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brennan's brief Champions League a damp squib that is struggling to ignite at the minute

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Inter Milan players shake hands with their Real Madrid counterparts after the Champions League clash

Inter Milan players shake hands with their Real Madrid counterparts after the Champions League clash

Inter Milan players shake hands with their Real Madrid counterparts after the Champions League clash

Time was, and it is only six months ago, that we’d have cut off our right hands for live sport such as the Champions League has offered over the past two nights.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea were all in action, as were most of the cream of the continent’s clubs – Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus to name but four.

And yet, there has been something missing, something that adds the spice to our viewing, and that spice is the notion that some club would do a Tipperary or Cavan on it and shock us all by overturning the odds.

Instead, we have been treated to something akin to Dublin and Meath, as Europe’s elite beat up on the minnows.

Yes, Liverpool may have been beaten by a team that only three weeks ago they beat 5-0, but given the makeshift nature of their line-up, last night's reversal can hardly be considered a surprise.

Like, did we ever imagine that Pep Guardiola's Manchester City would not get out of their group, once paired with Porto, Olympiacos and Marseille. Or that Chelsea would struggle to emerge from theirs?

No, the only match of the 16 played over the last 48 hours that tickled my fancy was last night’s showdown between Inter Milan and Real Madrid - the Spanish side's 2-0 victory leaving the Italian giants rooted to the bottom of the Group B table.

Even the meeting of Barcelona and Juventus next month, it might be the last time Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo ever share a pitch, has lost some of its lustre because both teams are already safely into the knock-out round.

Why is this? Well, some of Europe’s best clubs just didn’t play well enough to make it into the Champions League this season, AC Milan, Benfica, Roma and Valencia are four that come to mind, leaving the door further ajar than it should be for their brothers in the top level to make it through to the last 16.

That last 16, to be played at the end of February, will be special. With so many good teams already sure to qualify, there simply has to be some cracking games in store – there will be no way of avoiding two or three head-to-heads involving Europe’s best.

The price to be paid for that is a Champions League right now that isn’t lighting any fires, just when we all need warming up on these dark November nights of Covid.

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