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UEFA Champions League: What We’ve Learnt From This Week’s Quarter-Finals

Calderon UEFA Champions League: What We’ve Learnt From This Week’s Quarter Finals

Just four teams remain in the UEFA Champions League, and after a quartet of exceptional quarter-final ties, this tournament seems intent on getting better and better. At this juncture, each of the four sides left in the competition know they’re a mere three games away from winning the biggest prize of them all. And after getting to this stage, all will be bristling with confidence.

In this week’s quarter-final games, we saw the teams who have that winning mentality and ability to perform under pressure engrained into their make-up. Those qualities come to the fore in the high-pressure atmosphere of the last-eight, and as we’ve seen, these attributes are often just as crucial star quality or individual brilliance.

Chelsea showed their mental fortitude on Tuesday, as Jose Mourinho’s men won 2-0 to progress on away goals against Paris Saint-Germain. A late goal from forgotten man Demba Ba sent Stamford Bridge wild, and the Londoners look the most defensively sound of all the sides remaining.

In Dortmund, Real Madrid just managed to scrape through against a revitalised Borussia side. After Angel Di Maria missed a penalty for the visitors early on, the home side were 2-0 up before half time. But Jurgen Klopp’s men spurned a cacophony of second half chances, meaning Real Madrid progress to their third consecutive semi-final appearance.

On Wednesday, Manchester United were swept aside 3-1 by Bayern Munich after taking a shock 1-0 lead. And in Tuesday’s other tie, Atletico Madrid put in a marvellous performance to triumph 1-0 over Barcelona on the night, winning 2-1 on aggregate in front of a raucous Calderon crowd.

Let’s take a look at all the games played this week and see what we can ascertain ahead of what promises to be a thrilling semi-final stage:

 

Madrid Lost Without Ronaldo, Reus Shows Class

Reus Real 600x430 UEFA Champions League: What We’ve Learnt From This Week’s Quarter Finals

Carlo Ancelotti left his talisman on the bench for the second consecutive game, and it looked like his gamble was going to pay off as Realwere awarded an early penalty. But Angel Di Maria slipped, Roman Weidenfeller saved and that early miss seemed to galvanize the Westfalenstadion and its players.

Inspired by a rampant Marco Reus, last season’s runners-up stormed into a 2-0 lead before the break and a remarkable comeback looked on the cards. But they—most notably Henrikh Mkhitaryan—spurned a host of chances in the second half and Madrid were off the hook.

Los Blancos looked all at sea without Ronaldo. There was no focal point in their attacking play and no incisiveness as they tried to hit Dortmund on the break. Leaving him out very nearly made Ancelotti look a little silly, but his side managed to scrape through in the end.

As for Dortmund, they will surely face a battle to keep hold of Marco Reus this summer. The former Monchengladbach man was magnificent against Madrid, and his pace, trickery, vision and cool head in front of goal makes him a complete forward player. Hopefully Dortmund can keep hold of him, but the most illustrious sides on the continent will be circling.

 

Mental Strength Makes It Impossible To Write Off Mourinho’s Men

Ba Chelsea 600x336 UEFA Champions League: What We’ve Learnt From This Week’s Quarter Finals

Write off Chelsea at your peril. Say what you want about this side, but they all seem to find a way of pulling through. They weren’t particularly impressive in their 2-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain, but they displayed unwavering concentration and supreme patience under pressure.

They were so intense off the ball and eventually wore down their Parisian opponents, a team who were clearly not suited to opposition playing such a high-octane brand of football. The French champions just couldn’t cope with Chelsea’s aggression and were noticeably off the pace as the game went into the latter stages.

Whatever you think of Mourinho and his touchline antics, the man is a genius when it comes to this competition. He constantly fashions teams that are incredibly difficult to beat and that always means they have an excellent chance of progressing into the latter stages, as Chelsea showcased with conviction here.

Whether this Chelsea side has the raw firepower to compete with the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid remains to be seen, but they look the most defensively capable side remaining in the competition. They’re certainly a much stronger outfit than the side that won the competition back in 2012 and in Mourinho they have a manager who has proven himself to be a winner time and time again. Their supporters have every right to dream.

 

Bayern An Increasingly Reactive Outfit In The Champions League

Muller MU 600x399 UEFA Champions League: What We’ve Learnt From This Week’s Quarter Finals

Despite their obvious quality and unshakeable winning mentality, it sometimes seems like this Bayern Munich side need a kick up the backside to get going. There have been plenty of examples in this tournament when they’ve been a little casual in their play, before something going against them has sparked a reaction.

In the last-16 first-leg Arsenal they only really got going when they missed a penalty. In the first-leg against United in the quarter-final they played with greater impetus after Nemanja Vidic put the Red Devils in front. And again in the second-leg, they only seemed to move through the gears once United had scored.

After winning the German Bundesliga so easily, this could be a case of Bayern taking their foot of the gas somewhat. They were a little ponderous against United and only seemed to attain full focus in the last 30 minutes of the game. Guardiola will be keen to eradicate this complacency in the last-four.

United only really have themselves to blame for not progressing here. The Bavarians were not at their best in either leg of the tie and after the Red Devils took the lead in both games, conceding very quickly to the holders straight afterwards proved to be their downfall. Well off the pace in the Premier League, this is the last we’ll see of United in amongst Europe’s elite for at least one campaign.

Atletico Madrid Are The Real Deal

Atleti fans 600x337 UEFA Champions League: What We’ve Learnt From This Week’s Quarter Finals

No Diego Costa, no problem for the Champions League’s surprise package.

If there were any doubts about Atletico Madrid’s staying power, surely they were banished here on a marvellous night at the Vicente Calderon. Koke’s early goal saw Atleti progress through to the last-four at the expense of Barcelona, and it means the Catalan giants have now failed to beat Diego Simeone’s side in five attempts this season.

In the first 30 minutes of this one, the La Liga leaders were simply unplayable. They showcased an unfathomable amount of energy and industry in all areas of the pitch, and they could have put the tie to bed had they not hit the woodwork three times in the first half.

Naturally, Barcelona bossed possession as they game wore on, but clear-cut chances were at a premium, as Cholo Simeone’s team defended diligently. The supporters were magnificent throughout this contest and suddenly, a league and European Cup double is in touching distance for Atletico.

With Costa to come back for the semi-final games, they have a great chance of making it to the final. Although they will be hoping to avoid Chelsea, as a draw against the Stamford Bridge outfit could see Thibaut Courtois miss out; the Belgian stopper is on loan from the Londoners.

 

Second-Leg Complacency Continues To Creep In 

PSG Dejected 600x318 UEFA Champions League: What We’ve Learnt From This Week’s Quarter Finals

There seems to be a lot of teams that have relaxed after a dominant first-leg showing. PSG let slip a two-goal lead against Chelsea, Bayern Munich only came to life after Manchester United went ahead in the tie and Real Madrid were perilously close to letting a three-goal lead slip against Dortmund.

It’s brilliant to watch, of course. But for managers of those respective teams, it must be incredibly frustrating. As we go even further into the competition, they will demand a stratospheric level of focus and concentration from their players.

In a semi-final, a solitary lapse in concentration or even a slither of underestimating an opponent could prove to be seriously costly.

 

About Matt Jones

Matt has been writing for World Soccer Talk for more than two years, contributing pieces about myriad topics and regularly lending his voice to the podcast. Matt has covered games live for the website from a host of venues, including Wembley, London and the ANZ Stadium, Sydney. He is a regular at Goodison Park where he watches his beloved Everton, but harbours an unyielding interest in all aspects of European soccer. You can get in touch with Matt via e-mail at mattjones@worldsoccertalk.com or on Twitter @MattJFootball
View all posts by Matt Jones →

14 Responses to UEFA Champions League: What We’ve Learnt From This Week’s Quarter-Finals

  1. Toby says:

    What I learned is Bayern are very overrated. Bundesliga teams make them look like gods, but when they play teams outside of Germany they don’t look so superior. Man Utd had very good chances to beat them over the two games and in the semi-finals they will play 3 team far better than the teams they have faced and the mediocre defence will be exposed.

    • R.O says:

      I don’t agree with your comment that FCB are “very overrated” I dislike FCB but using “very” is correct.

      As for looking superior, any team playing the best of the best (that’s what the CL is all about) will never look as good as when they play in their respective leagues.

      I know many people who visit this site and post aren’t fans of the Bundesliga and German soccer as this site was strictly a EPL fan and news site before but German football and the bundesliga is one of the top leagues in the world. Ahead of Serie A and possibly a slight margin above La Liga.

      When teams play in the CL anything can happen but the important fact is that European top caliber teams, especially when it gets down to the quarters, are not the same as mid-level league teams, be it EPL, Serie A, La Liga or Bundesliga, so clubs like Bayern who dominated in the League would have the same dominance in the CL.

      It wasn’t that long ago (in the 1980′s) when the English Top flight league wasn’t considered very good vs other leagues especially Serie A (in the 70′s the Bundesliga was considered the class league of Europe).

      • R.O says:

        “…using “very” is correct.”

        That should have read “incorrect”

      • Fernando says:

        How was the Bundesliga the class of football in the 70s? Only one team won the Cup during that decade. Are you excluding English football’s period of dominance (77-82)?

        • R.O says:

          I’m not discounting anything. Yes English teams won high number of European Cups, but the Bundesliga (league itself)was considered top in Europe in the 70′s because many players from other countries including England (Kevin Keagan, Tony Woodcock, etc) wanted to play in the Bundesliga. Many top Players from other leagues around the world weren’t that interested in playing in the English League in the 70′s.

          In the 80′s things changed. Players wanted to play in Italy. In the mid to late 90′s it changed again with players wanting to go play in the EPL.

          For a short (very short) period of time in the 80′s the French League had influx of stars but that didn’t last long (Klinsman and others).

          I’ve read that the English League in the 70′s and to some extend in the 80′s was a one-dimensional league that was labeled “punt and run” with a reputation of hard fouls and little style or play making.

          All I’m saying is the league itself (Bundesliga) in the 70′s was considered better than the English League. In the mid-80, throughout the 90s’ the Bundesliga wasn’t considered in the top 3 and sometimes even as low as 5th in Europe.

          • Delboy says:

            English teams dominated European football from the late 70s to the mid 1980s and was always considered the strongest league. British players moved to not only Germany, but Spain, Italy and France as well. They didn’t move because they were going to better leagues, but because they would get paid more. English football only declined after 1985 when English teams were banned from European football for 5 years and fell behind tactically. England still has the most different European finalists over that period so know your football history.

            Germany has never been the strongest league in Europe. They just have Bayern.

            Man Utd are a midtable BPL team and should not be considered the best of the best and Bayern struggled at times.

  2. R.O says:

    “dominated in the League would have the same dominance in the CL.”

    ahhhh typos, typos. It’s early sorry. That should have read “wouldn’t have the same..”

  3. Flyvanescence says:

    Martino bottled it for me. If Alexis starts instead of Fabregas, Barça likely win. They were dominant after they made that substitution in the first leg.

    4 in the midfield or the rotating front 6 or whatever it was just seemed incredibly sluggish.

  4. Tony Butterworth says:

    United blew it ? Not really, by scoring they just woke the sleeping giant.

    • Jake says:

      So all 3 Bayern goals were unstoppable world beaters?
      From what I saw Patrice Evra had a hand in all 3 goals and was at fault for all 3. Horrendous marking on the first, put no pressure on Robben for the second, got beat on the 3rd goal which went in via a deflection.
      Since we didn’t watch the same game in the one that you watched did Rooney fluff a fantastic chance before Bayern made it 2-1?
      You can be biased but that’s just stupid.

  5. Will says:

    Even though I dislike Chelsea, a CL win for them will halt the Premier League critics who say it can’t rival La Liga or Bundesliga anymore.

    Although Real Madrid will probably win it this year. Bayern aren’t all that anymore.

    I am looking forward to seeing how Liverpool will do in the CL next season.

    • R.O says:

      I’m hoping for a Final of: Chelsea vs Real Madrid. Ex-RM Manager vs Ex-Chelsea Manager.

      It would be nice to see Atl. Madrid in the final but from a back story and media perspective, RM vs Chelsea would be big.

  6. Burnsey says:

    Atletico and Chelsea will be praying for each other. There only chance is to get each other in the semi. If they are kept apart, Real and Bayern will win through.

    • Flyvanescence says:

      Atletico is not as courtois wont play. With their physicality, I think they could handle the pansy tactics of Bayern.

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