Champions League UCL Quarter-Finals: Five lessons from this week's action

UCL Quarter-Finals: Five lessons from this week’s action

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Juventus won all the key battles

From the first five minutes of the matchup between the Italian and Spanish champions, it was evident that Allegri had prepared his team to dominate their individual battles. It didn’t matter whether it was Alex Sandro shutting Messi’s advances on the right, Mandzukic giving Sergi Roberto fits on the left or Dani Alves acting as Neymar’s shadow—Juventus worked hard to dominate the different areas of the pitch. It was clear that Enrique set up his side to keep the width of the pitch, with Neymar hugging the left hand side and Messi, Roberto, and Rakitic taking turns on the right. But it hardly mattered as the Juventus players worked relentlessly to keep Barcelona at bay. The only good news for Barcelona is that they’ve proven this season that a three goal first leg deficit isn’t enough to see them counted out. Prepare for fireworks at Camp Nou next Wednesday.

Dortmund unlucky but Monaco are the real deal

The last seven days have been beyond chastening for Borussia Dortmund. As if they needed a reminder that rivals Bayern are currently on a higher tier, they had to endure a 4-1 defeat over the weekend to effectively kill off any lingering hopes for a title challenge. But nothing could have prepared them for the disaster awaiting the players and staff on Tuesday evening when the blasts from explosives threatened to cause them serious harm. Considering the circumstances, the match was understandably postponed. For 24 hours. Hardly enough time for the players and staff to completely recover.

Dortmund fans were understandably discontent with the limited time they and the club were afforded to recover from the traumatizing situation. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images)

So going into the rescheduled match on Wednesday evening, Dortmund would have been forgiven for believing they were due some luck. Unfortunately none was forthcoming. Mbappe opened the scoring from a slightly offside position and a few minutes later, Bender headed Raggi’s cross past his own keeper. Things improved significantly for the German club in the second half as they notched two goals. But with Mbappe’s second goal coming in between Dembele and Kagawa’s efforts, it is fair to assume Monaco have a foot in the semis. The French club are looking like the surprise package of the tournament so far and it will be interesting to see them try and achieve a first final since 2004.

Ronaldo and Vidal in the thick of it

This was more than just a game of two halves—it was also a game of two players. In the first half, Bayern Munich put constant pressure on Real Madrid’s defense by dominating the midfield. No one contributed more to this effort than Vidal. His energy and drive from midfield was reminiscent of Roy Keane at his pomp, and alongside Xabi Alonso and Thiago, he made sure Muller and Robben constantly got the ball in dangerous positions. It was a just reward for his efforts that he was the one who put Bayern in front. By contrast Ronaldo did nothing of note for the first 45 minutes.

Vidal skies his penalty against Real Madrid. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

However the game turned when the Chilean skied a penalty for the hosts near the end of the first half. Who knows what would have happened if Bayern got the two goal advantage their dominance probably deserved. In any case, Real Madrid started the second half like a team reborn and shortly after the restart took the lead via the Portuguese forward. It may have only been his third goal of the tournament, but it had a profound effect on both clubs – Madrid started to attack with more conviction while Bayern played tentatively. It was a testament to Ronaldo’s growing influence that Martinez was forced to foul him and get sent off with a second yellow. This turned out to be the defining moment of the game as Real Madrid naturally seized the game and didn’t look back. It was hardly surprising that Ronaldo scored the second crucial away goal which puts the tie firmly in Real’s hands.

Typical Atletico

This quarter final tie between last year’s beaten finalists and the English champions was always going to be a tight affair. These are two teams who have raised their profiles in recent seasons off their ability to handle attacking pressure from superior sides. By the end of the game, both Simeone and Shakespeare could take positives from the result. Leicester would be satisfied that they only conceded the solitary goal against one of Europe’s finest sides. Atletico will be happy that they were able to win without conceding an away goal. The tie is still in the balance.

Video Replay technology

It cannot be stressed enough, video technology has to be a part of the game. If the Champions League is the highest standard of football on the planet, it quite simply makes no sense that a few technical adjustments to improve fairness are resisted. In each and every match in this first leg, there were wrong decisions made by referees that could have been prevented with video replay. Considering how long it took FIFA to incorporate goal-line technology, one can only hold his breath.

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