The Champions League group stage hit the halfway point for half of the field on Tuesday, with Tottenham and Real Madrid calming rampant concerns with victories and a series of individual stars lifting their sides to victory.
Second-half hat tricks from Raheem Sterling and Kylian Mbappe led Man City and PSG to comfortable victories, respectively, while Robert Lewandowski continued his hot streak for Bayern Munich with two more goals in a winning cause.
Paulo Dybala was the individual star for Juventus, with his two goals two minutes apart–the first an absolute peach–leading Juve to a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Lokomotiv Moscow.
That result allowed the Serie A power to keep pace in Group D with Atletico Madrid, a 1-0 winner over Bayer Leverkusen in one of the day's two early games. After three games, Juve and Atletico are level on points, with both in prime position to go through.
The other early start resulted in a 2-2 deadlock between Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb, with the point doing little for either in the quest to catch Man City. Pep Guardiola's side is five points clear of both after the 5-1 win over Atalanta, which sits hopelessly at the bottom of Group C with no points.
Bayern also has a five point lead in its group, with Lewandowski's double helping the club to a 3-2 win over Olympiakos. Tottenham sits second following its thorough 5-0 dismantling of Red Star Belgrade.
Group A's two powers are also sitting pretty, with PSG not troubled at all in a 5-0 win over Club Brugge and Real Madrid five points back in second place after a 1-0 win at Galatarasay.
Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League:
Tottenham, Real Madrid calm crisis calls
Tottenham and Real Madrid needed this. Both clubs have been floundering based on expectations, dropping points where unexpected and not meeting the standard necessary to satisfy their fans and stakeholders.
Such has been the struggle that both Mauricio Pochettino and Zinedine Zidane have had their jobs come into question, with Jose Mourinho, of course, linked as the midseason successor should either be cut loose. How quickly the narrative changes. Months ago, Pochettino was hailed as a Spurs legend, with the club petrified of losing him to the likes of Man United and Real Madrid. Zidane was the savior, coming to fix the flawed group of superstars that floundered in the first year after Cristiano Ronaldo's departure. Mourinho was a toxic pariah. For a day, anyhow, the hot seats are slightly cooler, and the job chatter can quiet down.
Tottenham had a rare walk in the park vs. Red Star Belgrade, with doubles from Harry Kane Son Heung-min putting the club on its way to a 5-0 rout–one that goes a long way in erasing the goal-differential hit the club took in the 7-2 loss to Bayern on the previous matchday.
Real Madrid's day wasn't as simple, though playing at Galatasaray always figured to be more of a sneaky challenge than perhaps some would expect. Thibaut Courtois was called into action multiple times in the first half before Eden Hazard deftly set up Toni Kroos for the opener and eventual game-winner.
These are games that Tottenham and Real Madrid should have been expected to win, but lately, nothing is a given for either side. That's been the key issue. Now, it's a matter of building momentum. Real Madrid may be a bit fortunate that El Clasico got moved from this weekend. It now has eight days off before hosting Leganes.
Tottenham is less fortunate, with consecutive games on Merseyside against Liverpool and Everton over the span of a week, starting Sunday at Anfield. But perhaps this comprehensive showing is what Pochettino's side needed going into their Champions League final rematch.
Where would Bayern Munich be without Lewandowski?
When it comes to most valuable players to a team across Europe's top leagues, Lewandowski might top the list. Bayern's star forward scored twice Tuesday, giving him goals in 12 straight matches in all competitions for his club and 18 overall.
His first was a case of being in the right place at the right time to tuck home a rebound, but it came with Bayern losing at Olympiakos and with the hosts having all of the momentum.
His second gave Bayern the lead, and while the Bundesliga power ultimately needed Corentin Tolisso's tally to claim all three points, it's clear that Bayern wouldn't be anywhere without its Polish striker.
Like at Tottenham and Real Madrid, all is not going swimmingly at Bayern. The club has dropped points in half of its league games so far, and there still doesn't seem to be complete trust in manager Niko Kovac to get the best out of this side over the duration of the season. As long as Lewandowski is firing–and this rate is simply not sustainable– though, there will always be a chance.
Young stars put Man City, PSG in driver's seats
Two clubs expected to coast through much of the group stage are sitting pretty after three matches. Man City and PSG both eased to wins, scoring five goals apiece thanks to hat tricks from two special talents.
Man City fell behind to Atalanta before the Sterling show took over. The English forward was a wrecking machine, scoring a hat trick in 11 second-half minutes after he had assisted on the opener and drew the penalty for the eventual go-ahead goal.
PSG still isn't at full strength, but full strength doesn't matter when Mauro Icardi is the "backup" option to Neymar and Edinson Cavani and Mbappe is coming off the bench. Mbappe's hat trick, Icardi's double and Angel Di Maria's three assists paced the club's rout of Club Brugge.
The scariest part about Sterling and Mbappe might not be what they're capable of now, but what's still to come. Sterling turns 25 next month, while Mbappe turns 21 12 days later. The present and future are quite bright for both.