UEFA Champions League Round of 16 week (2)
Unlike the other week of shocking results and turn arounds this week, this one was more down to earth, providing more expected outcomes. Out of the four matches, three of the favorite teams have qualified and one has triumphed in a duel of giants to place its bid for the trophy in Madrid this year.
Juventus 3-0 Atletico Madrid (3-2 aggregate)
First leg: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Juventus
Atletico Madrid’s fate has never been a good one when it comes to the big trophies. Never. Ok, maybe some points in their history and that 2014 league title are a few exceptions, but this team simply never had any real chance of establishing themselves as a top team with Barcelona and crosstown rivals Real installing some sort of domination in Spain; as for European football, it was on a UEFA Cup level when they didn’t play in Segunda or try avoiding relegation. In a few words, the average Spanish team, known only for launching players such as Torres. That was until Simeone took over, but even now the losing syndrome is strong on this side of the Spanish capital. Three Champions League finals, not even Valencia reached that performance… All the more dramatic is that the Champions League final is played on Wanda Metropolitano.
Juventus, on the other side, ever since they established domination in Italy have been looking for a treble to shut Inter fans once and for all. In a way, Juventus and Atletico are similar. While the former’s way of achieving anything was blocked by Barcelona and Real, the latter’s way of achieving something on European level was blocked in the same way. Two Champions League finals lost against the same Spanish giants. I daresay the lack of competitivity in Serie A is showing off big time there. Their purchase of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid last summer was meant to fix the lack in Champions League trophies, and it looks like they’re in for that.
Ronaldo promised to score a hattrick against Atletico in the return leg at Turin after they won the first leg. Promise delivered. He knows them all to well… Juventus took advantage of Atletico’s habitual crackdown when it counts and begun a full blown assault. Atletico were simply clueless, as if they weren’t even trying to defend a two goal advantage that could lead them to a final at their OWN homeground. Compare to a time when they went to Munich with a 1-0 advantage and earned a ticket into the Champions League final in Cardiff, almost three years ago. And so Atletico’s nightmares with Ronaldo go on even after the latter’s departure from Madrid…
Manchester City 7-0 Schalke (aggregate 10-2)
First leg: Schalke 2-3 Manchester City
I’ve always thought it was exciting, the power of a home ground, how great it can sometimes a nullify a huge gap in value between two sides. It’s really fantastic. But alas, those sort of wonders don’t tend to last long, and the away leg shatters it all. If football was a TV show and not a televised sport, that would be a trope given how frequent these cases are. Frankly, it’s sort of exhausting given how few the cases in which a surprise stands on to the next round are.
Off-topic, but Schalke’s relevance in Europe it’s limited to a UEFA Cup won over Inter in 1997 and a Champions League semi-final against Manchester United; I wouldn’t say average German team, but getting eliminated by Slavia Prague one year after winning an European competition is like their fall after success routine. Back to the topic. Schalke in Gelsenkirchen fought head-to-toe with City, equalising through two penalties by Bentaleb after Aguero’s opener, leading 2-1 at the half-break, and only succumbed in the last 5 minutes when they conceded against Sane and Sterling. Schalke in Manchester were invisible. It was pure luck they could resist at 0-0 for 35 minutes. Eventually, a penalty goal by Aguero broke them and it was already 3-0 by half break, with Sane scoring as well. Sterling, Silva, Foden and Gabriel Jesus furthered it.
I could say about Manchester City that they start to look like a top team, but they will probably spit on my words as soon as they find a worthy opponent and fall yet again. Guardiola has ways to go before he can bring the Champions League there.
Barcelona 5-1 Lyon (5-1 aggregate)
First leg: Lyon 0-0 Barcelona
I get it, Lyon is not that team who used to trash Real Madrid whenever they met them. But with Barcelona playing like they did, it was only the French team’s incompetence that led to this result. Messi and Coutinho set stage for a 2-0 lead at the half break, but when the second half began the Blaugranas already looked tired and exhausted. Lyon tried something throughout the entire half, and Toussart eventually scored in the 58th minute. The French looked like they were going to try and score another. It was all they needed for a quarter-final. But Messi hit again, 12 minutes before the break. 3-1 instead of 2-2. That’s where the French cracked, paving way for Pique and Dembele to score as well.
Whether Barcelona can win the Champions League or not it’s still a mystery. Honestly, their approach lately was so bad that, at this point, I wouldn’t see them as a threat. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyways, Lyon bites the dust… Again. Substanceless club, enjoying some money-filled success in 2000, and when they were close to their first European final, they were beaten by a group of youngsters.
Bayern Munich 1-3 Liverpool (1-3 aggregate)
First leg: Liverpool 0-0 Bayern Munich
“Qualifies: Liverpool. I’m not really sure, though, but I’m saying there’s a 51% chance they might.” – source: me. It’s one of the only three predictions about this phrase I got straight (the other two being Barcelona and Manchester City…). I’ve said it before and I will say it, I guess, until the end of the season, Bayern Munich with Niko Kovac are a joke and nothing more.
Bayern looked like a complete wreck. No vision, no attacking force, no anything. Mane opened the score for a 1-0 lead of Liverpool, and only Matip’s stupid own goal made the score a 1-1 at half break. In the second half, Liverpool basically erased Bayern and the Germans cracked when Van Dijk scored for 2-1 in the 70th minute. 6 minutes before the end, Mane also made the brace for a 3-1.
And I lived to see both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich knocked out in the round of 16. Manchester United, Ajax, Porto and Liverpool advancing into the quarter-finals. Honestly, it feels like the 2000s, if not for Manchester City’s oil stink spoiling the feel. Klopp says Liverpool is now oficially back among Europe’s elites… Don’t get too excited, boy, it’s still Liverpool we’re talking about here.