And then there were 8 - The Champions League Round of 16 Reaction
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And then there were 8 - The Champions League Round of 16 Reaction

14/03/24 01:41

After eight two-legged ties and two dramatic penalty shootouts the quarter finalists of this year’s Champions League have been decided. Manchester City, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern München and Paris Saint-Germain are left to battle it out for the most sought after trophy in all of Europe. We will have to wait until Friday for the draw for the quarter final ties to take place, so until then, instead of discussing who will make it through all the way to the final, let’s look back at how this round went for the victors.

Starting with Manchester City, it’s what you expect from the reigning Champions of Europe. Despite not getting a clean sheet in either leg, they were never in any trouble throughout the tie and were completely in control against Copenhagen. A 6-2 win on aggregate is as good as it gets with knockout ties and the Citizens will be confident that they can go all the way again this year. With Haaland up front and hopefully Kevin De Bruyne keeping fit, the sky blues will certainly have a great chance of recreating the magic of last season.

It couldn’t have been a more different tie for Arsenal. After a frustrating first leg as a late winner from Galeno suddenly gave the second tie an extra tension, Arsenal fans were hoping to finally see their team progress past this stage. While across these two fixtures Arteta’s side didn’t play at their best, they managed to get the job done after a lonely assist from Ødegaard to set up Trossard levelled up the tie with the North london side needing penalties to come through. There was definitely a lot of finger biting amongst the home fans, but they won (just). David Raya finally had his crowning moment as the Arsenal keeper, while the fans hope he isn’t needed to this degree in the future. I expect us to learn a lot about this Arsenal side in the next round.

Real Madrid made it through but you would be forgiven for doubting them after watching both ties. Los Blancos scraped past Leipzig 2-1 on aggregate and on another day could have been knocked out at the Santiago Bernabeu if Leipzig took half of their chances on the night. However, as it is, Real made it through and the expectations around them due to their European pedigree will be to progress all the way to the final, but could that be this side's downfall? Only time will tell.

Barcelona were more convincing than their arch rivals thanks to a convincing 3-1 win in their second leg against Napoli with the tie ending 4-2 on aggregate. There is a feeling around Barcelona that the fear factor surrounding them during the days of Messi has been lost but that might come to their advantage. Any side with the likes of Lewandoski and Ilkay Gündogan is not to be messed with. With Xavi confirmed to be leaving at the end of the season could they push to send him off on the highest of highs? Of course the opposite could happen and the loss of Xavi could make them lose motivation but with the mixture of exciting youth and experienced professionals, the Catalans could have a winning formula.

Borussia Dortmund progressed after a tough first tie in Eindhoven. Once PSV faced the Yellow wall they didn’t stand a chance as they were behind within 3 minutes thanks to the forgotten man, Jadon Sancho. Marco Reus confirmed Dortmund’s place in the quarter finals late on and with the side currently 20 points off the Bundesliga leaders, Bayer Leverkusen, this season may be the time to really push for the Champions League. With the final at Wembley this year, die Schwarzgelben have a chance of redemption after losing on the hallowed turf in the 2013 final to bitter rivals Bayern München. They are probably the least likely to progress to the semi finals, but stranger things have happened before. The only other German side left in the tournament, Bayern München, had to come from behind in the second leg and as expected came up trumps with a 3-0 win in their second leg after narrowly losing one nil in Rome. Harry Kane got himself a brace on the night and now at a top European club the English marksman will have his eyes set on the biggest prize in Football. With the Bundesliga out of Bayern’s control, the Champions League may be what it takes to save their season. Thomas Tuchel’s magic worked at Chelsea three years ago, but can he do it again?

Finally, Paris Saint Germain was the only side other than Man City to win both legs and very nearly went both legs without conceding. With Kylian Mbappe in their side anything is possible and PSG will be ready to take on anyone in their way to finally prove themselves on Europe’s biggest stage. Their side isn’t as recognisable as in previous years thanks to the losses of Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr, but with the imminent departure of France’s brightest talent, Mbappe can provide the club with a parting gift they will never forget.

There are many narratives at play at the moment but only one will be written into Football history. After the round of 16 didn’t end with any shock results, the Quarter finals may have more to offer. Like the rest of the footballing world I will be watching the draw in anticipation waiting for what the next chapter of the Champions League has in store.

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