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
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