Hello and a warm welcome to the Burn FM Champions league round up. The best place for detailed analysis of the week’s Champions League action.
Many England fans may be hoping that Erling Haaland still has strong feelings of happiness associated with his birth city of Leeds. Oh how they would love for him to switch international allegiances to England ahead of Euro 2021 this summer. Sadly, the young starlet is very much Norwegian but it’s in Germany where he is making all the headlines. Of the five goals Borussia Dortmund scored in their 5-4 aggregate win over Sevilla, Haaland scored four. The most memorable of which being the 54th minute penalty in the second leg of the tie in an incident that can only be described as “VARsical”. Nevertheless Dortmund progress through to the quarter finals and Haaland grabs all the headlines. With the debate around Ronaldo and Messi seemingly ageing along with the two players themselves the new debate now centres around the aforementioned Norwegian nemesis and another youngster destined for superstar status in Kylian Mbappé. Dortmund v PSG in the quarters anyone?
Win lose or draw? Porto did the lot
Its not uncommon for second leg champions league games to create some quite incredible drama. Recent ties between Liverpool and Barcelona along Spurs and Ajax have shown that. Joining that illustrious list of quite crazy fixtures was the last 16 tie between Juventus and FC Porto. The Italian champions with an attack spear headed by the great Cristiano Ronaldo were strong favourites when the draw was made. However, the Champions League is rarely simple and Porto came away from the first leg at home with an impressive 2-1 win setting up a fascinating second leg.
The away goals rule means that games rarely enter the nerve shredding period of extra time. But a 2-1 Juventus lead after 90 minutes did just that. From this point many would have expected what everyone had predicted from the start, a Juventus win. And yet the 115th minute saw the ball on the penalty spot for Porto. Sergio Oliveira netted his second of the game giving Porto a two goal cushion overall against their rivals. Despite this, Adrien Rabiot’s strike just two minutes later set up a breathless finale in Turin. However, all the endeavour in the world from Juventus simply wasn’t enough. Even the five time Ballon d’or winner Ronaldo couldn’t overcome a spirited Porto side who progress through to the quarter finals. The funny story being that they lost 3-2 on the night, drew 4-4 overall and yet won on away goals. And that’s why we love the Champions League.
Last hurrah for Lionel?
It’s never easy to see the greats fade away. Whether through retirement or more difficult circumstances football is relentless in its pursuit of greatness. But I’m not sure if any football fans will be ready for the day both Lionel Messi and the previously mentioned Cristiano Ronaldo will inevitably hang up their boots. Both still have several years yet, but with both of them exiting Europe’s elite competition at the round of 16 the fears of the glory days behind them both may be being realised. In Messi’s case his beloved Barcelona side were forced to abandon their champions league ambitions courtesy of a 5-2 aggregate defeat to PSG. With Kylian Mbappé putting his personal stamp on both legs for the French champions many football commentators see this as a key moment where the baton has been well and truly passed on.
Messi didn’t go quietly however. A sensational strike in the second leg in Paris did little to change the outcome of the tie but did leave football fans with a subtle reminder of what the great man is still capable of producing. Messi himself will hope that it isn’t a farewell, but for many his along with Ronaldo’s days of champions league glory are now well and truly gone. But you’d never put it past either of them to have one last shot.
The Real deal
Safe to say that Real Madrid have not enjoyed the last two seasons of Champions League football following on from their three straight victories in the competition. Defeats to Manchester City last season and arguably more embarrassingly to Ajax the season before have left Los Blancos licking their European wounds. A 4-1 aggregate win over Atalanta may be the catalyst for the Spanish giants to rekindle that Champions League flame. Progression to the last 8 is in no way seen as a success for a side that’s won 13 European cups. But after two tricky seasons in Europe it is certainly a step in the right direction.
If Real do have serious ambitions of making it 14 then they will need to emerge out of the shadow created by heavyweights and current European champions Bayern Munich. The German monster of a side breezed past hapless Lazio with a 6-2 aggregate win to progress to the quarter finals. Bayern are still the side to fear in Europe and boast an embarrassment of talent within their team. They will take some stopping. And all this with a former Stoke city striker leading the line! Football’s a funny game.
English representation in both of Europe’s footballing competitions has been incredibly healthy in recent years. The pinnacle perhaps being the all English final in 2019 between Liverpool and Tottenham. Once again this is the case as we see three English sides in the last 8. Despite all their troubles at home Liverpool made light work of RB Leipzig to record a 4-0 aggregate win leaving the Anfield faithful dreaming once again of glory. If problems persist in the Premier League however, who knows what it could do to their European adventure.
Also Joining Liverpool in the last 8 will be Manchester City who, like their Merseyside opponents progressed comfortably with a 4-0 aggregate win. Borussia Monchengladbach were unable to stop Guardiola’s winning machine. Pep has played down talk of a sensational quadruple but I bet secretly he will have one eye on making history with his superb City team. With the Premier League trophy seemingly returning to the Etihad and a League Cup final to come against Spurs the wheels have already been well and truly set in motion. Overcoming the pressures associated with both England’s and Europe’s elite knockout competitions in the FA Cup and Champions League will stretch this side further. But if anyone is up for the task, surely it’s City.
Arguably the biggest story of English glory in the European Cup this week came from West London. Thomas Tuchel has restored the faith at Chelsea with a stubborn yet effective form of football which has reaped rewards in both the Champions League and Premier League. Olivier Giroud’s stunning overhead kick against Atlético Madrid in the first leg set the Blues up for an exciting second leg tie back at Stamford Bridge. And second leg goals from Hakim Ziyech and Emerson gave Chelsea an impressive 3-0 aggregate victory. Talk of a second European crown may be premature, but Tuchel has Chelsea seemingly on the right track once again. Momentum and belief are massive in football and Chelsea might just have found that exact combination at just the right time.
So we’re down to 8. Once again the elite of Europe are set to fight it out for the trophy known as Big Ears. It would be fair to say that most teams going into the quarter finals will fancy their chances. Which in turn poses more questions than it answers. Will PSG or Man City finally find that winning formula in Europe? Or will it be the old guard of Real Madrid, Liverpool or Bayern swooping yet another title? Or will it be something completely different? Who knows. All I know is, it’s bound to keep us on the edge of our seats right from the off.