With Quarter Finals wrapped up, we're coming closer and closer to the conclusion of yet another Uefa Champions League. With Bayern and Atletico progressing into the next round to join Chelsea and Real Madrid, here's a look at what we've learnt:
1) Atletico fear no one
Diego Simeone's men pulled yet another outstanding performance out of the bag yesterday, sending the favourites in this tie Barcelona, out 2-1 on aggregate. This was far from a lucky result from the current leaders in La Liga, who out-thought, and even out-played the Catalans over two legs. Whether this is their year to lift the trophy remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain; nobody fancies facing Atletico in the next round.
2) Barcelona are in big trouble
Progressing into the semi-finals of the Champions League has come to be a minimum requirement for Barcelona over the past few years.
What was mildly disturbing however, is not only that they failed to meet this target, but were comprehensively beaten over two legs by a team with less experience, less resources, and playing in the same league as them (it isn't even Real Madrid!).
Barca's style of play has been found out over the past few years, and more and more teams appear to have cracked the code. Moreover, they need to strengthen certain areas, particularly in defence and in goal. The impending transfer ban however, could see them crippled and out of action for a few years unless they can devise some form of escape strategy, and fast.
3) Even Bayern can be beaten, or at least wounded
Bayern Munich eased past Manchester United 4-2 on aggregate, with a comfortable 3-1 win at home to kill the tie. Or did they? The European Champions looked far from convincing for large parts of both legs, and even an under-performing United were able to cause them some substantial problems. The central defence in particular is an area which teams can look to exploit if they wish to defeat the German outfit in the next round.
4) They're still the best in Europe though
Despite a largely unconvincing performance from the defending Champions though, they still turned it on when it mattered, and how. 22 seconds after Patrice Evra had put United in front (only God knows how), the Bavarians were back on level terms, and then proceeded to kill the tie in the next twenty odd minutes. They may not be invincible, but with Schweinsteiger, Martinez and Shaqiri to return for the next round, they come pretty close.
5) This is the closest competition over the last few years by far
Of the four semi-finalists that have made it through, it's almost impossible to call a certain winner, or even a certain loser. All four sides have shown over the course of the competition that they have what it takes to be there. Bayern and Real are always favourites to lift the coveted trophy. Chelsea showed great resilience and character to fight back against PSG, and Atletico just keep on silencing the critics, game after game. Now all we can do is eagerly await the draw for the semis.
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