Yesterday started the beginning of the knockout round in the UEFA Champions League. In the two matches yesterday, both away teams scored critical away goals and secured results, all but guaranteeing them berth into the Round of 8. Juventus won 3-0 at Celtic in a game where the score is no indicative of the competitiveness of the match. Neal Lennon has rightfully complained post-match of the the Spanish center’s pro-Juventus calls, particularly the center’s allowance of Juventus’ grappling in the 10 corners Celtic had. While Lennon is being criticized, it must be hard to watch your team getting mugged at your pitch when you have dominated possession in the game and created most of the goal scoring chances. Yes, Juventus made the most of their breaks, and they are a solid team (I only wish Arsenal’s back 4 were that interested in defense), but Lennon has a right to be frustrated. He was left to wonder what the rules of the game are in Spain. (There are some great quotes in there). Here are some links reflecting the coverage post-game:
Keep in mind, Celtic had 53% possession and out-cornered Juventus 10-4. Celtic had 17 goal attempts to 10 of Juventus. You can see the Match Facts here. That being said, I think Juventus will be a tough out the next round too. Their defense is that good.
In the other match, PSG scored 2 away goals while only conceding 1 against home Valencia. I guess this is Ancelotti style — playing the Spanish club, PSG all but conceded the ball to the home team. Relying on quick counters, PSG was able to score 2 with only 34% possession and meriting zero corners. A frustrating game, to say the least, for Valencia who had 12 goal attempts but only 2 on target. PSG, on the other hand, had 8 goal attempts on target. It goes to show you that there is a lot of meaningless possession.
On a side note, the red card given to Zlatan was ridiculous. As expected, UEFA is reviewing it. I do not see it being upheld. (Meaning, he will be back in the home leg).
Big matches on hand for today. In the most hyped match of the round. Manchester United travel to Real Madrid. This will be a quality match. All the reports out of Madrid are that the team are in shambles, but they are still getting results. Cristiano may not last the summer, Mourinho almost definitely is gone. Manchester United, on the other hand, have catapulted to a sizable lead in the EPL, with Mancini all but conceding the title to them. After losing the EPL last season on the last day to goal differential, Sir Alex goes out and gets the top goal scorer in the EPL – RVP. How is that for management? Today, power shifts back to England as Manchester United merit at least a draw away on their way to advance out of the knockouts to the 8. United has a legitimate chance to win the title this season.
My darkhorse favorite for the title (yes, title) is in the other game today — the one no one is talking about. Dortmund travel to Donetsk in the first leg of their tie. This Dortmund team is legit. The possess with purpose — always threatening. Klopp has done a wonderful job with this squad. This is the team that won the Group of Death, eliminating Man City and outplaying Real Madrid. Mark it down now — this is a team to watch to go the distance, not just for some cute points. As much as I want to watch the super-hyped match of the day today, I will be watching the eventual winners in yellow and black. Bayern has walked away with the Bundesliga so Dortmund will give primacy to the Champions League. Lookout!