How did the Premier League teams in the Champions League do?
The past two weeks have seen some of the most entertaining and even historic nights in the most prestigious European competition; the Champions League. The knockout stages of the Champions League are, put simply, when s*#t gets serious! We have seen three teams overcome deficits from the first legs that have created great comeback stories, but it’s been more than that, we’ve seen hat-tricks, 7-goal thumpings, and even last year’s champions being eliminated by an Ajax team full of youthful exuberance. The Champions League is truly Magical. With Tottenham, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool in the last eight, it’s a proud moment for English football. Here we take a look at how they performed in the round of 16 and if any of them can possibly go all the way.
Spurs strolled through to the last 16 thanks to a comfortable 4-0 aggregate score over Borrusia Dortmund, current league leaders in the Bundesliga. With Harry Kane absent in the first leg, there was much speculation about how Spurs would fare in this contest considering Dortmund were flying in Germany. However, any doubts were quickly squashed, as Spurs came out on top and didn’t look too troubled by this Dortmund team. Unfortunately, the second leg wasn’t one of the comeback stories in this years’ edition, as Tottenham continued to look in control at the Signal Iduna Park, knocking Dortmund out.
Sure the Champions League is full of surprises but I don’t think this is the competition that this Spurs team will go on and win. The squad has some quality players all over the pitch, but none of which are winners and when you compare them to the likes of Juventus, Barcelona or even Manchester City, they come well short. A quarter-final is a wonderful achievement for Tottenham, and should they play the home leg at their new stadium, this will inevitably give them a massive boost. With Spurs now looking over their shoulder in the Premier League as the race for top four tightens up, they may look to focus their attention elsewhere.
That night in Paris. Dreams and hopes were turned into reality as a late Marcus Rashford penalty sent United through and PSG crashing out, in what was the standout game this round. Manchester United cast their name on yet another historic European night as they booked themselves a place in the last eight. With 10 senior players out, a 2-0 home deficit, and Paul Pogba suspended, no one can sit there and say they saw this one coming. A lack of players to choose from can explain why all three substitutes were teenagers on the night. Those that did play, however, performed with a spirit and belief that has not been since the Sir Alex days, and that is a testament to Ole. Everything Manchester United stands for was on show in this game, youth, belief and last minute winners. Paris will be a night to remember.
June 2019 will mark 20 years since Ole’s finest hour against Bayern Munich, in a hypothetical world for United fans it will be the perfect narrative for the stars to align again once more. If only history was that simple. On paper, teams may be superior, but belief and tradition are what will spur this set of players to try go all the way. This United team has shown no fear in recent months, and teams will want to avoid them if possible in the next round. Without a doubt, United are not favourites in this competition but now ‘Ole’s at the wheel’ anything seems possible, even winning the Champions League.
Luckily for Schalke fans, Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick against Athletico Madrid on Tuesday night overshadowed the 7-0 humiliation they received to Pep Guardiola’s side. The fact that City played the last 30 minutes of this game with no natural centre-back, not that they needed to, demonstrates what Guardiola thought of the German team. A 10-2 aggregate shouldn’t be happening in the round of 16, but it did, and City were a class above. This was a sign of why they are favourites by many bookmakers to win this competition, despite having never won it before.
At their best, City can beat anyone in Europe, but in two legs things will become more difficult for them against more experienced teams. They have the deepest squad in the CL and this will play a major role in how far they can go. It’s difficult to win the CL without luck, of course, and part of that luck will be avoiding certain opponents until the Final itself if possible in Friday’s draw. A manager who has won the competition twice also plays a part, he knows what it takes and his experience will no doubt help his players. With that in mind, City have got a chance to win the competition this year if they play their cards right.
After an edgy first leg at Anfield, Liverpool outclassed Bayern Munich in the return leg with an assertive performance especially in the second half, that ended 1-3 at the Allianz Arena. With the reds now trailing Manchester City in the league, some thought it’d be best to be knocked out of the CL and focus on their first league title in 28 years. Klopp had other ideas though, as Liverpool looked to really finish Bayern off towards the end of the game.
The nature of the opponents, a European heavyweight, will have given the Liverpool players a sense of entitlement that they belong in this competition. Reaching the final as recently as last year, there is no reason for this team to not believe that this year they can go all the way again. Although the team is more or less the same as last year, the players have more experience this time around, and of course, Alisson, instead of Karius, is the biggest change and for obvious reasons, the most important. Their recent experience of reaching the final gives Liverpool the edge over the other teams here, but physical fatigue could hinder their chances as they don’t have the deepest squad. Keep the front three fit and Liverpool could recover the broken hearts of last years final.
Either Messi or Ronaldo have won the CL since 2014 and both are still in the competition, what does that tell us? Well, their Ballon d’Or duopoly was recently broken by Luka Modric, so this could be a sign of things to come. But frankly, I don’t think so as both Barcelona and now Juventus, with Ronaldo, are still clear favourites. They have the quality, the experience, the know-how, and most importantly two players that can decide a game regardless of opponent or circumstances. But the English teams that are left should be proud of their progress so far and use Manchester United’s turnaround in Paris to dream that anything is possible in the Champions League, despite these phenomenon’s. Inspiration is relatively easy to find, but what sets Messi and Ronaldo apart is the ability to show it on the pitch under pressure when it matters most. If an English side can show this, then they will be deservedly champions. Otherwise, it’ll be the same old story…