Biggest takeaways from the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals
After four enthralling fixtures, the stage is set for the UEFA Champions League semi-finals as two teams from France - Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, and Lyon - will go to battle against two teams from Germany - RB Leipzig and Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.
But before the semi-finals, we take a look at what we learned from the four quarter-final matches:
Bayern Munich are the favourites
After their 7-0 thrashing over two legs in 2013, FC Barcelona must have thought that they already have seen the best that Bayern Munich had to offer. They were wrong.
The Bavarians smashed eight past Marc-Andre ter Stegen and won 8-2, the biggest knockout win in the history of the Champions League. Quite ironically, Bayern weren’t as sharp as they usually have been under Hansi Flick but still managed to score eight.
Over their last three matches in the Champions League, Bayern Munich have scored 15 and conceded just thrice, averaging a 5-1 scoreline. While Lyon have shown they are capable of causing a big upset, having eliminated Juventus and Manchester City, Bayern might be a bridge too far for the French side.
Manchester City have a mentality problem
After Bayern Munich humbled Barcelona, the football fraternity wondered if they might manage to do the same against former coach Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side. But, in a cruel twist of fate, City, surprising fluffed their lines and succumbed 3-1 to Lyon and were eliminated from the Champions League.
Before joining City in 2016, Guardiola had reached the semi-final in each of the seven seasons he managed in the competition. However, in his four seasons in Manchester, the Spaniard is yet to take his side beyond the quarter-final, succumbing for the third year running on this stage.
While City have showcased time and again that they possess the ability to pummel opponents for fun, their lack of character when up against adversity has been a hallmark under Guardiola.
In the Premier League, City have won just 36 points out of a possible 111 after trailing 1-0, winning just nine out of 37 matches. While the Champions League houses Europe’s elites, the teams Guardiola has lost to make for grim reading.
Monaco, Liverpool, Tottenham and Lyon have eliminated City from the Champions League over the past four campaigns. So far, none of the three sides have gone on to win the title. Guardiola’s City is unquestionable one of the best in Europe, but their paper-thin mental fortitude has been their downfall in the Champions League.
Nagelsmann proves pragmatism is dead
At just 33, Julian Nagelsmann is the youngest coach to take a team to the Champions League semi-final.
After swapping Hoffenheim, where his revolutionary ideas and stunning gameplay captivated Europe, for RB Leipzig, much was expected from Nagelsmann and his side in the Bundesliga. However, an average campaign saw them finish third on the table, but with Leipzig’s stellar run in the Champions League, Nagelsmann proved to be one the finest coaches in Europe and he did that by beating two of the continent’s best coaches.
Nagelsmann and Leipzig first beat Jose Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur in the round-of-16 before beating Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinal. Over those three matches, Leipzig scored six and conceded just one, showcasing their dominance.
Mourinho and Simeone have made their name for their notoriously pragmatic approach in the big games and while it has worked like a charm in the past, it didn’t against one of Europe’s brightest young minds in football.
While pragmatism might still get teams a result or two in big games, Nagelsmann proved that the only assured way of beating top sides is by playing them out of the park, rather than sitting deep and praying for a counter.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Manu Fernandez
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