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The Champions League is Back

Edward Bass, Staffer

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The road to Cardiff started yesterday as the matches for the Champions League Round of 16 kicked off. Benfica (Portugal) squeaked out a 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund (Germany) thanks to Benfica’s goalkeeper Ederson saving Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Penalty in the 58’ minute.Kostas Mitroglou 75’ minute winner was enough to see Benfica end the first leg with an aggregate score of 1-0. All games in the final stages of the Champions League are played over two legs, with an aggregate score determining the winner.

Paris-Saint Germain (France) completed an historic demolition of Barcelona (Spain) on Tuesday in Paris, as Angel Di Maria scored twice in a 4-0 win. This comes as a shock to the world, as favorites Barcelona have a hefty mountain to climb, going back to Spain down 4-0 on aggregate. Heavy criticism has come towards the Barcelona team, as reports say the coach, Luis Enrique, has lost control and trust of his players, with some players even saying he will be gone by the end of the season.

This Wednesday, we saw two intriguing matches as Real Madrid (Spain) beat Napoli (Italy) at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid 3-1. Reigning champions Real Madrid showed their power as goals from Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, and Casemiro lead them past an in-form Napoli team, who were undefeated in their last 18 games. Lorenzo Insigne opened the scoring in the 8th minute, but Real Madrid came flying back to gain a 3-1 aggregate. In Munich, we saw Arsenal (England) travel to the Allianz Arena to get obliterated for the third time by German high-flyers Bayern Munich 5-1. Goals from Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski, Thiago Alcantara, and Thomas Muller made Arsenal’s awful night even worse, as they head home down four goals on aggregate. This doesn’t make the situation for Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s coach, better, as heavy criticism has been flung his way for the past two months. There are tough times coming for the team from north London.

Next Tuesday, February 21, we see Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) face off against Spanish giants Atletico Madrid at the BayArena in Leverkusen. Look for Atletico Madrid  to play on the counter attack, as they do most times away from home. Expect Leverkusen to have high energy from the start to get as many goals as they can to take to Spain to try to defend. Look out for Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann to continue his goalscoring and Leverkusen’s dark horse, Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, to continue his “fox in the box” play. Also, watch out for Leverkusen’s young star, Julian Brandt, to try to make an impact on the game. In the second match of the day, we see an interesting matchup between Manchester City (England) and French Ligue 1 leaders AS Monaco (France). For me, this is the match I will be anticipating the most. With Manchester City’s off-and-on form in the Champions League and Monaco being the highest scoring team in Europe, this has the potential to be a fantastic match for the neutral. Look for players such as Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, and Leroy Sane to try to penetrate Monaco’s backline. Monaco will hope for Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappé Lottin to continue their goalscoring tear of Europe’s top teams.

On Wednesday, February 22, the competition will see FC Porto (Portugal) face Juventus (Italy) at Estádio do Dragão on Portgual. This hotly contested match will see forwards such as Gonzalo Higuain and Andre Silva look to make their mark on the game, doing whatever they can to see their team advance. FC Porto has always been known as the underdog in the competition, but they will definitely be looking to make an impact against Italian Serie A leaders Juventus. In the other Game of the Day, it is the Cinderella story Leicester City (England) against Spanish title hopefuls Sevilla. This is an odd one, as Leicester’s poor domestic league form has been the talk all year, but few realize that they have advanced in the Champions League. Sevilla come into this match third in the Spanish league, three points behind leaders Real Madrid. It seems like these teams are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, but it will certainly be interesting to see how these teams compare in a game no one would have seen coming.

It is getting to that time of year where will we see the best teams come under the spotlight. The best teams can balance it all and perform well in any competition they play in. It is beginning to be crunch time in the Champions League. It doesn’t matter if you’re an underdog or the favorites, anything can happen.

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The Champions League is Back