Barça and Madrid in trouble after 1st leg of Champions League’s Round of 16
The first leg of the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League ended, and most teams who finished in first place in the group stage, have the advantage after obtaining good results on their trips, being Barcelona the one that probably has the toughest second leg at home after losing 2-0. Juventus, PSG and Bayern practically punched their tickets to the quarterfinals after beating Celtic 0-3, Valencia 1-2 and Arsenal 1-3 respectively.
Milan worked through a well deserved win against Barcelona at San Siro as the ‘Rossoneri’ annulled Barça’s attack with a well organized defense and defending midfield who grouped together tightly every time the ‘Blaugranas’ had the ball. The 7-time European champions, knowing their limitations, waited in the back and took advantage of the few scoring chances they created.
Even though they won the possession percentage as always, Barcelona forgot to shoot to goal and incredibly it was only until the 75th minute that had the first and only dangerous shot after Andres Iniesta’s rocket went just wide. Messi played one of his worst games of the season and did not create any dangerous play, as centre back Mexes marked him up well, while Pedro and Fabregas were erratic not much in the passing game but when trying to go into Milan’s area. Italian goalkeeper Abbiati had a very calm night.
Milan deserves all the credit for nullifying Barcelona’s attack and played a close to perfect game. A favorable result in the second leg at Camp Nou will be a very tough mission for Vilanova’s (or Jordi Roura´s) team.
Manchester United did a good game strategy at Bernabeu stadium. As expected, they went to hold Madrid’s attacking attempts and counterattacked every time they could. The inclusion of 2 pure strikers (van Persie and Rooney) since the beginning was surprising but Rooney was positioned a little more in the back than usual, helping on defense and running in the counterattacks when possible.
In the end, it was a fair draw; Real Madrid created more danger in the first half,but faded in the second when Man United could have obtained the win if they convert from a couple of great chances. Special mention to ‘Red Devils’ keeper David De Gea who, besides a couple miscalculations on two crosses in the first half, had a great night with a couple of great saves that gave confidence to his team.
In Valencia, Paris Saint-Germain played to an attacking game and took control in many moments of the match. PSG’s goals are a clear proof of their attacking power with Lucas Moura, Pastore and Lavezzi involved in the scoring plays; add Zlatan Ibrahimovic and you may have one of the best attacking lineups in Europe. PSG could be the surprise of this year’s tournament if they improve on defense.
Juventus played a defensive game but capitalized 100% on its counterattacks as Celtic committed several defensive mistakes that might cost them the elimination. The Scots dominated most of the game but failed their chances, some of them denied by a great Gianluigi Buffon.
Bayern surpassed Arsenal in all lines, exposing the ‘Gunners’ weak points in defense. The Germans were superior especially in the first half where except for the first five minutes, Arsenal’s attack was practically zero. Based on the current form of both clubs (Bayern is unbeaten in 19 straight matches), the London club will need a miracle to advance to quarterfinals. The other German teams Borussia Dortmund and Schalke also have the advantage when they play at home in march while the Malaga-Porto matchup is open to anyone.