Champions League – Five Thoughts After the First Leg

Manchester United

The first eight matches in Champions League round of 16 highlights just how far the Premier League’s elite clubs have fallen, the away goals that don’t really matter anymore, a German Bundesliga being overrated and raise a question regarding the absence of Italian teams from this stage.

English clubs continued demise: Four Premier League team in the round of 16. Three lost, one drew in a match they deserved to lose. Arsenal and Manchester City did have a player sent off, but it doesn’t really matter. In all four matches the English teams were inferior to their opponents, with 10 vs 11 or on a fair playing pitch. While Chelsea got the only positive result in their visit to Istanbul, their second half was another chapter of negative football from the Jose Mourinho book. The Premier League is still the most exciting to watch in the world because it’s probably the only league in which every match, even for the big clubs (unlike Germany or Spain) is quite unpredictable going into it. However, all the money in the world isn’t enough to make up for the bad foundations this league is built on, and it seems that it also has something to do with the level of local managers.

Cancel away goals: Another example of how away goals aren’t really that rare. Six teams won away from home, and the only away team to not score a goal was Manchester United. It doesn’t force teams to attack – it only gives them an excuse to park the bus if they do get an early away goal or take that lead back home. It might cause a few more extra times and penalty kicks, but fans can handle a bit more football. It gives something of an unfair advantage because it used to be more difficult to score “on the road” but what really matters is the quality and difference between the two sides, with the disparity in the UCL age making it redundant rule.

The Bundesliga is overrated: A fun league, with a great economic structure and excellent, attacking football almost every weekend. But the best in Europe? Having the best team in the world doesn’t equal the best league. Leverkusen and Schalke, strong German teams who aren’t here for the first time, were humiliated at home, beaten to a pulp by PSG and Real Madrid, two giants in terms of finances. Bayern Munich and a healthy Dortmund are part of Europe’s elite, but the rest of Germany are teams that play a lot of attractive football put are very poor when it comes to tactical thinking and defending.

Bayern Munich

There’s no such thing as best league in Europe: That debate shouldn’t even begin. There are great clubs, and that’s it. The Premier League has its charm, and so does the Bundesliga. PSG is putting Ligue 1 on the map, and the same goes for the Spanish La Liga with Barcelona, Real Madrid and this year Atletico as well. But is their really a “best” league in all of this? Nope. Just good teams, and different variations of what we call good, but is simply a matter of taste when it comes to the minnows of football.

Italy? Who the [email protected]#% is Italy?: AC Milan were the only Italian team to make it out of the group stage, but they’re probably not even a top 4 or 5 team in Italy. They looked bad for most of their match against Atletico Madrid, losing 1-0 at home and looking quite impotent most of the time against a team that wasn’t even trying that hard for the first 75 minutes. Juventus and Napoli might have been a bit unlucky not to be at this stage and would have made things more interesting.

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