What a round of game was the top 16 in Champions League this year. It was like watching any crime thriller. Full of surprises, thrills, upsets, failures, excitements. Except few obvious games every other were a nail biter until the last whistle. UEFA should be happy this year with the thrills this early in UCL and lot of people will regret underestimating other teams.
Let’s start with the upsets.
ManChester United vs PSG
The first game in old Trafford pretty much sealed this fixture for all the pundits and PSG supporters. But as they say until the last whistle nothing is done and won. With such a depleted squad what Manchester United was able to pull off at Paris was a bit of unbelievable act of football. With more than 5 starting player injured and the best player for the team Pogba suspended, who would have put money on Manchester United going at PSG and turning around a 2-0 at home. But they did it at the end. But with the mix of youthful energy and some Solksjaer tactics and a bit of luck, there were able to knock out the never-ending bank of football (PSG). There were some blunders in PSG defense and goalkeeping and some stupid decision by Tuchel. But that’s how you fail at this moment. But with the talent that PSG has and with that ManU squad, PSG might have beaten ManU 9 of 10 times but they lost that 1 time which was enough to send them over a cruise on Sienna river.
Real Madrid vs Ajax
Among all the games this one was the big big upset and surprise. The Madrid management, the players, the fans i can go on, to put up the arrogance that was filled in this club. Madrid been overly successful in last three years in Europe and which is huge and may not happen again ever. They deserve all the praise for that inevitably. But to portrait yourself like and invincible and ruthless dictator might fire back at some time. Hijacking a national team coach, letting the best player to leave without a replacement, putting the best keeper for last 3 years in UCL on bench, ignoring the talent of players like Isco,Marcelo not able to use them properly and Ramos’s underestimation of a dynamic and young blood in Ajax. All of that came together at the end and Madrid were not just knocked out but they were humiliated at their home in front of own audiences. With Ramos in, Isco in and other players though they are not at the prime form don’t tell me Ajax can beat them with 4 goals and at home. Ajax deserved all the praise to comeback from 2-1 defeat at home to beat Madrid 4-1 at Bernabau, come on no matter what Madrid is still madrid. Though the squad was not the same as before but beating them 4-1 is huge. All the claps for Ajax.
Juventus VS Atletico Madrid
This is not exactly a surprise or upset because when the fixtures happened hardly anyone gave Atletico chances over Juventus. And honestly Juventus is level up then the Atletico and current Atletico is nowhere near the Atletico in past. They are lacking strike power and goals. Look at the first league the goals were scored by defenders. Even in la- Liga, they were humiliated by current Madrid at Metropolitana and their win hasn’t been that convincing in other matches too. It’s rare Atletico loses to Madrid at least in La-Liga. But after the first match, Atletico were huge favorites at least on paper. Juventus were to score 3 goals without conceding and they have been great on maintaining clean sheets. But what you say when you have Cristiano the Man of UCL anything is possible and nothing is over until it is done not said. Atletico with the defensive team tag they have been wearing from years was outclassed and outplayed at every section of the game. I have never seen a single player who is that great in the air as CR7 I mean hands down. All Atletico has to stop was the crosses and they completely failed and were miserable in the attack. Simeone has done a lot of good things with Atletico but this year they have been poor, honestly, they are far in La-Liga, knocked out from Copa Del Rey and humiliated from UCL. With costa suspended,griezman not stepping up on crucial games, you can’t rely on Morata to pull that off. It was a failure for Atletico especially with the result they got into the second league.
Bayern vs Liverpool was an all game to play for, without anyone getting the favourite tag. But this bayern is not the same bayern they have lost the sharpness, their struggle in BundesLiga is a good reflection of that, though they have managed to find the form. Thanks to Dortmund debacle lately. With VanDijk taking leading the charge from back this liverpool is well firm and with Mane at the front look for those quick turns.
Dortmund vs Spurs was a game that may Dortmund did not want to play. After all the injuries they are a completely different team now from the first half of the season. Harry Kane finished the job and Hugo Loris extended his hidden length from his arms to make it easy at the end.
Roma vs Porto was a thriller as it went to extra time and some VAR controversies did the job on favor of porto. Roma went back home and the next day they got a new coach boom.
Barcelona v Lyon was a formality game until Lyon hit back with 1 goal. Then game was turning it’s side and barcelona were in the edge of the cliffs but hey you have MESSI and for the first time Valverde made some wise decisions. The fixture ended with 4-1 at the end and barcelona survived the scare.
So What next who is it going to be. Let’s break it down.
Ajax vs Juventus
Ajax the underdog and the wonder team so far this season. The team who went to Madrid with a mountain to climb not just climbed the mountain but kicked the European champions so far that, their season just ended. With young talents like De Jong, De Ligt , D Tadic they did the unthinkable coming back from 2-1 deficit to send the three years defending champion to look for the help from the favorite coach Zidane. Though they are still 5 points behind PSV Eindhoven domestically it would be a mistake to underestimate them. Not sure they can repeat the same vs Juventus but don’t think Juventus will take them lightly. On the other hand, Juventus who is on the verge of winning their 8th title in a row is flying high recently after the comeback against Atletico. Thanks to their summer signing CR7. Is there any more upset in the cards, I am not so sure but I am picking Juventus over Ajax. Fro Ajax the home game will be crucial and how neutralizing CR7 can be the factor. For Juventus getting their full backs and wings firing will be crucial, if someone can send the cross to the Dbox there is a huge chance of that ball meeting CR7 towards goal. Ajax better looks at the air.
Spurs vs City
The all EPL clash in the climax of the season should be a mouth-watering contest to watch. Spurs fan waiting for their home stadium to have a grand opening whereas Pep still trying to prove, he can win everything without MESSI. On paper, City is a level up team in every department but it will be a mistake to count off Spurs just now. Spurs do have the players and coach who can beat the top Europe teams in a day. Kane, Ali, Eriksson, Rose, Trippier and the name goes all these players have that caliber to send pep crashing out again from the tournament he hasn’t won since he left Barcelona. Whereas if you look at City, u can’t talk enough. The team is so overpacked from starting to bench, imagine you have Sane, Jesus, Silva, Maharez on the bench and De Bruyne, Mendy still hasn’t been all fit to play that many games. City might be the most balanced team with the depth so bottom it is hard to find a nonstarter in any other team. But this is football you just can’t say until the last whistle. City and Spurs will play three games in a matter of 12 days. One being the EPL and two being the UCL. The second game being at Etihad, Spurs should be in a strong position going to the second league, to have any chance over the city. I am tilting towards City, they did have some issues in the mid of the seasons but seems like they are getting it under control. With Aguero and Sterling firing on all cylinders, it will be too much for Spurs to handle. But as they say until the last whistle everything is to play for.
Porto vs Liverpool
This might be the only one obvious contest among every other, where Liverpool are the clear favorites to go to the semi-final. While the Salah struggle continues looks like Mane and VanDijk have taken over. The way VanDijk is leading this team from the back is worth of every applauds and clap. It’s not like they have not struggled some time, they were close to knockout in the group stage, except some heroics from Alisson keep them alive. The loss against PSG, Red Star Belgrade, Napoli does point out they still have some holes on the back. But can Porto take advantage of that and silent the attack from Mane, Firmino, and Salah? I am going with Liverpool on this unless there is a huge upset on the cards from Porto.
Barcelona vs ManUtd
Well they meet again. 2009,2011, 1999 and more there is a long history between the Catalan kings and the red devils. While Barcelona have tasted more success in the finals against ManUtd, but ManUtd has better record against Barcelona on the knockout rounds. That can be a positive for man u fans going into the fixture.
On paper, everyone will count on Barcelona but it will be too soon to come to a conclusion. After Solsksjaer took control of ManUtd following the departure of Special One, it’s been a surprise team for everyone. After 2-0 loss at home, the much Depleted ManUtd went to PSG and turned it around, I mean seriously with more than 5-star players injured they did the unthinkable in Paris. This team is flying high with the confidence and they already delivered 200% more than what everyone expected from them in the UCL this season. While Barcelona is cruising on gear 3 in La Liga they haven’t been that convincing in UCL. The Messi dependence has been increasing more and more, they have struggled to maintain the clean sheet in either competition. But as long as their talisman Messi is on his foot, it’s hard for ManUtd. The other aspect is the second leg is being played at Camp Nou where the 6-1 happened against PSG and Barcelona haven’t lost a home game in UCL for like 30 games now. Manu has to do some unthinkable on the fixtures. If they get a 2 goals lead to the second leg then might be a good second leg else it will be too much for ManUtd. Rashford, Lukaku, and Pogba have all the qualities that can crack the back-line of Barcelona but can they repeat what happened in Paris. I am going with Barcelona it’s hard to go against them with the kind of form Messi is in this season, though he does it every season. This season they have been more serious about UCL and if Vlaverde can’t deliver he might have to look for a job at the end of the tie.
Though its hard to underestimate any the team in the tie i am going
with Barcelona, City,Juventus and Liverpool. See you next at the Semi Finals.