Top Winners and Losers After Tuesday's Champions League Matchday 3 Results

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2019

Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring his team's fifth goal during the UEFA Champions League Group A football match between Brugge and Paris Saint-Germain's (PSG)  on October 22, 2019 at the Jan Breydel stadium in Bruges. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)
KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/Getty Images

Being named as nominees for the 2019 Ballon d'Or was all the motivation Raheem Sterling and Kylian Mbappe needed to dominate Matchday 3 of the UEFA Champions League.

Manchester City winger Sterling and Paris Saint-Germain striker Mbappe made the 30-man short list on Monday and helped their respective clubs to emphatic wins. Sterling was the hat-trick hero when City hammered Atalanta in Group C, a great night for the Citizens, with the only sour note involving Rodri's name being added to an already bloated list of high-profile casualties.

Mbappe meanwhile, is operating at peak form. The 20-year-old broke a record held by Lionel Messi by also finding the net three times to help Les Parisiens trounce Club Brugge in Belgium.

Tottenham Hotspur also enjoyed a comfortable victory for a rare time this season, but at least one member of the squad may not have fully enjoyed the 5-0 win over Red Star Belgrade.

Christian Eriksen didn't get the move away he wanted during the summer, and he cut a rueful figure sitting on the bench in north London and watching Erik Lamela replace his influence and creativity.

Eriksen is suffering after an exceptional campaign last season, but things are working in reverse for Paulo Dybala. The Argentina international scored two outstanding goals to help Juventus rally and beat Lokomotiv Moscow, further proof Dybala is flourishing under Maurizio Sarri's stewardship after floundering with Massimiliano Allegri.

Winners: Sterling and Mbappe's Ballon d'Or Chances

Messi, Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane and Cristiano Ronaldo may garner more attention and plaudits, but those voting for the Ballon d'Or between now and November 8 will need compelling reasons to ignore the cases put forward by Sterling and Mbappe.

It just got a lot harder for those voters to look elsewhere after Mbappe destroyed Brugge. His pace, close control and coolness in front of goal all seem more suited to a player of far greater experience.

Yet producing magic at the highest level already comes naturally to Mbappe. He is beginning to surpass some of the established names he keeps company with in the bracket of the game's elite:

While Mbappe is on the rise, Sterling may soon have the rarified air all to himself after another display defined by efficiency and guile. Consider the numbers: three goals, one assist and a penalty won that Sergio Aguero converted.

There aren't many players capable of creating goals as freely as they score them, but Sterling is fast becoming one.

Despite the ample talent in City's ranks, Sterling's performances will ultimately decide whether a gifted squad finally wins the biggest prize in the European club game.

    

Loser: City's Squad Depth

As well as he's playing, even Sterling may be unable to keep City on track if the injuries continue to accumulate. Holding midfielder Rodri became the latest casualty when he exited during the first half with what Pep Guardiola later confirmed was a hamstring problem, per BBC Sport.

The Spaniard's name has been added to the list of big names the Citizens are already having to do without:

Most of the concern is at the back where the aggression of Aymeric Laporte is sorely missed. City's defence had already taken a hit before kick-off against Atalanta when Rob Pollard of the club's official website reported makeshift left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko had been ruled out because of a knee problem.

Zinchenko's versatility is a key part of how City cover defensive gaps. Although Benjamin Mendy, who has had his own share of injury woes, returned at left-back, the Frenchman's erratic display showed the challenge a depleted back line has to stay solid.

Rodri's absence could be more significant. It forced Fernandinho out of a role as an auxiliary centre-back to return to his natural position as a holding midfielder.

City paid Atletico Madrid £62.8 million to acquire Rodri in the summer and end a worrying reliance on 34-year-old Fernandinho.

The secure base of Guardiola's team is becoming dangerously stretched to breaking point. It's enough to jeopardise chances for success in both the Premier League and Europe.

   

Winner: Paulo Dybala

Dybala hasn't been shy about talking up the "more attacking" style of football Juve play since Sarri succeeded Allegri in the dugout during the summer. The effect is showing up in the forward's performances, as Dybala bagged his second and third goals of the campaign to see off Lokomotiv.

There is no doubt his confidence has been renewed, judging by how well he finished in Turin:

A player with this level of technical bravado needs a game designed to encourage artistry and improvisation. Sarri has often been mocked for his love of possession, but so-called "Sarriball" is ideal for a magician like Dybala.

He's a mix between a traditional No. 10 and No. 9, with the touch and vision to manufacture chances between the lines, as well as the ruthlessness of a cool finisher. Those qualities don't just light up games for the Bianconeri, they also provide a better complement for Cristiano Ronaldo.

A Dybala and Ronaldo double act can be Juve's ticket to winning this trophy for the first time in almost a quarter of a century.

   

Loser: Christian Eriksen

Eriksen pulled no punches about wanting to get away from Tottenham during the summer. Yet Spurs looked to have avoided minor disaster when suitors, reportedly including Real Madrid, didn't rush to make a deal.

However, disaster may be the best way to describe Eriksen's post-transfer window situation. Rather than staying put and maintaining his status as the creative heartbeat of the team, the Dane is watching while Spurs prove they are able to move on without him.

The Lilywhites don't need Eriksen as much because of the way Erik Lamela has stepped up in his absence. Lamela put on a masterclass of craft and end product in front of the watching Eriksen against Red Star.

Crosses from Lamela let Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son put Spurs 2-0 in front in the first half.

Lamela still had time to put his own name on the scoresheet when he netted Tottenham's fourth three minutes before the hour mark.

Along with club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele, who also assisted a pair of goals on the night, Lamela is ensuring Spurs won't just survive life after Eriksen; they will likely thrive.

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