The Champions League and Europa League picked up again after a two month hiatus, which allowed clubs to focus on their domestic leagues.
As fans we are treated to some of the most beautiful and competitive football played in these two tournaments. We are blessed to see the underdog’s beating the favorites, GOAT’s scoring hat tricks, questionable ‘reffing, and a ton of surprises!
There is nothing like the Champions League or even its little sister the Europa League and this week has lived up to the high expectations of anything can happen at any given time.
Champions League Round of 16
Barcelona vs PSG
Messi and Griezmann vs Mbappé and Neymar!
PSG have face Barca 4 times in the UCL knockout rounds since in 2013, and they have yet to make it past the Catalan club. They appeared to be close in 2017 after scoring 4 goals at Camp Nou and finishing with a clean sheet, but a charged up Barca went to France and annihilated their opponents 6-1.
The revenge thirsty Paris Saint-Germain side were heading into the first of a 2 ‘legged match up’’ without both Neymar Jr and Angel Di Maria, out injured, this is a huge blow to the team.
We were treated to a high paced, exciting match that looked like it could go both ways, then Messi scored a penalty in the 26th minute. His teammate Freddy De Jong went down on a very soft challenge in the box.
The Argentine steps up, kicks the ball and walks away with a smile.
But that smile quickly faded high not more than 5 minutes later.
PSG’s Kurzawa sends a pass in to Barcelona’s box that finds Marco Veratti – a quick touch mid-air sends the ball over to Kilian Mbappé. The Frenchman walks right by Lenglet and sends it high left post.
A failed PSG corner kick resulted in a dangerous Barca counter attack; both Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele coming in on lone Paris defender Alessandro Florenzi. It should have been a goal, but the only problem is Griezman didn’t play the early pass that would have sent Dembele in on a breakaway; he chose to shoot instead and missed the net.
The second goal for the Parisians came off a pass Florenzi sends into Barcelona’s box. Pique does manage to block it, but the ball still ends up on Mbappé’s left foot – and what do you think happened? Goal!
VAR intervened, saying It appeared to be offside , but VAR was wrong.
2-1 for Paris Saint Germain.
PSG score again 5 minutes later from a free kick taken by midfielder Paredes, the Argentine drove a perfect lob into the box that landed on top of Moise Kean’s head, and made its way into the right corner.
3-1 Psg, and now Barcelona is in deep s**t
At this point the Spanish giants just look demoralized, out of gas, out of ideas, and on the verge of giving up.
An attack by Barcelona ends with Messi ‘’attempting’’ to kick but misses the ball, gifts PSG a perfect 3 on 1 led by Julian Draxler, with Mbappé to his left, and Mauro Icardi on his right. He passes right, and Mbappé scores a beautiful curler, top right corner!
By now the game is over, and this is when Barcelona decide to TURN UP. They played a dangerous possessive game and created a few chances at the end, but Navas and his fellow defenders couldn’t be solved.
PSG win 4-1
The whole game was dictated by no other than Kilian Mbappé, who went home with the game ball, 3 goals and the man of the match award.
Barcelona is in big trouble considering the match was played in their arena, this gives PSG 4 away goals Messi and Co will need to score a minimum of 4 away goals in Paris to go through. They also can’t concede any goals.
The Aggregate Rule: where away goals have more value than home goals is great, but it can be quite the painful decision maker when it works against your team.
Paris put the nail in the coffin on this one very early on; they could literally lose the next game 3-0 and still go through to the quarter finals.
Once again, Messi demonstrates 0 leadership skills in a game where his team needed their leader.
Individual play, wasted chances from the whole team plus a lot of Messi just walking around, appearing disinterested in what was going on around him is what the team brought to the table. I know Lionel can’t do it all on his own, but a lot of the game he hardly tried to get into the open areas to receive a pass, that’s what the Blaugrana fans got last Tuesday.
Barcelona had a lot of ball possession, but was unable to make the most of it, the Messi dribbles led to next to nothing, while PSG were dangerous creating chances and penetrating Barcelona’s defense from the beginning of the match.
Liverpool vs RB Leipzig
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side have lost their form through injuries to key players, and a lack of goal scoring over the last 2 months. They were also on a 3 game losing streak in the Premier League, and from the beginning of the year; they have seen themselves fall from 1st to 6th place.
RB Leipzig have been high flying all year, are 2nd in the German Bundesliga, and beat another English team in Manchester United during the qualifying rounds. This will be the second team from England that they face in a do-or-die situation this year.
This is the first time the two teams face each other.
Liverpool started new CB signing Ozan Kabak in a tactical move that paid off. The player joined the Reds from the Bungesliga last month, and has spent the last 3 years defending against RB Leipzig. He knew the attacking opponents really well and this surprise start paid off with a clean sheet.
Just minutes into the game, Leipzig had a chance from a header by Olmo that just bounced off the left side post and across the net. The ball then rolled safely to Robertson’s feet. Exactly the type of luck Liverpool has needed in recent times.
The pressure was constant by Lfc and it forced the German club to crack, as they made two very crucial mistakes between the 53rd and 58th minutes of the match.
It was a well matched game, both teams playing strongly disciplined. Alisson made a few good saves and so did Leipzig’s keeper. Liverpool scored 2 away goals which will be a massive advantage for them on the return leg.
Liverpool shouldn’t have many problems making it through to the quarter finals in the next match. Maybe this win will also give the team the mental boost to slowly climb back up the English Premier League table as well. Unfortunately not today, as they lost the Derby 2-0 to fellow Merseyside club Everton.
Porto vs Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Portugal couldn’t have gone further from plan.
Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur screwed the pooch in the first minute of the game!
La Bianconeri was in the middle of ‘playing it out the back’ like they usually do, Chiellini gets the ball, routinely passes to the goal keeper who then sends it to the Cm.
All that had to be done was cycle the ball back to Giorgio Chiellini so he can play it up further. I’m not sure if Bentancur drank some odd ‘Mate’ before the game or what, but he froze before trying to pass it back to Szczesny. The goaltender clearly was not expecting his trusted defending midfield to make such an irresponsible play, especially not with Porto’s Mehdi Taremi already pressing and so close to the net.
With his best efforts, the GK jumped towards the ball at the same time as Porto’s striker throws himself feet first.
Taremi clashes with Szczesny, and the ball ends up in the net.
1 – Nil for Porto.
Juve then pushed and pressed forward, trying to break through the Portuguese teams back line, but they just couldn’t slide through. Porto played the ball well and made the most of their chances when they got them.
Adrian Rabiot attempted a bicycle kick that went just over the bar, this was the best thing in the first half for a Juve fan.
The second half began just like the first one… 23 seconds in and Porto make it 2 – 0.
What the f#$k!
How do you manage to allow 2 goals against, one in each half – within the first minute – for each goal?!
Liverpool may have had their luck, but Juventus sure as hell didn’t.
Porto begins the 2nd half with the ball; carrying it inside the Serie A champions box with an easy pass from the right. The defenders do nothing, Marega sends a little shot bottom right that finds the back of the net.
This was totally on the Gk, I’m sure the academy’s U13 keeper has saved better.
Just like after the first goal, the Juve players tried to create, but clearly had no ideas. The team was out of sync, Juventus were not Juventus.
Ronaldo had one of his worst games for the team, attempting to dribble technically only to unusually be dispossessed with ease.
One player who stood out was Frederico Chiesa, who looked like he was going to do something concrete all game. In 82nd minute Chiesa scored a very important away goal. Rabiot finds Chiesa in the center of the box who sends it home with class. The kid is going to be a future star.
There was a controversial moment very close to the end of the match, in the 90 + 4th minute of extra time.
Juve defender De Ligt sends a ball flying into Porto’s box which Cristiano Ronaldo’s 1st touch just pulls down to the grass. Just as the player’s foot finished grabbing the ball out the air, Porto’s Lb Sanusi collides with CR7 and they both go down. Ronaldo obviously stays down expecting a penalty, as did all of the Italian side, however the referee waived it off and told them to play on.
Juve cycle the ball and try to attack again, managing nothing, the whole time the referee keeps pointing to his ear piece. He blows the whistle and ends the match still letting the players know he’s talking to VAR. However he never went to the screen to review it, and the match ended there to the surprise of Pirlo and his whole team.
I watched it a few times and it looked as if Ronaldo was going down a fraction of a second before the contact was made. It could have gone either way. Juve fans obviously wanted it to be a penalty.
Here are the highlights of the game:
Pirlo’s men got the goal at Porto’s stadium in the last 10 minutes, and that is huge for them.
They could technically reorganize themselves and win 1-0 at home and go through to the next rounds, or they could create a bunch of mistakes again and gift their opponents the game. If the later were to happen, they would be going out early again, just like last year.
Sevilla vs Dortmund
Wonder kid Erling Haaland was at it again – his best.
I see it being Haaland vs Mbappe soon enough, I mean Ronaldo is still killing it and is leading goal scorer in Serie A, but he’s 36 now while former pair is 20 and 22 years old. While Messi’s future is up in the air, he still is performing in 2021.
Sevilla’s attacker Suso got on the score sheet 6 minutes in – what’s up with all these early goals?!
From just outside the box, Suso does a quick fake left –pulls right then shoots low. The ball takes a deflection off a Dortmund defender and finds itself in their net.
1 – 0 for Sevilla
Haaland’s dribbling skills and a smart pass in the 19th set off a butterfly effect of goals. The first came from outside the box as Mahmoud Dahoud sends a cracker top right.
The next one was all Haaland again, carrying the ball through Sevilla’s midfielders, makes a quick 1 – 2 pass, while getting behind the defenders to pick up the ball and score his first of the night.
2 -1 for Dortmund
The next goal for the German side came off a 3 on 1 attack centered by Marco Reus, he passes to his right and finds Haalands left foot, with a quick tap its in the bottom left of the goal.
Sevilla were fortunate to score a 2nd off a free kick from outside of the box. Luke De Jong receives the ball on the and kicks a volley into the net.
Game ends 3-2.
Erling Haaland scores a pair of goals and an assist and ran wild all game.
I expect Dortmund to finish the Spanish team in the next game which will be in their home stadium.
Next up for the Champions League 1st round of Knockout games
On Tuesday the 23rd the 2nd phase of first legged games begin with Atletico Madrid taking on Chelsea and their new coach Thomas Tuchel, who has helped the team climb up from 9th to 4th in the Premier League.
The Blues have not lost a game in 6 games since the new coach took over.
Atletico Madrid are first in the Spanish league this year and have allowed the least goals agains (16). They also have on fire Luis Suarez to rely on who leads the league with 16 goals, 1 ahead of his best friend Messi’s 15.
This is a very good series that can go either way.
Lazio will take on last year’s UCL winners Bayern Munich, this is almost a no brainer, and the German side will pave their way through the Italian club.
They have to.
Not to underestimate Lazio and their fine players, but I just don’t see them at the level capable of dancing with Bayern.
Wednesday, the actual day and not our favorite American God’s character, will see the final two – first round games be played.
High scoring dynamic Atalanta take on Zidane’s Real Madrid who are second in their domestic league.
I know everyone looking at this will expect Real to go through, but as someone who follows Serie A closely; Atalanta is not a team to doubt.
They will be playing Juventus in the Coppa Italia finals next month. They also beat Liverpool 2-0 in the group stage, and scored 8 goals in both of their last years round of 16 games.
Real Madrid has a bad start to the season, but have since found consistency but will be without both Sergio Ramos and Marcelo lost to injuries. The team is also unsure about Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema who have been ruled out for ‘’a few weeks’’.
With all these key players potentially missing, Zizou will hope for some magic from his youngsters if he is to get through to the next round.
The last pairing will be a 2 legged tie between Manchester City and German side Borussia M’Gladbach. Man City is number 1 in the Premier League clear by 10 points, they are on a 17 game winning streak, and undefeated in the last 24 games in all competitions.
Pep Guardiola’s men are the definition of form this season, even though they dealt with injuries to important players like striker Sergio Aguero.
The German side is 7th in the Bundesliga and can be a danger playing a very strong physical game, but I don’t see them beating City.
This tournament is played amongst teams from lower leagues in Europe, and the teams that fell out of the Champions League that finished 3rd in their group stage.
This stage is a round 32 compared to the above UCL’s 16 clubs.
The biggest match was Manchester United vs Real Sociedad.
The match was held in the Juventus Alianz stadium due to covid travel restrictions. Somehow the Spanish side ended the game with 59% ball possession and 8 shots, but lost 4-0. United’s Bruno Fernandes once again inspires his team to a win by scoring the first 2 goals. Marcus Rashford followed up with the 3rd goal before young Daniel James ended the night with a goal in the 90th assisted by defender Eric Bailly.
Leicester City played a stalemate which ended 0 -0 against Czech side Slavia Prague.
Tottenham beat Austrian side Wolfsberger Ac 4 -1, goals coming from Vinicius, Lucas Moura, Son and Gareth Bale scored a goal and an assist!
Greek giants Olympiacos ploughed through Dutch side PSV by a score of 4 -2.
Ajax came out on top with 2 vs French Ligue 1 Lille’s lone goal scored. 2-1.
Genero Gattuso’s Napoli side lost 2 -0 against Spanish side Granada. With the talent the squad has, there is no way they should be losing this. They were overpowered by Juventus in the Super Coppa final, they’ve been dumped out of the Coppa d’Italia tournament, and now have their backs against the wall in Europa league. The manager’s seat just got hotter.
One match that ended in a tie was Benfica and Arsenal with each side scoring a goal.
Serie A’s Roma got the W with a 2 – 0 win over Braga a team from Portugal.
Steven Gerrards’ Rangers won 4-3 against Belgian side Antwerp.
The 2nd leg games will be held next week.
I can see Manchester United winning this year.
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