A great week for Atletico Madrid strikers (past and present)
In an unexpectedly goal-filled game in the Bay Arena, Atletico had their sharp shooting attackers to thank for a fantastic result. Gameiro, Griezmann and club legend Torres grabbed goals to all but assure the Madrid side of their fourth straight quarterfinal tie. But that was just part of the story for Atletico fans as the other Tuesday night fixture saw two former Atletico greats duke it out in a hugely engrossing match. Sergio Aguero and Radamel Falcao both helped themselves to braces and in the process reminded the on-watching global audience of the qualities that once enthralled Atletico fans on a weekly basis. The performances of the Argentine striker and the Colombian hitman also helped highlight that despite what critics have said in the past, class is permanent.
Squad strength could be key for Juventus
Apart from an appearance in the 2015 Champions League final, Juventus have endured a rather fallow period in Europe over the last few seasons. They are odds on favorite to pick up their sixth straight title, thus further establishing them as Italy’s most successful side – domestically, that is. If Juventus are to have any chance of matching AC Milan’s five European titles, they have to look to bridge the gap between themselves and the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Selling Pogba may not have signified progress but his sale helped fund the purchases of internationals like Dani Alves, Benatia, Pjaca, Cuadrado, and Gonzalo Higuain. So while Juventus may lack the star power of past seasons without Pirlo, Pogba and Tevez, they have good options and a stronger squad than most. This proved essential in a potentially tricky match against 10 men Porto on Wednesday night. New boys Pjaca and Dani Alves came off the bench to give Juventus a priceless away victory.
Guardiola is almost there
While the story of Guardiola’s first season in England hasn’t brought many clear conclusions, one can point to a clear turning point. When Everton dismantled City at Goodison Park last month, Guardiola was facing the possibility of being over his head. His varied formations and systems seemed to confuse his players as much as the opposition and his team were 10 points off Chelsea. Since then, Guardiola has settled on a familiar 4-3-3 system and has mostly picked the same players to play every week. This approach has seen City pick up 10 points in their last 12 and climb to second in the Premier League. Of course, he still has issues with his fullbacks, which might explain why Fernandinho played at left-back against Monaco. But in taking the sensible approach in dropping Claudio Bravo and picking a settled team, he is reaping the rewards of stability.
Another Leicester loss and yet…
To say 2017 hasn’t been good for Leicester would be the most understated of understatements. In November, there was a slight fear that the English champions’ uneven form could see them embroiled in a relegation scrap. Three months later that fear has become reality as Leicester have endured a dire start to the year. They have lost their last five league games and even got knocked out of the F.A. Cup by League One side Millwall. So while Wednesday night’s result on paper reads as yet another loss, Jamie Vardy’s away goal has given Leicester fans something to be optimistic about. In a season of low after humbling low, there is at last some hope.
Mr. Obvious alert: Missing penalties can be costly
When Radamel Falcao placed the ball on the spot on Tuesday night, the scenario was simple – score and Monaco would have a two goal advantage over the home side. This two goal advantage would have had the likely effect of deflating the Manchester City fans, as well as emboldening the Monaco players and causing the City players to lose focus. All hypotheticals of course as a few minutes after missing the penalty, Aguero equalized for City. Even though Falcao later made amends by scoring a spectacular goal to put Monaco 3-2 ahead, City players knew they were still within touching distance. The rest is history. A missed penalty also ended up complicating issues for Sevilla. Had Correa scored his first half penalty, Sevilla could have had a three goal advantage over Leicester instead of just a two goal advantage. As such, Vardy’s late away goal spoiled a potentially great result and Sampaoli’s men can only reflect on what could have been.