What a week of Champions League football that was! Highs, lows, late drama, upsets - It had it all. Let’s take a look at some of the key moments of the R-16 1st leg ties played so far.
PSG 1-0 Real Madrid
The knockout stages of this year’s UCL kicked off at the Parc de Princes, where host PSG secured a late 1-0 win over 13-time European Champion Real Madrid. The scoreline doesn’t exactly paint the full picture though. PSG was unlucky not to score more as the Parisians peppered the Madrid goal with 21 shots, 8 on target.
Although PSG was impressive in possession, the 2020 UCL runners-up did their best work off the ball. PSG pressed high and didn’t allow Madrid to build up from the back, which ensured Madrid’s creative midfielders didn’t have much time on the ball to orchestrate a goal or two. Euro 2020 hero Gianluigi Donnarumma was relatively untroubled and kept an easy clean sheet.
Smart positioning from the front three and relentless pressing from the PSG full-backs forced La Liga’s champions to make mistakes they usually wouldn’t. The dynamic duo of Kylian Mbappe and Nuno Mendes took advantage of Marco Asensio’s defensive weaknesses on the left flank, leaving Dani Carvajal exposed. Several one-on-one duels with Mbappe eventually led to a silly challenge from the right-back that gave away a cheap penalty. Although Thibaut Courtois saved Lionel Messi’s effort, it was the Parisians that had the last laugh as Mbappe went on to score the only goal of the game in stoppage time to put PSG in the driver’s seat for a quarterfinal spot.
Sporting Lisbon 0-5 Man City
Man City was relentless from the get-go. Riyadh Mahrez opened the scoring for the Citizens, and Bernardo Silva scored a brace. Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling joined the party of five put past a helpless Sporting defense. Man City keeper Ederson was a mere spectator as Sporting failed to register a shot on target. The Citizens have now virtually booked their spot in the UCL quarterfinals; it would take a miracle in the second leg for the 2021 runners-up to crash out.
RB Salzburg 1-1 Bayern
Several key players absent, this game was always going to be a tough day at the office for Bayern Munich. Still, one could expect the UCL 2020 champions to get a win against a weaker RB Salzburg side. But this wasn’t the case at the Red Bull Salzburg arena.
Although Bayern had much of the ball (72% possession), it was the Salzburg outfit that made the most out of what they had. Salzburg opened the scoring with a well-worked counterattack that ended with Chukwubuike Adamu curling a shot past a helpless Sven Ulrich to make it 1-0.
Although Bayern continued to have more of the ball, it was Salzburg that looked more likely to score. Had it not been for Benjamin Pavard’s heroic goal-line clearance in the 80th minute, Bayern’s task would have become twice as hard. The Bavarian giants worked hard to stay in the game and were rewarded with a goal, courtesy of Kingsley Coman’s brilliant positional awareness to arrive at the back post and slot the ball past Philipp Köhn to level the game. The 1-1 scoreline sets up the second leg very well. This now looks like a bracket that could go either way.
Inter Milan 0-2 Liverpool
Inter Milan deserved at least a goal if not two from this tie. Although Liverpool had a little more possession than Inter, the Nerazzurri looked the more threatening of the sides. It was Inter Milan that started as the brighter side as Lautaro Martínez curled a shot just wide of Alisson’s post in the opening minutes. Liverpool slowly grew into the game as Mane headed Andy Robertson’s freekick over the bar. In the dying moments of the first half, Ivan Perišić whipped in a dangerous cross towards Hakan Çalhanoğlu who beautifully controlled the ball and took a powerful shot only to see the ball crash against the crossbar.
In the second half, neither side had clear-cut chances until Robertson’s corner kick that Firmino headed home to give Liverpool a 1-0 lead. Like the first goal, Liverpool’s next came from a set-piece as well. Another Robertson free kick was cleared out of the Inter Milan box by Stefan de Vrij. Alexander Arnold collected the ball wide on the right and whipped in a dangerous ball that Virgil van Dijk nodded into Salah’s path. The Egyptian slotted home his 8th goal of the competition to give Liverpool a flattering 2-0 lead. Like the Salzburg vs Bayern match, the clash between Inter Milan and Liverpool will be a feisty battle with a potential upset on the cards at Anfield.
My fantasy team scored 81 points, every pick earning well barring Lewandowski, Sane, and Okafor. With Danjuma, Haller & Antony on the bench waiting to be subbed in, it should be an easy swap unless injuries demand priority.
A Danjuma goal against Juventus and a Haller- Antony-led goal fest in the Ajax vs Benfica game would do wonders for my fantasy rank this week, but the Man United-Atletico & Chelsea-Lille games are going to be a nervous watch for me from a fantasy perspective as I don’t own anyone from either of these games.
Predictions for the upcoming R-16 1st leg games
What are your predictions? How is your fantasy MD going so far? Who was your star pick of this MD? Who was your flop of this MD? Who could ruin your rank in the upcoming MDs? Who could save your team? Have questions of your own? Please feel free to share them in the comments section.
NMA UCL Fantasy Mini-League
If you played our UCL mini-league last season, or if you played our Euros mini-league over the summer, you should automatically be entered into NMA’s 2021-22 mini-league as soon as you create a team. Head to gaming.uefa.com and get to work!
If you are new to us, then once you create a team you can join our mini-league manually with the following info. Come join us, we’d love to have you!
- Code: 71MQALVG07