The Champions League first knockout spherical is full, with notable moments seeing Actual Madrid produce a stirring comeback in opposition to Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid beautiful Manchester United and Manchester Metropolis and Bayern Munich scoring objectives galore.
We requested Mark Ogden, Julien Laurens and Alex Kirkland for his or her views on some large questions.
What caught your consideration from the second legs of the spherical of 16?
Ogden: Inter Milan‘s 1-0 win at Liverpool within the second leg of their tie wasn’t sufficient to keep away from elimination, however Simone Inzaghi’s staff have been spectacular for an hour within the first leg at San Siro and unlucky to not win by extra at Anfield.
No Italian staff has received the Champions League since Jose Mourinho’s Inter in 2010, however maybe there are actually some indicators of a Serie A resurgence on the again of Italy’s Euro 2020 success. If Inter can maintain onto Inzaghi and substitute a number of the staff’s older gamers, they may solely get higher. Inter and Juventus each reached the spherical of 16 and, though Juve have been routed by Villarreal, Inter confirmed sufficient to recommend that Italian golf equipment can begin to compete frequently once more.
Laurens: I completely liked all of the away wins we noticed within the second legs. Even when Inter did not undergo, they inflicted a primary residence defeat of the season on Liverpool, which is an achievement in itself. Atletico went to Previous Trafford and delivered the archetypal Diego Simeone efficiency, totally helped by how poor Manchester United have been.
For Benfica, the duty was even more durable as Ajax had been in superb type at residence. And in opposition to all the chances, when all people, together with myself, predicted them to be out, they defended beautifully and took, just about, the one probability they’d.
However perhaps essentially the most spectacular away win was Villarreal in Turin. This Juventus staff is just not the Juve of outdated and their supervisor, Max Allegri, is simply too old-school, however Unai Emery and his Villarreal gamers have been implausible. They rode their luck within the first half and hit Juve laborious with three objectives within the closing 12 minutes. Enormous credit score to them.
Kirkland: In a decade of going to video games on the Bernabeu I’ve by no means heard the group as raucous as throughout Actual Madrid’s second-half turnaround in opposition to Paris Saint-Germain. Madrid’s repute for European comebacks is, to a sure extent, self-mythologising — they have not finished it that always — however this was the actual deal and it was a privilege to be there.
Villarreal’s 3-0 win at Juventus was nearly as exceptional. The Yellow Submarine, the last word well-run small-town membership, have a proud document in Europe — 2006 Champions League semifinalists, Europa League winners final yr — however this good, medical show to remove the would-be Tremendous League founders ranked amongst their easiest European nights.
England and Spain every have three golf equipment left; choose your favorite from every nation to win all of it
Laurens: Chelsea are a implausible cup staff for the reason that arrival of Thomas Tuchel. With every thing occurring to the membership proper now off the sector, their progress may galvanise this squad much more. Karim Benzema is one of the best participant on this planet proper now, together with Kylian Mbappe, and he can take Actual Madrid all the best way too.
Kirkland: I can see Manchester Metropolis going one step additional than final yr and at last successful their first Champions League, or Actual Madrid successful their 14th.
Ogden: Liverpool play with a freedom and perception within the Champions League that Man Metropolis are nonetheless looking for, so I would again Jurgen Klopp’s staff each time forward of Pep Guardiola’s facet. And identical goes for Actual Madrid in Spain — no person does the Champions League fairly like they do.
Do you miss the away objectives rule?
Kirkland: Greater than miss it, I’ve needed to hold reminding myself it is now not an element. Away objectives have been so dominant within the discourse for therefore a few years that it’s going to take just a little longer to interrupt the behavior. We’ve not seen a major affect but. Actual Madrid’s place when Mbappe scored on the Bernabeu to place PSG 2-0 up on mixture felt hopeless, regardless. There have been fears that the rule’s abolition would lead extra video games to go to additional time or be selected penalties — up to now that hasn’t been the case.
Ogden: Sure, the knockout ties have lacked a component of jeopardy with out away objectives. Relatively than being an outdated idea, the rule posed a tactical problem to groups and coaches when it comes to whether or not they have been daring sufficient to push for a aim on the highway, on the threat of leaving gaps in defence.
Furthermore, deciding video games by away objectives not less than mirrored one thing that occurred through the course of the sport. Certainly it’s higher for it to be determined by a aim in open play than through a penalty shootout? Each groups have the chance to attain an away aim, so these on the fallacious finish solely have themselves in charge.
Laurens: Completely not. It was a pointless and unfair rule. I can assure that United and Juventus, for instance, would have performed for a 0-0 draw at residence within the second legs to undergo. I am sorry, however a staff taking part in for a draw twice over two legs shouldn’t be capable of qualify with out going to a penalty shootout. As an alternative, we had some fascinating second legs the place all people needed to assault and needed to rating. That is what soccer is about. As for the away objectives rule posing a tactical problem, that is ridiculous. All it used to do was make groups be extra calculating and cautious.
Ale Moreno was confused by Manchester United’s substitutions of their Champions League loss to Atletico Madrid.
What’s the quarterfinal match-up you need to see and why?
Ogden: Man Metropolis vs. Liverpool. Maybe I’m being grasping, but when the groups additionally attain the FA Cup semifinals, there may be the prospect of 4 conferences in 12 days. They’re already because of play a possible Premier League title decider on the Etihad Stadium on April 10, which is sandwiched between the primary and second legs of the Champions League quarterfinals.
Bayern Munich might argue in any other case, however Metropolis and Liverpool are one of the best two groups in Europe. Pep Guardiola’s facet are chasing a treble, whereas Jurgen Klopp’s males can nonetheless obtain a quadruple. On condition that, let’s have a look at them rise up shut and private as typically as doable to resolve who is actually No. 1.
Laurens: I desire a full Anglo-Spanish battle within the quarterfinals! I need all three of every nation to face one another. Manchester Metropolis vs. Actual Madrid with Pep Guardiola vs. Carlo Ancelotti, Kevin De Bruyne vs. Karim the Dream. Liverpool vs. Atletico Madrid would give the Reds a shot at revenge, two years after Marcos Llorente‘s objectives at Anfield knocked them out. And eventually, Chelsea vs. Villarreal could be Thomas Tuchel vs. Unai Emery, with each coaches displaying former employers PSG what they’re lacking.
Spain vs. England: Felipe VI vs. Elizabeth II, tapas vs. Sunday roast, bullfighting vs. darts! This is able to be superb. Spanish groups normally do properly in England. Nonetheless, this time, it could be a tricky ask. I predict England 3-0 Spain.
Kirkland: Actual Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid. It has been 5 years for the reason that Madrid groups final met in Europe — earlier than that, a four-year run noticed Atletico’s European goals cruelly dashed by their native rivals season after season, overwhelmed within the 2014 and 2016 finals and eradicated within the 2015 quarterfinals and 2017 semifinals — so it is excessive time Simeone’s staff got one other alternative for revenge. Likelihood is, Actual Madrid would solely break their hearts once more, although.