Manchester City are in action to justify their Champions League favorite status
The Champions League continues this week with another round of 16. All games will be broadcast live on Virgin Media Sport. Host Tommy Martin writes exclusively for sundayworld.com to get a preview of the big games.
The Chaaaampiiiooonnns! Was there a more impressive winner of the main European football prize than the FC Bayern Munich team, who pushed the All-Comers aside last season?
Scored 43 goals and conceded only eight, won every game and scored Tottenham, Chelsea and Barcelona. Only Cristiano Ronaldo has managed to score more goals than Robert Lewandowski’s 15 in a single season. 43 goals and only 8 goals against. He won every game and had memorable beating against Tottenham, Chelsea and Barcelona in the process. Only Cristiano Ronaldo managed to score more goals in one season than Robert Lewandowski’s 15.
The win at the FIFA World Cup a few weeks ago made it an unbelievable six trophies in eight months, but the Bayern juggernaut has been hit on the road in recent weeks. A draw and a defeat in the last two Bundesliga games mean a slump for their high circumstances. Losing Thomas Mueller to Covid-19 is a heavy blow to her notoriously relentless press style.
Fifth in Serie A, Lazio has been in good shape lately and has its own goalkeeper in Ciro Immobile, the winner of the Last season’s golden shoe for Europe’s top goalscorers.
But a return to the Champions League will certainly refocus the defending champions, and if anyone is to stop Bayern from winning titles again, it’s unlikely it’s the Italian team.
What two months make a difference. In December I listened to our studio experts how promising things were for Frank Lampard at Chelsea. They got through their qualifying group with little effort and were challenging at the top of the Premier League.
Let’s face it, poor Frank couldn’t have had a worse Christmas season if he’d grown feathers and started « gobbling up, gobbling up » to say.
Frank Lampard only won two of his last eight Premier League games as Chelsea boss before being sacked on January 25th (Matthew Childs / PA)
Thomas Tuchel, fresh from his own pre-Christmas nightmare at PSG, and suddenly Chelsea, is back on track, unbeaten in seven under the new boss. Damien Delaney warned that Chelsea fans got upset too early in the studio last week over fear of a new manager jumping up, but Brian Kerr had them as a contender for the Champions League title.
We will getting a pretty good answer on where they really are when they go up against the La Liga front-runners, led by a rejuvenated Luis Suarez who enjoys putting Barcelona’s decision to get rid of him right in the faces of his old club.
This one will be cage and could go deep into the second leg before it is decided.
Manchester City is quickly approaching the dream scenario. Their sensational winning streak in the Premier League means they may have a third title in four seasons that is completed in time to devote themselves to the holy grail of the Champions League.
Ten points ahead at the top, none of their domestic ones Rivals will likely face a challenge to fill this gap so that Europe will soon reappear as the final frontier for Pep’s City.
For some strange reason Guardiola can’t help but assert itself in the Champions League in its own way. City was reversed by bad luck, bad finish and strange tactical catastrophes by their manager in their four previous outcomes in the Pep era.
None of this should be significant against Borussia, which works in eighth place in the Bundesliga and whose coach Marco Rose has agreed to move to Dortmund in the summer.
Like the Germans at World Cups, Real Madrid can never be written off. Except, maybe you can this season. Every time we’ve talked about it in the studio, none of our panels gave them a chance to improve on their 13 Champions League titles.
A group stage that included home and away defeats to Shakhtar Donetsk wouldn’t mean that they are reliving the golden magic with which they have won four Champions League crowns in five seasons over the past ten years.
It was a big problem not to refresh the roster from those glorious times. Real still needed inspiration from Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos. Any team would struggle to replace Cristiano Ronaldo but signing Eden Hazard (just four goals in two injury-related seasons) was a disaster.
Eden Hazard’s disappointing first season at Real Madrid was interrupted by an injury. Photo: REUTERS / Jon Nazca
Now Real meets the entertainers of the Champions League. If you haven’t seen an Atalanta game since their quarter-finals debut last season, do yourself a favor and give Gian Piero Gasperini’s attacking side a look.
The fact that you haven’t knowing what you’re going to get with them is half the fun. In the group stage they lost 5-0 at home to Liverpool and a few weeks later in Anfield 2-0 to the Reds.
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