on his goalscoring prowess.


Nottingham Forest lost against last night. Two-nil at home to Middlesbrough. Nottingham Forest have scored five goals in seven games, and have picked up just one point. Nottingham Forest are in a lot of trouble, and have been for years. Here’s the Athletic’s Daniel Taylor with a long read on the whole sorry business that, you suspect, could have been five times as long.

The curtains twitch, the wind howls. Over time, you come to realise the club are still talking about their European Cups, from 1979 and 1980, because there is little else for modern-day supporters to embrace. Champions of Europe, you’ll never sing that, went up the cry when Arsenal rolled into town for a cup tie a few years ago. Champions of Europe, you weren’t even born, came the response from the away end.


Just the 29 European games tonight, across the Europa League and the Europa Conference League. Why not treat yourself to a double feature? Start with Spurs away to Rennes, follow it up with Leicester at home to Napoli.

Tom Adams will, of course, be watching all 29 games to produce the perfect Warm-Up tomorrow.

Champions League

‘I loved it!’ – Grealish and Guardiola delighted as City thrash Leipzig


Champions League

Klopp: Liverpool got ‘carried away’ before thrilling fightback


'I loved it!' – Grealish and Guardiola delighted as City thrash Leipzig

Pep Guardiola and Jack Grealish both expressed their delight after Manchester City started their Champions League campaign with a 6-3 win over RB Leipzig.

The nine-goal thriller at the Etihad had many twists and turns over the course of the 90 minutes, with City once again showing their attacking prowess.

Despite City’s excellence going forward, Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku proved a handful for the visitors, netting a brilliant hat-trick to keep the game alive.

Champions League

Grealish stars on CL debut as Man City hit Leipzig for six


“You never have the feeling it’s over,” said Guardiola, who was taking charge of City for the 300th time. “They have a young team, so aggressive, so strong. A fantastic team. Leipzig give a good message to football. The quality of the players was better today and that’s why we won.

“Leipzig never give up. They have a special way to attack. They play all or nothing. We scored a few minutes after they scored [a few times] and it helped us a lot.”

Jack Grealish also put in an excellent performance on his Champions League debut, providing the assist for Nathan Ake’s header that opened the scoring, followed by an excellent curling effort from outside the box for City’s fourth of the match.

“I loved it,” said the 26-year-old. “I’ve been waiting a while. The past few weeks, I couldn’t wait for this game. It’s a great night.”

Describing his goal, Grealish said: “The ball came to me and when I’m in that position, running into the area, I’d back myself one-on-one against anyone to have a go and it paid off. I had a few in the first half that were blocked.”

The £100m signing also noted the surprise result in the other game in Group A between Club Brugge and PSG, which ended in a 1-1 draw. “I went to check the result from the other game and it shows anything can happen in the Champions League. It’s why it’s such a wonderful competition.”

Champions League

Inside Europe: PSG’s to lose? Ronaldo to shine? Predicting this year’s Champions League



Kane may yet sign new Spurs deal but City have moved on – Transfer Notebook


Grealish brilla en la goleada inaugural del City


Fernandinho (58′, Rodrigo), Gündogan (58′, Bernardo Silva), Amadou Haidara (59′, Laimer), Yussuf Poulsen (59′, André Silva), Dominik Szoboszlai (60′, Forsberg), Foden (70′, De Bruyne), Sterling (71′, Ferrán Torres), Brian Brobbey (72′, Dani Olmo), Gabriel Jesus (80′, Grealish), Gvardiol (80′, Nkunku)


1-0, 15′: Aké, 2-0, 27′: Nordi Mukiele, 2-1, 41′: Nkunku, 3-1, 46′: Mahrez, 3-2, 50′: Nkunku, 4-2, 55′: Grealish, 4-3, 72′: Nkunku, 5-3, 74′: Cancelo, 6-3, 84′: Gabriel Jesus


Arbitro: Serdar Gözübüyük
Arbitro VAR: Pol van Boekel
Zinchenko (11′,Amarilla) Lukas Klostermann (45′,Amarilla) Tyler Adams (48′,Amarilla) Tasende (57′,Amarilla) Tasende (78′,Roja

Manchester City v RB Leipzig – Follow LIVE

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Grealish stars on CL debut as Man City hit Leipzig for six

Jack Grealish scored a goal and grabbed an assist on his Champions League debut as Manchester City thumped RB Leipzig in Pep Guardiola’s 300th game in charge of the club.

Almost four months since tasting defeat in the final, City were back in action in Europe’s elite competition, and they wasted little time in breaking the deadlock.

With 16 minutes on the clock, a devilish corner delivery from Grealish found Nathan Ake unmarked and he made no mistake with a powerful header.

Champions League

Inside Europe: PSG’s to lose? Ronaldo to shine? Predicting this year’s Champions League


On his first start of the season, Kevin De Bruyne was at the heart of City’s second when on 28 minutes he teased a beautiful cross to the back post and Nordi Mukiele could only head into the back of his own net.

Christopher Nkunku halved their advantage three minutes before half-time following a decent spell from the visitors, but Riyad Mahrez eased City’s nerves from the penalty spot in added-time after Lukas Klostermann used his arm to block Ferran Torres’ header.

Leipzig kept coming and six minutes after the restart the Germans found themselves back in the game when Nkunku scored his second of a memorable evening.

Determined to dominate the headlines, however, was Grealish and he duly delivered on his big night. Collecting the ball on the right, he carved inside and curled a delicious shot into the top corner.

The visitors refused to give in as Nkunku netted his hat-trick with a fine solo effort, but just minutes later Joao Cancelo scored City’s fifth with a sublime strike from 20 yards.

And just to complete a drama-filled night, Angelino was sent off for a second bookable offence against his former club, before substitute Gabriel Jesus grabbed a goal on his 200th appearance for the club.

Manchester City are back in action in the Champions League on September 28 when they travel to Paris Saint-Germain to face Lionel Messi and co.

TALKING POINT – Goals, goals, goals at the Etihad

And breathe. The Champions League is back at the Etihad with a bang.

What looked a tricky match for Manchester City on paper against last season’s Bundesliga runners-up proved to be relatively simple on grass, even if there were a few questionable moments in defence.

Guardiola made four changes to the side that defeated Leicester on Saturday, with Oleksandr Zinchenko, De Bruyne, Ake and Mahrez coming in. The latter three were all involved in goals, but it was De Bruyne who stole the show. Despite playing just 11 minutes before tonight due to an ankle injury, the Belgian back to his brilliant best, particularly in the first-half. However, the moment of the game was saved for Grealish, who scored a great goal entirely of his own making. The 26-year-old will be hoping it is the first of many in the colours of City.

Guardiola may well be frustrated with how side defended, but the home fans are certainly getting their monies worth: they have already cheered 16 goals in just three games at the Etihad this season.

MAN OF THE MATCH – Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

Tonight will live long in the memory of Jack Grealish, who was excellent and how he linked up with Bernardo Silva was a joy to watch, but De Bruyne was a class above with another fine attacking performance. With Chelsea and PSG on the horizon, his return to full fitness is a huge boost for City.


Manchester City: Ederson 6, Cancelo 8, Dias 7, Ake 6, Zinchenko 7, Rodri 7, Silva 8, De Bruyne 9, Mahrez 8, Torres 7, Grealish 8.. subs: Sterling 5, Foden 5, Gundogan 5, Fernandinho 5, Jesus N/A.

RB Leipzig: Gulacsi 5, Mukiele 5, Klostermann 5, Orban 6, Angelino 5, Laimer 5, Adams 6, Nkunku 8, Olmo 7, Forsberg 7, Silva 6.. subs: Brobbey 5, Gvardiol N/A, Haidara 5, Poulsen 5, Szoboszlai 5.


42′ – GOAL! Manchester City 2-1 RB Leipzig (Christopher Nkunku): After a couple of warnings, RB Leipzig are back in the game! Forsberg’s cross picks out Miekele at the back post, he nods it into the path of Nkunku, who reacts quickest and halves the deficit.

45’+1 – GOAL! Manchester City 3-1 RB Leipzig (Riyad Mahrez, penalty): A fantastic spot-kick from Mahrez. He sticks it into the top corner and City’s two-goal advantage is restored just before half-time.

51′ – GOAL! Manchester City 3-2 RB Leipzig (Christopher Nkunku): It’s game on once more! Dr Bruyne trips over the referee in the middle of the pitch and that allows Olmo to run into space. He chips a cross to the near post where Nkunku runs in between two City defenders and heads past Ederson!

55′ – GOAL! Manchester City 4-2 RB Leipzig (Jack Grealish): Grealish scores on his Champions League debut! The £100m man collects the ball on the left and carves inside, dropping a shoulder to create the space for a shot before curling it into the far corner.

73′ – GOAL! Manchester City 4-3 RB Leipzig (Christopher Nkunku): A hat-trick for Nkunku! It’s another fine goal from Nkunku that hands the visitors another lifeline! Poulson is the provider and the Leipzig striker makes no mistake with a cool, calm finish.

75′ – GOAL! Manchester 5-3 RB Leipzig (Joao Cancelo): What a game this is turning out to be! Cancelo restores City’s two-goal advantage with a sublime strike from all of 20 yards!

79′ – Red card! Just when you thought you’d had your lot for tonight Angelino is then shown his marching orders against his former club for a second bookable offence.

85′ – GOAL! Manchester 6-3 RB Leipzig (Gabriel Jesus): Just minutes after coming on, Jesus has the ball in the back of the net in what is his 200th appearance for the club. Leipzig fail to clear from a corner, the ball breaks kindly for the Brazilian and he applies the finish. There’s a lengthy VAR check for offside, but it’s going to count.


  • Jack Grealish is the first Englishman to both score and assist on his UEFA Champions League debut since Wayne Rooney versus Fenerbahçe in September 2004.
  • Riyad Mahrez has scored five goals in his last five UEFA Champions League appearances, one more than he had netted in his previous 29 in the competition (4).
  • Christopher Nkunku, who is the first RB Leipzig player to score a UEFA Champions League hat-trick, is only the second player to score one against Man City in the competition after Lionel Messi in October 2016.


Kane may yet sign new Spurs deal but City have moved on – Transfer Notebook



Man City consider £26m Phillips, Ronaldo’s rousing speech before Man Utd return – Paper Round


Ferran, falso '9' en el City; Ilaix, suplente en el Leipzig

Y esta es la alineación que presenta el Leipzig para este partido. Dani Olmo y Angeliño jugarán de inicio con André Silva como principal referencia en ataque. Ilaix, recién llegado del Barça, es suplente en la primera cita en Champions.

Once del Leipzig: Gulácsi, Klostermann, Orban, Mukiele, Angeliño, Laimer, Adams, Nkunku, Forsberg, Dani Olmo y André Silva.

Una nueva oportunidad

Después de perder la primera final de la Champions League en su historia, un nuevo intento para el Manchester City. Pep Guardiola considera que lo logrado en el curso pasado fue un éxito: 11 victorias en 13 partidos de competición y solo la derrota contra el Chelsea en Do Dragao: El año pasado dimos un paso adelante pero perdimos la final y se dijo que fue un fracaso. Lo del año pasado fue un gran éxito”, explicó el técnico catalán antes de comenzar una nueva fase de grupos ante el RB Leipzig, “uno de los tres mejores equipos de Alemania” (sigue el partido en directo en As.com).

El Manchester City es uno de los favoritos al título. “Firmo llegar otra vez a la final”, dijo Rodrigo en la previa del partido, sabedor de la competitividad que habrá este año. Los citizens siguen buscando su reconocimiento europeo y en el quinto intento de Guardiola en el banquillo probarán fortuna otra vez. Esta vez, con el RB Leipzig, con el Brujas… y con el PSG en el mismo grupo, rival al que batieron en las semifinales de la última edición. El duelo entre Messi y Guardiola sucederá en las próximas semanas, pero todavía no.

Mientras que los ‘citizens’ llegan con velocidad de crucero a su estreno en la Champions League (tres victorias consecutivas con 11 goles a favor y ninguno en contra) después de perder en la primera jornada de la Premier League, el RB Leipzig no puede decir lo mismo: dos derrotas seguidas siendo la última una goleada por 1-4 contra el Bayern Munich.