The season is barely a month old, but we’ve already experienced some shocks that will last a lifetime in the memories of the minnows.
Not even Lionel Messi could stage a comeback off the bench at the 19,000-capacity Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes, where Granada were fully worthy of victory over a football monolith that dwarfs the Andalusian club in almost every way.
Top of that list is the financial disparity – and it is quite staggering. So below, we’ve picked out five of the most jaw-dropping upsets so far this campaign and weighed up the total cost in transfers it took to assemble each team against each other.
Granada 2-0 Barcelona, 21/09/2019
€8m v €697m
If Ernesto Valverde was already walking a tightrope before arriving in Andalusia, that rope now resembles a piece of dental floss.
Antoine Griezmann alone, at €120m (though Atletico say €200m) cost 15 times the amount that Granada have invested in transfers for their entire squad.
The Frenchman did the square root of nothing on Saturday while Darwin Machis, their most costly summer signing at €3m from Udinese, danced rings around the Barca defence on the opposite wing.
Goalscorers Ramon Azeez and Alvaro Vadillo were both free agent signings and the €697m Barca have invested of course does not include homegrown Lionel Messi, who would cost a fantasy figure.
You know what else €8m buys you? Top spot in La Liga (at least overnight on Saturday).
Real Madrid 1-1 Real Valladolid, August 24 2019
€902m v €15m
On to another humbled Spanish giant, in their backyard of the Bernabeu. This match did not end in defeat for Real Madrid but its deflating effect was virtually the same – and it’s only got worse for Zinedine Zidane since then.
Valladolid, who are part-owned by the Brazilian Ronaldo, secured a point via Guardiola – Sergi Guardiola, that is – at the death after Karim Benzema had thought he’d won it.
Guardiola set back Valladolid €3m from Cordoba at the start of the year, which represents 20 per cent of their entire investment in transfers. Real, on the other hand, spent some €250m alone in the window just gone.
None of their new signings were in the starting XI that night, but no one should be making excuses for their near-billion squad splurge.
Rennes 2-1 PSG, August 18 2019
€106m v €913m
PSG are perennial French champions and a defeat to Rennes won’t change that this season, either. Yet it always beggars belief when a team that can cherry-pick the best talent in France, and virtually anywhere in the world, succumbs to such a limp defeat.
Rennes are something of a bogey team for the Parisians, having lost the French Cup final on penalties to them in 2018/19. They were at it again last month – and this was before Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani ended up in the treatment room.
While not quite operating on the slimline budget of a Granada or Valladolid at €106m, Rennes turned the money they received from Watford for Ismaila Sarr into results – namely former Torino attacker M’Baye Niang (€15m), who scored the sublime equaliser in Brittany.
In comparison, PSG’s starting front three – Cavani, Mbappe and Angel Di Maria – stacked up €262m worth of transfer fees.
Union Berlin 3-1 Borussia Dortmund, August 31 2019
€14m v €324m
The first club from the former East Berlin to play in the Bundesliga put a spoke in the wheel of Borussia Dortmund’s designs on the Bundesliga before August was out.
Dortmund spent €20m or more on five separate players over the summer – Mats Hummels, Nico Schulz, Thorgan Hazard, Julian Brandt and Paco Alcacer – to boost an already high-octane team that includes Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus. However, they simply combusted in the German capital.
Union’s expense for their squad? Just €14m, including the €400k loan fee it took to whisk two-goal Marius Bulter away from third division Magdeburg. The rest of their summer business, having brought in 14 players in total, were a motley crew of free agents and frugal purchases not costing more than €2m a piece.
The result was that their first-ever Bundesliga triumph came against a juggernaut like Dortmund, in a 3-1 win.
Man United 1-2 Crystal Palace, August 24 2019
€751m v €208m
It’s a stretch to call Crystal Palace paupers in the cash-soaked Premier League. Indeed, the TV deal by itself accounts for a minimum of €100m.
Compared to the sheer (financial might) of Manchester United, however, who have bought and dispensed with many expensive mistakes in the post-Ferguson era, Palace rightly celebrated bridging that chasm at Old Trafford.
Though Palace’s squad cost €208m to assemble, their three most expensive signings – Christian Benteke, Mamadou Sakho and Andros Townsend – weren’t even in the team.
Instead €2.5m man Jordan Ayew provided the impetus up top and a €10.5m full-back in Patrick van Aanholt to apply the coup de grace in a 2-1 victory. Not even the combined €135m transactions in defence on Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka could save United …
Head coach Unai Emery praised the performances of his young players as Arsenal opened their Europa League campaign with a fine win at 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt.
The Gunners boss made seven changes to the side who were held to a disappointing draw at Watford – and they paid off as the visitors ran out 3-0 victors at the Commerzbank Arena.
Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka both got on the scoresheet, the later also claiming all three assists as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wrapped up the result at the death.
Both sides wasted a host of chances in an end-to-end contest as Frankfurt suffered their first European home defeat since 2006 – the late sending off of midfielder Dominik Kohr only adding to the disappointment.
But for Emery, it was vindication he has shown in Arsenal’s academy products since walking through the door at the Emirates Stadium, and the Spaniard was delighted with both Willock and Saka – as well as Emile Smith Rowe.
“Their performance tonight was good and they deserve it,” he said.
“Maybe with his (Saka’s) goal, with his performance, but also in the match taking confidence, finishing really strongly physically.
“And also with Emile, after his injury tonight he played for the first time this season and he worked well. Willock also, progressively he was feeling better and with a good performance.”
Aston Villa are next up for Arsenal when the newly-promoted side travel to north London on Sunday.
The Arsenal starting line-up is likely to revert back to something similar to the Watford game but Emery revealed two injured players are stepping up their return.
Kieran Tierney is yet to play for the club since arriving from Celtic this summer due to a groin problem, while Hector Bellerin has been missing for nine months with a serious knee injury.
“Rob Holding is very close to us and tomorrow Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin are going to play in the under-23s,” Emery said, with Holding part of the travelling party to Frankfurt having overcome his own knee problem.
While Arsenal reached the Europa League final last season only to lose to Chelsea, Frankfurt were beaten on penalties by the Blues in the last four.
Manager Adi Hutter has had to deal with losing his three attacking talents, Luka Jovic, Ante Rebic and Sebastien Haller over the summer – the trio having scored 56 of the club’s 90 goals last season.
But, despite profligacy from new recruits Bas Dost and Andre Silva, the Austrian head coach was pleased with his side’s performance, if not the final result.
“It’s a bitter defeat for us,” he said.
“Because the performance does not reflect that result. When it was still 1-0 for Arsenal, we tried to score the equaliser but then conceded another one.
“The important thing is for us to create chances, I have seen enough of those. A goal can help open some doors, give you a boost, that did not happen today.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
After an entertaining round of midweek fixtures in the Champions League, league football is set to glue us to our TV screens with some more fascinating match-ups.
Most key battles will see teams that were engaged in European fixtures face each other as they attempt to fight the fatigue.
Which are the big games you need to clear your schedule for? We help you choose the best fixture from each of the top five leagues.
Fixture: Sevilla v Real Madrid
Venue: Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan
Date: Sunday, September 23
Time: 11:00pm GST
Two unbeaten teams will face each other at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan as table-toppers Sevilla host Real Madrid. This tie will see Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui take on his former club for the first time.
The Seville side went through a major makeover in the summer as they roped in over 13 players and saw as many departures. The transformation has seemed to work, given they have won three of their four games so far.
Madrid have dropped off after their impressive opening day win over Celta Vigo. Two drawn games followed and they were lucky to edge Levante in the third, meaning Los Blancos are in a dire need of a big win.
Sevilla won 3-0 in the same fixture last season but heroes on the night, Andre Silva and Wissam Ben Yedder, have left the club.
Key players: Joan Jordan (Sevilla), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Fixture: Chelsea v Liverpool
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Sunday, September 22
Time: 7:30pm GST
A replay of last month’s UEFA Super Cup final will see Chelsea and Liverpool lock horns in our top Premier League tie of the weekend. Both teams came into Europe in a high but came crashing down to earth, following defeats to Valencia and Napoli.
The Londoners shone in their away test against Wolves in the previous game, emerging 5-2 winners thanks to a Tammy Abraham hat-trick.
Liverpool stuttered against Newcastle but came back from a goal down to maintain their 100 per cent record in the domesticseason.
The last five encounters between the two teams at the Bridge have seen Chelsea win once and lose twice.
Key players: Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Fixture: AC Milan v Inter Milan (Milan derby)
Venue: San Siro
Date: Saturday, September 21
Time: 10:45pm GST
One of the most historic derbies in football will take the centre stage on Saturday as AC Milan and Inter Milan face off at the San Siro.
The hosts will look to build on their last two wins, well aware that they have not scored more than one goal in any of their games so far and will need as many as possible against the table toppers.
Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan have made a statement by winning three of three so far, although needed a last-ditch equaliser to rescue a point against Slavia Prague in the Champions League.
AC Milan have not won a league game against the rivals since January 2016 and are unlikely to break the jinx on Saturday.
Key player: Suso (AC Milan), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)
Fixture: Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Dortmund
Date: Sunday, September 22
Time: 8:00pm GST
Two teams carrying tired legs from European engagements will fight for three points at the Commerzbank-Arena as Eintracht Frankfurt host Borussia Dortmund.
The hosts will look to turn things around after a 2-1 defeat against Augsburg. But accumulating three points in a fixture they haven’t won in over three years will require a special performance.
Dortmund were unlucky to have shared the spoils with Barcelona in the Champions League, having dominated the Spanish side over 90 minutes. However, they arrive into the fixture on a positive note, having thumped Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 in their previous Bundesliga game.
The last two meetings between the two sides at this venue ended in a draw. More of the same or will Frankfurt manage an upset against the Black and Yellows?
Key players: Goncalo Palencia (Eintracht Frankfurt), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)
Fixture: Lyon v Paris Saint-Germain
Venue: Parc Olympique Lyonnais
Date: Sunday, September 22
Time: 11:00om GST
PSG’s biggest test in their Ligue 1 title defence will see them travel to Lyon on Sunday in search of three points.
Lyon won their first two games, scoring nine goals and conceding zero to top the table. But they could not build on it and have managed just two points in three games since. They enter this fixture hoping to get their season back on course after a 2-2 draw against Amiens.
PSG responded to their 2-1 defeat against Rennes by keeping clean sheets in all three games that followed. However, they needed an acrobatic effort from Neymar in injury-time – upon the Brazilian’s return to the line-up – to claim all three points against Strasbourg.
The last five meetings between the two sides have seen no draws, with Lyon winning twice. An entertaining clash is in the offing.
Key players: Memphis Depay (Lyon), Neymar (PSG)