After falling short to a strong defensive performance by Real Madrid on Saturday, Barcelona hosted the best defence in the world in Simeone’s Atlético Madrid in last night’s Champions League first leg.
A 2-2 draw in Turin in the first leg set up a decisive second leg between two of the biggest clubs in the history of world football. With Bayern carrying two away goals into the game, Juve chose to play aggressively, offering Bayern something very different from what they face week-to-week in the Bundesliga and resulting in a match that was breathtaking for the spectator and a fascinating for the analyst.
Paris Saint-Germain had the advantage of a 2-1 home win over Chelsea going into the second encounter between both teams on Tuesday evening. Chelsea, however, needed only one goal to turn things around. With the Stamford Bridge crowd behind them, the Blues tried to stay cautious but were forced to intensify their efforts in defence.
After going 2-0 up through a trademark Robben goal, momentum shifted in Turin as Juventus pulled back two goals to get a draw in the Champions League first leg clash. For the first 60 minutes Bayern exercised great control through strong play in possession and an effective man-oriented press yet as the rhythm changed and Juve improved, they displayed less stability both with and without the ball.
Champions League football has returned! The biggest clash of this week saw Chelsea come up against PSG for the third consecutive season. Laurent Blanc’s side came out with a win after dominating for almost the full 90 minutes as their centrally-oriented attacking strategy worked well against Chelsea’s weak defence.
Over the past 3 seasons, PSG have come to dominate the French first division and have now all-but secured their 4th consecutive title for 2016. Supported by the riches of Nasser Al-Khelaïfi who bought the club in 2011, the Paris side have assembled a squad filled with excellent players. Over time, this technically-strong side has been molded into a strong possession-based system by Laurent Blanc after Ancelotti’s counter-attacking focus.
With just 8 goals conceded in 18 La Liga matches this season, Atletico Madrid have conceded the least goals of any team in the ‘big 5’ European leagues this season. They are at the top of the table however unlike their La Liga title rivals, Barcelona and Real Madrid, and the other single-figure conceding teams in Europe this season, PSG and Bayern, Atletico don’t compete to break transfer records every summer. They’ve spent a net £12million in transfers over the last four seasons.
A final played between two historic clubs in the Ernst-Happel-Stadion (named after the great innovator and coach) in Vienna, Austria. Both Louis Van Gaal and Fabio Capello were young coaches 20 years (!) ago at the time of this final. Neither team had any trouble reaching the final, as Ajax beat Hajduk Split 3-0 and Bayern Munich 5-2 – and AC Milan beat Benifica 2-0 and PSG 3-0 to reach Europe’s biggest stage. Though both teams were dominant on their road to the final, neither team played well enough to create more than a few chances – which resulted in the only goal coming in the 85th minute.
“The Special One” met his former mentor from their days in Barcelona on Europe’s biggest stage. Inter Milan had just come off of a legendary performance against Guardiola’s FC Barcelona, winning 3-2 on aggregate with only 10 men on the pitch. Van Gaal’s Bayern defeated Lyon 4-0 in the other semi-final (and got to that point by defeating both Fiorentina and Manchester United 4-4 on away goals).
The all English final. All of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, and United were actually in this season’s Champions League quarter-final – an impressive showing for English football. Manchester United were able to narrowly beat a struggling Barcelona with Ronaldinho on his way out, and Chelsea were able to defeat Liverpool in extra time to reach this final. It was a great game which was dictated by Manchester United’s quick possession and combination play.