It’s been a great month at the top of European football. In my opinion, the Knockout Stage of the UEFA Champions League provided the drama and competition that this stage has needed in the past. Perhaps, the lack of English dominance in the draw has left the European competition much healthier and open to an exciting unpredictability. There were still one-sided encounters, with Bayern Munich easing past TSG Hoffenheim and Barcelona continuing their imperious form, both scoring 7 goals in the second leg. However, an exception can be made for the latter, a team who are quite simply the best footballing side of our generation. Even Messi managed to shock, by scoring 5 goals in a Champions League match, with another record to add to the list. This performance demonstrated how Barcelona are not only the team to beat, but as always they are the team to watch, and enjoy.
On top of this, we were treated to several great comebacks and a true fairy tale. Arguably, Chelsea provided us with the greatest turnaround result with their 4-1 (agg 5-4) second leg win over Napoli. Their display was spirited considering the troublesome fortnight that they have endured. The match contained some perfect irony, with the three main men of the night being the senior players that dominated the discussion on the back-pages towards the end of AVB’s tenure: Drogba, Terry and Lampard. Unfortunately, Arsenal did not have the same fortune a week earlier, in a match that seemed firmly set for the Champions League Hall of Fame. Yet, with such a poor first leg performance Arsenal will have learnt their lesson.
Finally, Apoel Nicosia have firmly written their name in the Champions League history books, as the first Cypriot team to reach the quarter-final. A proud moment for Cyprus and not an undeserved one. Of course, Apoel were extremely lucky to escape the first leg with only a 1-0 deficit but Lyon were the team who did not take their chances. With a home crowd, Apoel gave their fans a greatly improved performance that should be merited.
Now that the draw for the next round has been made, let’s hope for more of the same!
The UEFA Champions League Knockout Stage in pictures: