Champions League enters knockout phase
As the Champions League continues on to the round of 16, many of the powerhouse clubs still remain meaning fans will likely be privy to a string of great matches ahead of the championship match in June.
We saw this in the first game between two possible contenders as Barcelona got blown away by Paris Saint-Germain. The French side came out and dominated the middle of the field with suffocating defence and high workrate. Angel Di Maria netted the game’s first goal off a perfect freekick just outside of the box. Julian Draxler showed up big time and got in on the scoring before Di Maria scored another gem of a goal. Edinson Cavani blew the candles out on Barca when he scored on his 30th birthday to make the final score 4-0. The lack of any sort of fight from Barcelona was surprising and they have dug themselves a huge hole to climb out of if they want to advance.
The German club Borussia Dortmund also laid an egg as they couldn’t seem to find the back of the net against Portuguese club Benfica. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is the leading scorer in the Bundesliga, had multiple missed chances in front of net and had his penalty attempt saved by Julio Cesar. Benfica’s goal came from off a corner and fell to Kostas Mitroglou who poked it into the goal. The second lauge of this series will be one to watch as the young German side will have to come together at home to stay alive in the tournament
Real Madrid continued their push to repeat as winners of the Champions League as they hosted Napoli at the Bernabeu. Both teams came out confident, but it was Napoli who started strongest as Lorenzo Insigne opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a curling shot from 35 meters out. Madrid stayed composed and, about 10 minutes later, Karem Benzema equalized with his head off a beautiful cross from Dani Carvajal’s. The rest of the first half saw the La Liga leaders control much of the ball with Napoli looking dangerous off the counter. The second half had barely started when Madrid scored their second goal of the night as Cristiano Ronaldo found Toni Kroos at the edge of the box who placed his shot into the bottom corner to give Real a 2-1 lead. Any chance at a comeback was shattered minutes later when Real Madrid’s young star Casemiro volleyed home a remarkable shot to close the door on Napoli. The three to one victory means Napoli will be playing catch up when these two teams meet again March 7 on Napoli’s home pitch.
Bayern Munich also got to flex their muscles this week by embarrassing BPL contender Arsenal. The English club did not look ready to handle the Bavarians and it showed when in the 11th minute they allowed Arjen Robben space and time on his stelar left foot which he punished them for by sending a gorgeous finesse shot into the side netting. Despite the pressure from the germans Arsenal drew a penalty that was initially saved by Manuel Neuer but finally finished by Alexis Sanchez. The second half was where it all fell apart for the Gunners as Bayern poured on the pressure and was rewarded. Robert Lewandowski scored a breathtaking header and assisted Thiago for one of his two goals on the day. Finally the old man Thomas Muller scored to make the final score 5-1 and leaving little hope for Arsenal to come back when the teams meet again for the second leg.
There are more exciting round of 16 matches coming this week with Manchester City taking the French Ligue leaders Monaco on Tuesday as well as Atletico Madrid going against Bayer Leverkusen and the always dangerous Chicharito Hernandez. On Wednesday, the Serie A champions Juventus travel to Portugal to face Porto and Sevilla are hosting Leicester City who are looking to bounce back after a string a disappointing losses.