The first legs of every last-16 Champions League tie were concluded this week and we’re beginning to establish a clearer picture of who looks likely to be challenging for the European Cup come the final in Lisbon on Saturday May 24.
After the first four games saw no goals for any of the home sides, those teams on their own patch were able to fare slightly better this time round. But not by much.
On Tuesday, Borussia Dortmund produced a scintillating attacking display to beat Zenit St. Petersburg 4-2 at the Petrovsky Stadium, whilst Olympiacos became the first team to win a home game in the knockout stages, as they triumphed 2-0 over an out-of-sorts Manchester United.
On Wednesday, we were treated to six of the best from Real Madrid as they smashed Schalke 6-1 at the Veltins Arena thanks to braces from Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. In Wednesday’s other game, Galatasaray recovered from an early setback to draw 1-1 with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team.
With some ties in the balance and a few seemingly done and dusted, here’s what we learned from this week’s four last-16 games with a little glance towards the quarterfinals and beyond…
Dortmund The “Liverpool” Of The Champions League?
A side who are blistering in attack but prone to defensive wobbles? Dortmund certainly fit the bill in that respect, and there are plenty of comparisons to draw between their Champions League challenge and Liverpool’s free-spirited assault towards the Premier League title.
Dortmund flew out of the traps in this one, catching Zenit completely off guard with two goals in the opening five minutes. But instead of commanding the game and staying solid from that point on, Jurgen Klopp’s team kept giving the hosts hope.
Zenit made it 2-1 before Robert Lewandowski re-established BVB’s two-goal lead. But even then they failed to learn their lesson, as Dortmund conceded a penalty in the second half that Hulk tucked away. Luckily for them, it was Lewandowski to the rescue again to immediately restore their two-goal advantage.
In an attacking shootout, Dortmund can go toe-to-toe with anyone. Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lewandowski are all exceptional goalscorers and with that firepower at hand, they will surely put this tie to bed in the home leg. Looking ahead, they’re capable of going away from home and scoring goals anywhere, which certainly gives them a chance of matching last season’s final appearance.
But injuries have hampered them defensively and Klopp has been unable to name a settled back-four throughout the entire season. The injury to Sven Bender is another major defensive blow and lack of defensive solidity will ultimately cost them in their attempts to go one better than last year.
United Can Progress, But Have No Chance Of Winning The Tournament
It’s been a season of unprecedented lows for Manchester United, but their 2-0 defeat to Olympiacos plunged them into new depths. They showcased no cohesiveness, no quality and no confidence before the raucous home crowd, and the Greek champions will take a deserved 2-0 lead to Old Trafford.