After what seemed like the longest break ever, the ball was rolling once again as the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals took place this week!
Let’s recall that Bayern Munich was to clash against Manchester United, Atletico Madrid was facing Barcelona, Real Madrid would repeat last year’s semi-final, and perhaps earn a seed of revenge, as they faced off against Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain would take on Mourinho’s Chelsea.
Tuesday night Bayern Munich battled Manchester United at the Old Trafford in search of an advantage going into the second leg of the quarterfinals. Munich entered the match with a strong edge as they were just crowned Bundesliga champions, in what seemed to be the shortest run for the title, and they were the heavy favorites to win this match. But like every sport, nothing is ever guaranteed and surprises are commonplace.
So if Munich, the current Bundesliga champions, was the clear favorite, did they manage to get an upper hand at the Old Trafford? The answer might just surprise you…
Manchester United was able to net first as Nemanja Vidic scored a header in the 58th minute! This turned the game around since Manchester United was considered the underdog! But the lead would only last for a short amount of time, as Bastian Schweinsteiger would put Munich back in the game. The match would end in nothing more than a TIE, which doesn’t favor either team.
The second leg will be played in Germany, and if Manchester United aspires to reach the semi-finals, they will have to do a lot more to control the wrath of Bayern Munich. Pep Guardiola’s team seems unstoppable as of late and destined to reach the Champions League final again.
Enough about Bayern Munich though. Switching to Manchester United and the era of David Moyes, who many fans see as the doom of Man U, it is unlikely Manchester United will acquire any titles this season. If Man U manages to win in Germany, it will not just be a major upset, but some hope may temporarily be restored in Moyes. For the time being, though, fans are protesting and asking for Moyes to be removed for poor performances in both the Champions League and the EPL. With that said, let’s hope for a more exciting second leg in a week!
Also on Tuesday, Barcelona squared off against a quite familiar rival – Atletico Madrid. The top two teams in the Spanish League fought for an upper-hand going into the second leg but similarly to the Munich-Man U match, this Spanish clash remained scoreless after the first half. The second half would be a different story as Diego gave his team the lead. Atletico held a 1-0 advantage for a bit until 20 minutes later when Neymar netted the equalizer for Barcelona. Just like the other Tuesday match, Barcelona and Atletico ended in a 1-1 draw that gave nothing to either team. This match seemed pretty even and either team can move on to the semi-final. It’s just a matter of what team wants it more.
Barcelona, however, might be at a disadvantage for the second leg. First, Barca’s goalkeeper, Victor Valdes, was ruled out for seven months following knee surgery. Then Gerard Pique suffered a hairline fracture of his right hip and will be sidelined for four weeks. To add insult to injury, Barca was on the receiving end of a FIFA BAN that prevents the team from making any signings for two consecutive transfers windows!
The ban was imposed after the team failed to follow the rules with regards to signing any players under the age of 18. FIFA investigated the team and the signings Barcelona made within the years 2009-2013. It was later known that not only did Barcelona fail to abide by the rules, but the Spanish Football Association also violated several rules that deal with the registration of international and foreign transfers.
What does this mean for the football club? If FIFA imposes the ban immediately, Barcelona will not be able to sign any players during this summer 2014, and the winter transfer window in January 2015. Barcelona has stated it will appeal this ban and has also stated that all the signings that FIFA investigated, are in order. As for now…this Saturday…Barcelona will face Real Betis in the Spanish League and attempt to keep their league title hopes alive!
So what happened in the Champions League matches on Wednesday? Well, they had a lot more goals than the previous matches, combining for seven goals!
In a rematch of last year’s semi-final, in which Borussia Dortmund eliminated and crushed Real Madrid’s hopes of advancing, Dortmund took on Madrid. BUT New Year, new match, new season! Would Real Madrid be able to “take revenge” and attain an edge over German rivals Dortmund?
The “Blancos” were clear favorites coming into this match, as they have proven they are in much better condition than they were last year and are a more solid and complete team. Dortmund, on the other hand, is a completely different team since Robert Lewandowski is suspended, Mario Gotze no longer plays for Dortmund and Dortmund has been struck this season with numerous injuries to key players! Those were not the only factors that affected Dortmund as Real Madrid was playing home in a favorable environment. With that said…let’s dive in to what happened in the match!
Gareth Bale opened the scoreboard and gave los Blancos a swift lead in the third minute! Dortmund seemed a bit lost and shocked to be losing so early in the game. Real Madrid would net again in the 27th minute when Isco managed to add another one for the home team. At half-time the score was 2-0, favoring los merengues!
After half-time Cristiano Ronaldo extended his team’s lead to 3-0, tying Lionel Messi’s record of 14 goals in a single Champions League campaign! This match marked his 100th appearance in a Champions League game. Recently it seems that Cristiano Ronaldo has been unstoppable! Carlo Ancelotti did substitute in for the Portuguese idol, as a precaution due to discomfort Cristiano Ronaldo has been feeling in one of his knees. The match would end 3-0, giving a big advantage to Real Madrid, who must now fly to Germany for the second leg.
For the second match, Chelsea took on Paris Saint-Germain in France. The Blues had been the EPL leader until a loss last weekend. The Blues also entered the match without Samuel Eto’o, who’s injured.
PSG struck first in the third minute when Ezequiel Lavezzi put the Parisians ahead. Later on, the Blues were granted a penalty, which Eden Hazard capitalized on, netting the equalizer for the Blues.
PSG retook the lead after half-time but only because David Luiz scored a painful own goal! Close to the end of the match, Javier Pastore found the net and scored, allowing PSG to win 3-1 and simultaneously diminishing the Chelsea’s hopes to advance to the Champions League semi-finals! But it wasn’t all joy and cheers for PSG as one of their key players, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, had to be substituted with apparent discomfort in his right hamstring. PSG’s president later confirmed that Ibrahimovic will miss the second leg against Chelsea and will be out for a few weeks!
Even though PSG will be going into the second leg with an advantage of two goals, the absence of Ibrahimovic is a downer. However, the Blues should not be written off. Until last weekend, they were the EPL leaders before dropping to second. Also in their favor is that the Blues will play at home in a favorable environment for second leg.
The upcoming rematch should be interesting as PSG currently leads the ligue while Chelsea trails Liverpool by two points in the EPL. Both teams were evenly matched at the beginning, and although PSG has a clear advantage now, anything can happen. It’s anybody’s game.
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