From mighty upsets, impressive comebacks and moments of brilliance, this season’s Round of 16 in the Champions League had everything. Here are some of the Things we learned in the Champions League Round of 16. You can bet on European football here.
Time for Bayern Munich to rebuild
German champions Bayern Munich were painfully eliminated from the Champions League following a disappointing 3-1 loss to Liverpool on Wednesday night at the Allianz Arena. The defeat was a reality check for the Bundesliga giants who failed to sustain periods of offensive ambition. Their ageing squad which included five players over 30 years old in the starting line-up, no longer possess the potency they once had and it’s only a matter of time before they’re slowly eased out of the team. This was the first time they failed to progress to the quarter-final since the 2010-2011 season. However, they possess a host of talented young players who can take the mantle and bring back the Bayern of old.
Are English teams now a dominant force in Europe?
Four English teams qualified for the Champions League quarter-final for the first time since the 2008-2009 season. Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester City are the English representatives in the last eight. Can they emulate the success of the 2000s where England provided four quarter-finalists in two consecutive seasons along with six finalists in five years? After Chelsea’s incredible win in 2012, English teams have been sub-par with their Spanish counterparts and German giants Bayern Munich dominating. However, this might be the year for English teams to make a statement.
Ronaldo and Messi still going strong
Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi delivered match-winning performances to enable their side to progress to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Ronaldo yet again was a thorn in Atletico’s Madrid’s defence single-handedly overturned Juve’s two-goal deficit to beat former adversaries Atletico 3-0. Messi, on the other hand, scored twice and created two more for Barcelona as they hammered French side Olympique Lyon to secure their quarter-final place. With the two superstars in their 30s now, these performances are not a surprise and demonstrate they still possess the panache they have impressively shown in the last ten years. Their brilliance will surely continue if their teams advance to the latter stages of the competition.
Are Manchester City and Juventus favourites?
Juventus and Manchester City spectacularly advanced to the last eight of the Champions League and definitely look indomitable. The Bianconeri produced a stunning comeback, led by hat-trick hero Ronaldo, whilst City, carrying a 3-2 advantage from the first leg, decisively demolished German side Schalke 7-0 at home to put the tie beyond doubt. Both teams are leaders in their respective leagues and will ruffle a few feathers with those performances. Although their season in the competition was hardly straightforward, they have shown they have the character and talent to go all the way.
Is this the year of the underdog?
Ever since unfancied Monaco and Porto met at the Gelsenkirchen in the Champions League final in 2004, we are yet to witness another underdog story in Europe’s premier competition. The subsequent finals have involved perennial big hitters in Europe’s top leagues. However, this season might be different. Former European champions Porto and Ajax are in this season’s quarters and they qualified by eliminated giants AS Roma and Real Madrid. If their performances are anything to go by, they just might pull off another miracle.