Sunday, September 23, 2018

Champions League Round of 16: Four Things We Learned from This Week’s Matches

Milos Markovic in Editorial, UEFA Champions League 15 Feb 2018

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We’re halfway into the first legs of the Champions League Round of 16 with four highly intense matches behind us.

For those of you who might have missed this week’s results, here’s a look back at the Round of 16 so far:

Juventus 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur

FC Basel 0-4 Manchester City

Real Madrid 3-1 PSG

FC Porto 0-5 Liverpool

What we witnessed this week was four matches of brilliant football, fantastic individual performances and collective spirit that can only be found at the top stage such as the Champions League. And as anticipation slowly builds for the remaining four clashes next week, let us sum up these four games through as many things we learned this week.

Rio Ferdinand is right – Harry Kane is the Best Striker in the World

Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand made a bold claim this week but also the one that can be backed by strong arguments. The England international Harry Kane has been in truly sensational form this season. The 24-year-old Tottenham forward bagged a whopping 35 goals for Spurs this season, including three in last three matches – against Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham, respectively.

Throw in his top-class performance in the 2-0 win over Manchester United – during which he did not score though – and you have more than enough evidence to make a claim as bold as you wish.

Harry Kane’s game is much more than just scoring goals and the Englishman has plenty of qualities in him that certainly make him a complete striker. Kane’s ability to annoy defenders without even touching the ball is another big trait of his. An all-round No.9, Harry Kane has evolved over the past couple of seasons and improved his game immensely.

Kane’s hold-up play allows Tottenham players to build their game and move forward in a fluent fashion, whereas his positioning and a nose for goal are true characteristics of a natural striker.

Pep Guardiola is Being Too Modest

Manchester City fans have gained an important argument in their childish bickering with their neighbours over the quality, form and overall rating of Manchester’s teams. Let us remind you that Manchester United struggled against Swiss giants – lost 1-0 in their last encounter – whereas Manchester City ran riot over Basel in a commanding fashion for a compelling 4-0 win.

It would now take a miracle for Manchester City not to reach the quarter-finals for just the second time in their history but Pep Guardiola is keeping his feet firmly on the ground – rightly so – but we dare say he is being too modest. Definitely too modest for a man who has the likes of Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane complementing each other in arguably the most exciting and talent-packed unit in Europe at the moment.

Guardiola heaped praise on his team’s performance at Basel, especially on Ilkay Gundogan but with his entire team putting in such scintillating performances this season it’s no wonder Citizens have emerged as top favourites at 13/4 betting odds to lift the Champions League trophy this season.

Di Maria was spot on – Champions League anthem indeed ‘transforms’ Real Madrid

Paris Saint-Germain knows it all too well. He was part of the team that won the Champions league title back in 2014 and is well aware of the fact you can never – ever – underestimate Real Madrid in their favourite competition regardless of their current form.

PSG headed into the game at Santiago Bernabeu in full force and were arguably the best of two sides for the good part of the game. It took some time for that Champions League anthem to kick in and settle with Zinedine Zidane’s players who ended up displaying their true champions character and latched on their wealth of experience to see off the French threat in – at the end more than comfortable – 3-1 victory at Santiago Bernabeu.

Unlike teams such as Barcelona or Manchester City who set out to control possession and space, Real Madrid are following the natural flow of the game by following their lethal instincts and that was exactly on display on Wednesday night.

The Champions League anthem is their Pavlovian conditioning which allowed Real Madrid to get in full control of the proceeding and get back to life despite drowning at the beginning of the game. Same can be said to Cristiano Ronaldo, the much criticized Portuguese star who has become the first club to score 100 Champions League goals for a single team.

The Egyptian King Making Liverpool Fans Forget About Luis Suarez

Reds fans have been moaning for quite a while about Luis Suarez and his team’s inability to replace the Uruguay striker with the player of the same caliber.

They most certainly did not have the highest of expectations when Jurgen Klopp moved in for AS Roma winger Mohamed Salah – not a classic striker in all accounts of his game. The Egyptian international got coronated into a King at Anfield soon after, however, thanks to his staggering spell of exceptional creative power, speed and natural ability to terrorize rival defenses from any position on the pitch.

Salah put in another world-class display in Portugal, helping his team to a thumping 5-0 victory with his 30th goal in all competitions for Liverpool, becoming only the 13th player to do so in the history of the club and the first LFC player to do it since Luis Suarez in 2013/14. And remember, it’s only February…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Milos Markovic


Formerly a Chief Editor at the largest sports site in Serbia Sportske.net, Milos Markovic is an avid football writer who contributes to a variety of online football magazines - most prominently Soccernews.com and Futbolgrad.com. His feature articles, editorials, interviews and match analyses have provided informed opinion and views, helping the football aficionados keep up to date on relevant events in world football.

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