This week saw the last 4 ties of the Champions League Last 16 completed. Last week I covered the first four ties of the round which saw Porto, Dortmund, PSG and Liverpool progress. In this article I’m going to have a look at the ties from this week and go into some of the biggest talking points from the four ties.
Real Madrid Vs Atalanta (Real Madrid win 4-1 on aggregate
This tie was fascinatingly poised going into the second leg. In the first leg, Madrid won only 1-0 despite playing against 10 men for 73 minutes of the match. It meant that Atalanta had every chance of pulling off an almighty upset in the return leg in Madrid.
However, Real were never really put under much pressure. They scored the crucial first goal with Karim Benzema scoring, remarkably it was his 70th Champions league goal. He becomes just the fifth player to reach this milestone. He joins an elite group of Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul as the only players to score 70 Champions League goals. A second half penalty from Sergio Ramos sealed the tie for Real. A late goal for each side followed with Luis Muriel getting one back for Atalanta before Marco Asensio finished the scoring in the 84th minute.
It finished 3-1 meaning Madrid progressed to the quarter finals for the 9th time in the last 11 seasons. Real don’t appear to be at their best this season and I can’t see them having the quality to beat a side such as Manchester City or Bayern Munich. However, it would be foolish to completely write off a side who have won the competition 13 times.
Manchester City Vs Borussia Monchengladbach (Man City win 4-0 on aggregate)
This tie seemed to be the most predictable of the round when it was drawn. Manchester City have been dominant across all competitions this season. They have only lost one game since losing to Tottenham back in November. As such, this always appeared a mammoth task for Monchengladbach. After City cruised to a 2-0 victory in the first leg, this tie seemed done and dusted.
In the return leg, Manchester City again won 2-0. The goals on the night came from the in form Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan. Gundogan has now scored 15 goals in all competitions. Over the previous two seasons combined, the German had only scored 11 goals. This sharp increase in attacking returns has been one of the main reasons why Guardiola’s side have conquered all before them.
The result and City’s progress was never really in doubt. They progress to the quarter final’s where another German side waits. They will face Borussia Dortmund. However, this matchup will surely provide a much sterner test as they have to try and contain the prolific Erling Haaland.
Bayern Munich Vs Lazio (Bayern Munich win 6-2 on aggregate)
Much like the Manchester City tie, most expected Bayern Munich to come through this tie without much hassle. After winning the first leg 4-1 in Italy, the tie was pretty much over. The second leg turned Into a formality with the Germans cruising to a 2-1 victory to wrap up the tie. Bayern went up 2-0 through yet another goal from Robert Lewandowski and a goal from Choupo-Moting. Lazio did get a late goal through Marco Parolo but this was only a consolation.
For Bayern Munich, it means that they progress to the quarter finals for the 9th time in the last 10 seasons. This kind of consistency is hardly a surprise for a team who are currently dominating European soccer. I expect the defending champions to make yet another deep run into the tournament.
In the quarter finals they have been drawn to face PSG. This is a repeat of the final last year and offers an intriguing match up. The Parisians are sure to offer a much tougher challenge for Bayern than Lazio. I would not be surprised to see the winner of the competition come from this quarter final.
Chelsea Vs Atletico Madrid (Chelsea win 3-0 on aggregate)
Chelsea’s resurgence under new manager Thomas Tuchel continued in the Last 16 as they knocked out La Liga leaders, Atletico Madrid. Chelsea went into the second leg with a slender 1-0 advantage and many expected Atletico to seriously challenge the London side for progression. However, a challenge never really materialised as the blues went through relatively comfortably to the quarter finals.
The game started well with chances for both sides before Chelsea asserted control on the game. They were rewarded for their dominance with a 34th minute strike from Hakim Ziyech. This was a crucial goal and meant that Atletico needed two gaols to pull level with the English side. The Spaniards never looked like getting close and Chelsea cruised through the second half. Atletico had Stefan Savic sent off late in the game before Chelsea sealed the tie with a 94th minute finish from Emerson Palmieri.
Chelsea’s progression means a first quarter final appearance since 2014. With the form they are currently in, I expect them to be a tough match up for any side in the competition. They are now unbeaten in 14 games across all competitions, conceding only 3 goals in that time. A team as defensively good as that has a great chance in any knock-out tournament. I believe that outside of Bayern Munich and Manchester City, Chelsea have the next best chance to claim what would be their second Champions League crown.