As I have mentioned in previous articles, more fans, players and teams are starting to focus on the Champions League’s return in August. This version of the tournament is unlike any other previous edition as the tournament will be shortened from two legs to one, with the exception of the Round-of-16 ties already underway.
Teams that have already been eliminated from the Round-of-16 include Liverpool, Valencia, Borussia Dortmund, and Tottenham. Liverpool, this year’s runaway Premier League winners, were stunned by two straight losses to Atletico Madrid, the second in overtime after Liverpool had managed to tie the game 1-1 on aggregate.
Valencia, who are struggling in La Liga this season, could not manage to stop Atalanta’s incredible offense, as Atalanta scored eight (!) over two legs. Staying on the subject of clubs underachieving domestically, Tottenham were picked apart in the second leg as RB Leipzig won 3-0, making the aggregate score 4-0.
And let’s not forget Borussia Dortmund, who beat PSG 2-1 in the first leg with Erling Haaland’s famed meditating celebration but lost the second leg 2-0 in Paris.
Note: What follows are the Quarter-Final draws. The Semi-Final draws have been completed but no team has advanced to that stage of the competition yet.
Real Madrid/Manchester City vs Lyon/Juventus
The winner of the Real Madrid vs Manchester City match will play the winner of the Lyon vs Juventus match. Both of the first legs were surprising results, with ten-man Real Madrid stunningly losing at home against a struggling Manchester City team that had lost to both Manchester United and Tottenham before uninspiring wins over West Ham and Leicester City.
The Lyon win against Juventus was even more surprising, however. Lyon were considered the weaker team, and arguably played worse than Juventus. Lyon were out-shot, out-possessed, and had two more yellow cards as well as nine more fouls than Juventus, but were still able to get a win at home against the Italian giants.
However, Lyon will definitely go into the match against Juventus as huge underdogs. Lyon’s Coupe de la Ligue final against PSG on July 31st will be the only game the team has played between March and August. Meanwhile, Juventus will have played 14 games within that time.
Lyon will also be playing without Lucas Tousart, who has played 39 of Lyon’s 43 games in all competitions. The reliable defensive midfielder scored the goal against Juventus to make it 1-0 Lyon, but was bought by Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin in January and loaned back to Lyon for the remainder of the season. Many teams and players had loans extended, but Tousart’s wasn’t.
Meanwhile, Manchester City will be playing with a chip on their shoulder as Liverpool have already won the Premier League. City have shown to be more than capable at times with a 4-0 win over Liverpool but City also lost 1-0 to a mediocre Southampton team.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, are looking at wrapping up the La Liga season with just two games remaining and four points ahead of FC Barcelona. They’ll be going into the game against Manchester City on a high if they win La Liga, but also at a disadvantage as they are currently trailing 2-1 with two away goals for City.
RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid
Just like Lyon, RB Leipzig will now be missing a key player. Timo Werner, who has contributed to six goals in the Champions League so far including a goal and an assist against Tottenham, has decided not to play in the Champions League with RB Leipzig. Instead, he will join Chelsea in July.
And that’s not all. Patrik Schick had just started to reach good form for RB Leipzig, but his loan move from Roma has expired. Leipzig had tried to agree to an extension but that now appears unlikely, and now if Leipzig want him back they will have to outbid AC Milan, Tottenham, Everton, and Newcastle.
Leipzig are close to extending Manchester City fullback Angeliño’s loan move, which is good for Leipzig as he has done well since joining Leipzig in January. But they will be without new signing Hee-chan Hwang, who is not eligible to play in the Champions League as he was signed in June.
Both of these teams have done well domestically but Leipzig fell behind after looking like early-season Bundesliga champions. Atletico, in contrast, have been undefeated since February, a 1-0 loss to Real Madrid. Atletico looked especially inspiring in a 1-0 win over Liverpool in the first leg, and in 3-2 victory in added time in the second leg.
Napoli/Barcelona vs Bayern Munich/Chelsea
What can you say about any of these clubs?
Bayern Munich have won a DFB Pokal final and the Bundesliga title since soccer returned. Even before then, Bayern have been on a combined 17-game win streak, including a dominant 3-0 first leg win over Chelsea. The undefeated streak is even longer, at 26 games, and Bayern will be going into the second leg very confident.
Chelsea have been inconsistent, with recent wins over Manchester City, Leicester City and Liverpool (in the FA Cup). However, losses include 3-0 to Sheffield United and 3-2 to West Ham. So where can you place Chelsea? They have a mountain to climb, as they gave up three away goals and scored no home goals, but Liverpool proved last year against Barcelona that a 3-0 deficit can still be overcome.
I’ve already written about the downfall of Barcelona, but they have yet to lose in the Champions League, and, similar to Manchester City, will be looking to win the Champions League after letting a rival win the domestic league. In Barcelona’s case Real Madrid haven’t won the league yet but, barring a tremendous collapse from Real Madrid, the league is pretty much over.
It’s rare that you could look at standings of any league that involves Napoli and say that they aren’t likely to be successful, but here we are. Napoli did manage to tie the first leg 1-1 against Barcelona, but Napoli have struggled and are sixth in the league after a poor start to the season.
They have hit consistent form, however, with the exception of a loss to Atalanta, in great form of their own. Napoli have also won the Coppa Italia, against Juventus, which I talk about here, and will be looking to add to their silverware as winning the league looks more than unlikely.
Atalanta vs PSG
Only Bayern Munich are in finer form than Atalanta at the moment. Atalanta have won all but one game since the restart, a 2-2 draw with current Serie A leaders Juventus, and that was due to a 90th minute, equalizing penalty-kick by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Atalanta are undefeated in their past 15 games and are the dark horses in this competition. The shortened format (one leg only) suits Atalanta as it means they can play the all-out attacking style they love so much. Atalanta have scored four or more goals in ten games in all competitions, including seven goals in three games.
Meanwhile, PSG have one of the same issues as Lyon. Since the French Ligue 1 ended early, PSG’s two cup finals will have been the only competitive matches they will have played, not including a friendly that PSG won 9-0 against second-tier club Le Havre, although that match did have 5,000 fans in attendance.
This is definitely a must-watch game, between two of the best attacking clubs in the world. Don’t count Atalanta out.
This Champions League tournament will be intense and unlike any other, but it will still be an incredible tournament that should be some of the most watched games in history, since their will be no fans in live attendance.
Don’t worry if your comment does not show up, all comments must be approved to reduce spam. I hope you enjoyed, and as always, keep watching soccer!