The UEFA Champions League Round of 16 closed off its first leg with some scintillating matches. A lot of home ties were played on neutral grounds due to Covid-related restrictions, and some teams took advantage of that. The first leg of matches are in the books and we look on to the second leg of ties in a week’s time.
All eyes were on the tie of the round in PSG vs Barcelona, with Kylian Mbappe stealing the show at the Nou Camp. Chelsea’s new boss Thomas Tuchel impressed with an away win at Atletico Madrid and Man City continued their fine form making it 18 wins in a row.
The tie of the second week was undoubtedly Chelsea FC vs Atletico Madrid, with Atletico coming in on hot form from La Liga, and Tuchel slowly stabilizing this Chelsea team. Looking forward to the second-leg of ties, there remains hope for some to make it to the quarter-finals of Europe’s most prestigious club competition.
Atletico Madrid vs Chelsea
Atletico hosted Chelsea in Romania at the National Arena due to Covid restrictions in Spain and disappointed. Perhaps being rather cautious, Diego Simeone resorted to old ways and employed a 3-4-2-1 formation but chose to hand Chelsea the ball and hit them on the counter.
Thomas Tuchel is still unbeaten in his Chelsea tenure and matched Simeone man for man in defense, in his first UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie with the club. Tuchel played two strikers with Olivier Giroud partnering up with Timo Werner, and Mason Mount as the number 10.
Chelsea’s stronger midfield allowed them the lions share of the ball, outplaying Simeone’s side in every part of the field. Chelsea enjoyed a 64% possession, and had 11 shots although 5 were on target. Impressively though, they managed to reduce Atletico to just 6 shots, with 0 to test Eduardo Mendy.
Chelsea’s Giroud scored a goal of the season contention, and helped secure a 1-0 victory for the London side. Although the tie is still pretty open, Atletico would want to stick to their attacking football that’s worked so well for them in La Liga. Chelsea have been solid defensively under Tuchel, and will be confident that they can use their 1 goal advantage to help secure a spot in the next round.
Lazio vs Bayern
Lazio hosted defending champions Bayern in Rome in their UEFA Champions league round of 16 tie. The Italian side were completely overwhelmed by the defending champions and lost the tie to a much superior side.
Hoping to crowd and control the midfield, Simone Inzaghi employed a 3-5-2 formation which ultimately gave them a lot of the ball. They just weren’t competitive enough in moments of brilliance from Bayern and fell 4-1 on the night. Bayern played their usual 4-2-3-1 formation with the goal machine Robert Lewandowski playing as a sole striker.
Both teams were matched in terms of shots attempted with Bayern having one more with 14, 7 of those were on target compared to Lazio’s 5. Bayern enjoyed 57% possession of the ball and played slick short passes that ultimately broke down Lazio. Goals from Lewandowski, Sane and 17-year-old Jamal Musiala gave Bayern a comfortable 3 goal away lead.
Young Jamal Musiala was in the limelight’s this week after having announced that he is choosing to represent Germany over England at international level. His progression in Germany was on display in Rome and at a tender age of 17, this youngster is destined to be a world-beater.
Atalanta vs Real Madrid
All eyes were on Zinedine Zidane this week following an underwhelming season in La Liga, with the UEFA champions league round of 16 being their only hopes on having any redemption this season. Zidane’s team however have improved drastically on form, losing only once in their previous 14 but suffered 9 first team injuries that left them without any strikers.
Following a controversial red card with only 17 minutes on the clock, Madrid dominated the match but Atalanta defended resolutely. The match was fairly lowkey and disappointing as it looked to be a proven goal-fest, however following that dismissal, Atalanta understandably switched from their pure attacking football to sitting back and defending.
Madrid took full control of the match catching multiple glimpses of the Atalanta goal. They had 19 shots attempted, but only 4 on target in an underwhelming display of striking. Their 69% possession paid dividends when Ferland Mendy managed to break through in the 86th minute and score a beauty to give Zidane’s side an advantage to take home.
Atalanta will be dissapointed by that defeat but they defended exceptionally with 10 men and will still be hopeful of securing a victory in two weeks time. Madrid will be hoping to have back many first team players for their return leg, and give them an added boost as they attempt to challenge their cross town rivals in La Liga.
Monchengladbach vs Manchester City
Manchester City went into the tie with Monchengladbach in formidable form. Their record-breaking season sees them unbeaten in 18 and looking on par for another domestic clean sweep. The Champions League has always been the one trophy that the Manchester-based club needed to add to their recent glory but they’ve always fallen short.
The UEFA champions league round of 16 has always been tricky ties for Manchester City, and throughout the last decade the blue part of Manchester have failed to transfer their domestic form to Europe. This season however, Man City along with Bayern Munich are favorites for the title, and their display against Monchengladbach showed exactly why.
Having only scored two goals, City completely dominated the game from start to finish. City as per usual enjoyed the monopoly of possession and only Bayern Munich have scored more than them in the Champions League this season. Goals from Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus gave Pep Guardiola’s side a 2 goal advantage to take to the home tie, whilst Monchengladbach surely have a mountain to climb if they want to remain amongst Europe’s elite.
Could This Be City’s Year?
Manchester City have spent billions in pursuit of domestic and European dominance. They’ve achieved domestic dominance multiple times but have always failed to stand with Europe’s elite. This season though, City look determined and poised to make their mark in Europe’s most coveted club competition.
City have looked incredible despite injuries to key players, and having found the key to their defensive frailties and having Kevin De Bruyne back will surely boost their chances of winning their first UEFA Champions League crown. They are poised to win the league again this year and their 2 goal advantage in the UEFA champions league round of 16 sets them up as formidable favorites for the competition this year. Could this be a treble, or quadruple winning season for the citizens?
Comment below with your thoughts on City’s performances this season, and who you pick as favorites to win the UEFA Champions League.
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