The most-watched sporting event on the globe every year is taking place very soon in more than 200 countries. You may be thinking I am talking about the Super Bowl, but in reality, I’m referencing the UEFA Champions League Final. This past week, the road to the final went through the first leg of the quarterfinals, where some teams find themselves in a precarious position entering the second leg.
Juventus FC versus FC Barcelona
Barcelona was coming off one of the biggest comebacks in history, defeating Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16. La Blaugrana was down 3-5 on aggregate and needed to score three goals in the last few minutes of the second leg. And, as only Barcelona could, it pulled off the miracle. You’d think Barcelona would learn from this experience and not get thumped in the first leg of its quarterfinals. But it didn’t.
Barça looked exactly like the team that lost 4-0 against PSG in its first leg of the round of 16. Many wondered who would step up for Juventus after Paul Pogba’s departure, and that question has been answered in the form of Paulo Dybala this season. He scored two goals, and if that wasn’t bad enough, a third would follow by Giorgio Chiellini. La Blaugrana was able to do the impossible in the previous round, but I don’t see the team doing it again at home next week.
Borussia Dortmund versus AS Monaco FC
This game brought two of the most unlikely teams to have made it out of the round of 16. AS Monaco lost to Manchester City in the first leg, 5-3, and things could have been over from there, but it used its home-field advantage in the second leg and eliminated one of the elite teams in Europe. Borussia Dortmund came back in the second leg defeating Benfica, the best team from Portugal, 4-0. The German club arguably drew up against the most beatable opponent in the quarterfinals, but that proved to be wrong.
Now that Borussia Dortmund is down on aggregate 3-2, it has to be more disciplined with its defensive backline in the second leg. Letting Kylian Mbappé, an 18 year old, get in front of its line to score two goals is unacceptable, and even worse when the team’s own player preceded it with an own goal. If Dortmund wants a spot in the semifinals, it has to figure out how to stop Monaco and its lethal counterattacks.
Atlético Madrid versus Leicester City FC
Atlético Madrid always seems to carry some type of magic when it comes to playing in this tournament. Two out of the past three seasons, it has found itself in the final playing for glory but has always come up short — which is why, other than Real Madrid, it is the club that no one wants face in the Champions League. Leicester City found that out quickly as it was shut out with a mere 1-0 differential. This may not seem like an overwhelming deficit for the Foxes entering the second leg, but it is almost impossible to score on Atlético Madrid. Atlético has only conceded four goals thus far in the Champions League, and I believe it will go into King Power Stadium and hold on with a scoreless draw.
Real Madrid CF versus FC Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich found itself losing the first leg because it couldn’t capitalize on its clearest opportunity. Already up 1-0 in the first half, Bayern’s Arturo Vidal had the chance with a penalty to score his second goal on the day but blew it. There’s one thing you don’t do with Real Madrid, and that’s give it life, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo on the field — who later proved his worthiness again by scoring twice in the second half. That was enough to win the game, and now, Los Blancos has a cushion with this lead that makes it that much harder for Bayern Munich. All it can hope for is Robert Lewandowski, whose goal-scoring presence is missed, to come back from injury.
Contact Oscar Oxlaj at [email protected]