Wednesday’s action in the Champions League wasn’t as close as Tuesday’s in the Champions League, and 3 of the 4 teams in the action showed exactly why domestic form is vital in the Champions League race.
Borussia Dortmund saw devastating 5-1 aggregate defeat to Juventus after the Italians comfortably put 3 past them at their home stadium, the Westfalenstadion. Manchester City was incredibly lucky on the defensive side, as Joe Hart comfortably saved them, but City was only able to get forward in the 2nd half, a half that just happened to be a poor showing from Sergio Aguero.
While the fate wasn’t great for Dortmund and City, Juventus and Barcelona put together absolutely mesmeric showings, displaying an amount of class that we’ve scarcely seen so far this year.
The interesting thing is you can tell what’s been happening in Europe’s Top 4 leagues by watching a team from each of them.
Manchester City has been absolutely terrible since the turn of the year. Winning only 3 matches in 2 ½ months is certainly not a tally we expected from the former Champions. Dortmund, on the other hand, looked to be coming out of a slump at the turn of the year, as they were in last in the German Bundesliga before winning a couple of matches.
Dortmund had 2 matches in the Bundesliga that would ultimately decide whether they still had a chance of qualifying for next year’s Champions League (Top 4 for Bundesliga). They drew both, and then went on to a rather drab performance against Juventus.
Juventus is the third team. They are absolutely FLYING in Serie A, soaring 14 points ahead of AS Roma in 2nd. Juventus has basically won the Italian competition already, so they have time to focus on the Champions League, on putting these instrumental performances.
A common trait of the Manchester City teams in recent years is the shot counts. When the citizens go down a goal, they usually take shot after shot, trying to reduce the deficit. Today’s game against Barcelona showed they have lost that. They looked clueless in defence (did Pellegrini even have a strategy to deal with Barcelona?) and they overcooked all their attacks, passing until they lost the ball.
Manchester City is a great transition to my next point: teamwork. People have been crying for months about how Aguero is a Top 10 player in the World, but today was poetry as to why he isn’t as far as I’m concerned. The truth about Aguero is that he only scores with service towards him. When City doesn’t show, Aguero doesn’t save them, David Silva and Yaya Toure are more likely to do that. With the service, I believe Wilfried Bony can be just as good a striker as Aguero.
Meanwhile, Lionel Messi showed his individual brilliance in the best way possible: selflessness. Messi continued plays, moved the ball around with the rest of the team and only took his chances when there was no clear opportunity for someone else. Messi played the role of lynchpin for Barcelona’s attack. And, to be honest, with the form Messi’s in, there’s no better lynchpin to have.
Overall, though not as gritty and tight, class was on display in yesterday’s action. Barcelona and Juventus will join the rest of the quarterfinalists (Monaco, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Porto and PSG). As the draw will be revealed on Friday, we can all look forward to more great matches.