The UCL quarter-finals are at the halfway stage but there is still so much to play for.
We expected the UCL quarter-final encounters to be tight affairs, and it has proven so with the conclusion of the first legs. The second legs are scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday, but before then, here are five takeaways from the four matches played this week.
- HIGH FAULTING BAYERN’S HIGH DEFENSIVE LINE
PSG created only five shots on target but scored thrice. The three goals were results of Kylian Mbappe finding space and time behind the high defensive line that was anchored on the plundering Niklas Sule and David Alaba. This has been the high risk strategy implemented by Hansi Flick since he took over in November 2019 and took them to the title. This season, opponents seem to have gotten a handle on this and threatened Bayern more, and they have actually conceded more goals this season.
- CHELSEA LOOK LIKE SHADES OF 2012
The only time Chelsea have won the UEFA Champions League in 2012, they were not the best team in that season’s tournament but they plodded all the way to the title, making comebacks and getting lucky along the way. There are lookalikes in the way they have navigated this season’s run, even though they have played better but it can be argued that like Timo Werner’s ordeal since his transfer from RB Leipzig, they are not convincing enough to be favourites for the trophy. In the unlikelihood of another West Brom-like implosion, they will have a semifinal date against either Real Madrid or Liverpool. In nine UCL matches this season, the Blues have not lost; won seven, scored 19 and conceded just twice.
- LIVERPOOL NEED AN OVERHAUL NOT EXCUSES
The 2019 champions were very poor in Madrid and instead of Jurgen Klopp making excuses for his players, he should think of how to revamp his squad for next season or for the rest of this season. Sadio Mane, once the creative spark in Liverpool’s attack, seems disinterested in on-pitch duels and appears to prefer having arguments with match officials. Yes, he was hard done by some decisions, but he has been on the end of lucky calls in his favour in the past. What can Klopp do to help Trent Alexander-Arnold on defensive positioning even though he is a superb offensive outlet? This is one question Klopp should look to answer in the coming days.
- HAALAND WILL BECOME A GOAL BEAST
There was a moment Erling Haaland ran into a through ball in the second half of Borussia Dortmund’s first leg encounter away at the Etihad on Tuesday, the speed at which he got to the ball and the ease with which he shrugged off Ruben Dias was a perfect example of the physical specimen this 20-year-old Norwegian is and a pointer to the beast he will become in the coming years. Though he did not score, his hold up play and ability to knit together the offensive play for his team confirmed all the hype.
- UEFA NEED THE CORRECT CALIBRE OF OFFICIALS
When the second legs of the UCL quarter-finals come up next week, UEFA must ensure they deploy their most confident officials. The referee for the match between Manchester City and Dortmund, Ovidiu Hațegan, did not put his best foot forward. He was hasty in blowing his whistle and was slow to catch up to the pace of the game. With all to play for next week, especially in the ties between Bayern and PSG and the Manchester City versus Dortmund encounter, we do not want the spectacles to be defiled by incompetent refereeing.