LaLiga, Premier League dominate last eight; impact of no away goals; dream quarterfinal match

The Spanish and English leagues have dominated the last eight in LaLiga Santander, Premier League, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga. The impact of no away goals could play a key factor as they move on to the quarterfinals where some of their dreams will come true.

The “champions league schedule” is a list of the eight teams that will compete in the Champions League last-16. The quarterfinals are set to be a dream match between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

The first round of the Champions League is concluded, with significant highlights including Real Madrid’s remarkable comeback against Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid’s shocking of Manchester United and Manchester City, and Bayern Munich’s flurry of goals.

Mark Ogden, Julien Laurens, and Alex Kirkland were asked about their thoughts on a few major issues.

What stood out to you during the round of 16’s second legs?

Inter Milan’s 1-0 victory against Liverpool in the second leg of their game wasn’t enough to keep them alive, but Simone Inzaghi’s squad impressed for an hour in the first leg at San Siro and were unlucky not to win by more at Anfield.

Since Jose Mourinho’s Inter in 2010, no Italian club has won the Champions League, but with Italy’s Euro 2020 victory, there may be some hints of a Serie A return. Inter will only improve if they can keep Inzaghi and replace some of the team’s aging players. Inter and Juventus have advanced to the round of 16 and, although Juve was thrashed by Villarreal, Inter showed enough to indicate that Italian clubs can resume regular competition.

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Laurens: I was blown away by all of the away victories we witnessed in the second legs. Even though Inter did not advance, they managed to hand Liverpool their first home loss of the season, which is a remarkable accomplishment in and of itself. Atletico Madrid traveled at Old Trafford and put up a typical Diego Simeone display, aided greatly by Manchester United’s terrible effort.

The job was made more difficult for Benfica by the fact that Ajax had been in outstanding form at home. And against all chances, when everyone, including me, expected they’d be eliminated, they defended well and seized what was essentially their last opportunity.

Villarreal in Turin was maybe the most spectacular away victory. Although this Juventus side is not the same as in the past, and their manager, Max Allegri, is too old-school, Unai Emery and his Villarreal players were outstanding. They took advantage of their good fortune in the first half and hammered Juve with three goals in the closing 12 minutes. They deserve a lot of praise.

Kirkland: In a decade of coming to games at the Bernabeu, I’ve never heard the Bernabeu crowd erupt as it did during Real Madrid’s second-half comeback against PSG. Madrid’s reputation for European comebacks is partly self-mythologizing — they haven’t done it very often — but this was the genuine stuff, and it was an honor to be there.

Villarreal’s 3-0 victory against Juventus was almost as impressive. The Yellow Submarine, the epitome of a well-run small-town club, have a proud European record (2006 Champions League semifinalists, Europa League champions last year), but their slick, clinical performance to remove the would-be Super League founders was one of their greatest European evenings.

– When are the quarterfinal and semifinal draws for the Champions League? – Watch ESPN FC every day on ESPN+ (U.S. only) – Don’t have access to ESPN? Get immediate access

There are three clubs remaining in each of England and Spain; select your favorite from each nation to win it all.

Laurens: Since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival, Chelsea has been a tremendous cup team. With everything going on at the club off the field right now, their success might galvanize this team even more. Karim Benzema, along with Kylian Mbappe, is the finest player in the world right now, and he can lead Real Madrid to victory.

Kirkland: I think Manchester City will go one step further this year and win their first Champions League title, or Real Madrid will win their 14th.

Ogden: Liverpool play with a freedom and confidence in the Champions League that Man City still lacks, therefore I’d take Jurgen Klopp’s side over Pep Guardiola’s side every time. The same can be said about Real Madrid in Spain, who are unrivaled in the Champions League.

Real Madrid’s amazing comeback to eliminate Paris Saint-Germain was capped by Karim Benzema’s hat trick. Getty Images/John Berry

Do you miss the regulation that prevents goals from being scored away from home?

Kirkland: I’ve had to remind myself that it’s no longer a factor more than I’ve missed it. It will take a little longer to break the habit of talking about away goals since they have dominated the conversation for so long. We haven’t observed much of a difference yet. Regardless, Real Madrid’s situation appeared bleak when Mbappe scored at the Bernabeu to put PSG 2-0 ahead on aggregate. There were concerns that eliminating the regulation might result in more games going to overtime or being decided on penalties, but that hasn’t been the case so far.

Yes, without away goals, the knockout ties have lacked a sense of danger. Rather than being an outmoded idea, the regulation presented a tactical challenge to teams and coaches in terms of whether they were brave enough to try for a goal on the road, even if it meant leaving defensive holes.

Furthermore, choosing games based on away goals represented something that transpired during the game. Isn’t it preferable if it’s decided by a goal scored in normal play rather than a penalty shootout? Both sides have a chance to score an away goal, so those who are on the losing end can only blame themselves.

Laurens: Without a doubt. It was an ineffective and unjust regulation. For example, I am certain that United and Juventus would have fought for a 0-0 draw at home in the second legs to advance. Sorry, but a club that has to play for a tie twice over two legs should not be able to qualify without a penalty shootout. Instead, we had some enthralling second legs in which everyone was forced to attack and score. That is the essence of football. The idea that the away goals rule poses a tactical challenge is absurd. Its only purpose was to make teams more calculated and cautious.

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Manchester United’s replacements perplexed Ale Moreno during their Champions League loss to Atletico Madrid.

What quarterfinal match-up would you want to see, and why?

Man City vs. Liverpool, according to Ogden. Maybe I’m being greedy, but if both clubs get to the FA Cup semifinals, there will be four games in 12 days. They already have a possible Premier League championship decider scheduled for April 10 at the Etihad Stadium, wedged between the first and second legs of the Champions League quarterfinals.

Bayern Munich may disagree, but City and Liverpool are Europe’s greatest two teams. Pep Guardiola’s team is aiming for a treble, while Jurgen Klopp’s side is still in contention for a quadruple. Given that, let’s watch them battle it out as frequently as possible to see who is really the best.

Laurens: In the quarterfinals, I want a genuine Anglo-Spanish war! I want each country’s three representatives to confront each other. Pep Guardiola vs. Carlo Ancelotti, Kevin De Bruyne vs. Karim the Dream, Manchester City vs. Real Madrid. Liverpool vs. Atletico Madrid would offer the Reds a chance to avenge Marcos Llorente’s goals that knocked them out of the Champions League two years ago. Finally, Chelsea vs. Villarreal would pit Thomas Tuchel against Unai Emery, with both managers demonstrating what PSG is lacking.

Tapas vs. Sunday roast, bullfighting vs. darts! Spain vs. England: Felipe VI vs. Elizabeth II, tapas vs. Sunday roast, bullfighting vs. darts! This would be incredible. In England, Spanish teams are frequently successful. This time, though, it would be a difficult task. England 3-0 Spain is my prediction.

Kirkland: Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid. It’s been five years since the Madrid teams last met in Europe — before that, Atletico’s European dreams were cruelly dashed by their local rivals season after season, with defeats in the 2014 and 2016 finals and eliminations in the 2015 quarterfinals and 2017 semifinals — so it’s high time Simeone’s team was given another chance for vengeance. Real Madrid, on the other hand, is certain to shatter their hearts once again.

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