Editor Paul Wilkes looks at his stand out moments involving Spanish clubs or players in the opening group games
Màlaga's dream start
It couldn't have started any better at the Rosaleda with a goal after two minutes which settled the home teams nerves in their first ever Champions League match. The Spanish side played a 4-1-3-2 against Zenit St Petersburg's 4-3-3, this meant they had an extra midfielder in central areas. The positioning of both Joaquín and Eliseu caused endless problems as they fluently hovered between the lines, cleverly placing themselves in an inside-winger position, if the full-backs played narrow and pushed up to them then that would allow space for the mobile strikers Saviola and Isco to exploit or the on-coming full-backs as Jesús Gámez did for the 2nd goal; as it was, the midfielders looked to pick them up, though that forced them to sit deep, stopping Zenit from advancing up the pitch as much as they would have liked.
In the 40th minute Luciano Spalletti looked to prevent this by replacing Aleksander Luković (left back) with a midfielder Vladimir Bystrov (midfielder), who relayed the message to move to a 3-4-3, the improvement was immediate. Zenit could then match Màlaga in midfield without the ball, but more importantly they could provide width when they did have possession, forcing Joaquín and Eliseu to track runners through fear of overloading their own full-backs. The 26 degree heat might have contributed to the Russians problems, but they had no answer to young star of the show Isco, who's brilliant finish from distance rounded off a 3-0 win.
Ronaldo finds Maicon lacking
It's two years since Gareth Bale destroyed the Brazilian full-back at the San Siro, but for some woeful finishing and top work from Joe Hart, we would be drawing the same conclusions following his meeting with Ronaldo. When he was in the back fourthe winger isolated him one-versus-one as he struggled with his footwork, when he was further up the pitch he left Vincent Kompany exposed.
Dani Alves has previously left Ronaldo to his centre-back in El Clàsico's, but then his Barcelona side dominated possession, so this caused more problems to Real Madrid. For Manchester City it would have been a strange decision for Roberto Mancini to instruct Maicon to play in such a manner, one can only presume the new signing took it upon himself.
Mancini looked to match Mourinho's midfield
The two giant spenders played 4-2-3-1 variations, but what stood out was the way the former Inter managers squared up in midfield. Both sides had a deep-lying playmaker (Xabi Alonso and Javi Garcia), a runner (Michael Essen and Gareth Barry) and physical box-to-box midfielders deployed in an advanced role (Sami Khedira and Yaya Toure). Khedira and Toure would look to stop the deep-lying playmaker's when their side didn't have the ball, then offer the thrust and penetration when they did. Argentinean strikers, Brazilian full-backs and rookie centre-backs were other areas they also appeared to swap notes with.
One of the best substitute benches in Champions League history
Manchester City may have had Sergio Agüero on the bench (who tweeted after the game that he would have joined Real Madrid had he been allowed to) and made best use of their subs with both Dzeko and Kolarov scoring, but the real star line-up getting splinters was from the home team. Adán, Luka Modrić, Karim Benzema, Kaka, Mesut Özil, Sergio Ramos and Fábio Coentrão all warmed the seats close to José Mourinho, few have had better resources to call upon.
Barça's decision not to buy a centre-back might come back to bite them
Following a further injury to Carles Puyol last week, Gerard Piqué pulled up after an effort on goal in the first half against Unai Emery's Spartak Moscow. His replacement was new signing Alex Song, forcing two natural defensive midfielders to play centre-half. When Mascherano was limping ten minutes later, the Camp Nou faithful had their hearts in their mouths. Barcelona have a number of good young centre-backs, but like Guardiola before him it seems Vilanova doesn't deem then ready yet. The other option which has been done previously is drop Sergio Busquets into the position. Come May they might be ruing the decision not to invest in a further defender.
Emery has hope, though fails to beat Barcelona again
Most didn't expect Valencia to compete with Barcelona over the course of a season, but most did expect them to compete over 90 minutes. To often that didn't seem the case under Unai Emery as he suffered six straight defeats at the Camp Nou. Emery talked in his pre-match press conference of wanting to finally get that win with Spartak Moscow. Last time Barcelona had lost at home in the Champions League was back in 2009 against another Russian team Rubin Kazan, for 12 minutes it looked like it might happen again. Then, up stepped Lionel Messi, a brace from the little maestro and Emery's dreams were shattered.