The first stage of knockout rounds in this season’s UEFA Champions League met its conclusion this midweek as we move towards the final stage of the campaign.
The Round of 16 offered us with endless excitement, individual brilliance and most of all, chock-full of surprises, with three of Europe’s biggest teams getting knocked out.
Here are five talking points from the Round of 16 of the Champions League this season.
Real Madrid’s success cycle in Europe is probably over
Real Madrid were coming on the back of three consecutive Champions League titles, but a shambolic 4-1 aggregate defeat at the hands of Ajax was enough to signal the potential short-term demise of the Spanish giants.
Indeed, the club from the Spanish capital have had a rough season so far and with the club re-appointing Zinedine Zidane as head coach this week, it is probably fair to assume that Los Blancos will undergo a major squad overhaul in the summer as they look to kickstart a new era under the Frenchman.
Cristiano Ronaldo continues to impress in the Champions League
Very few would have backed Juventus to come back from a 2-0 deficit against the sturdy Atletico Madrid this week. But, a sensational performance from Cristiano Ronaldo saw the Old Lady make an extraordinary comeback to oust the Spanish giants and proceed to the quarterfinals.
Ronaldo’s hattrick against Atletico helped him level Lionel Messi’s record of most hat-tricks in the UEFA Champions League. And the Portuguese will certainly be the focal point of Juventus’s bid as they aim to lift the coveted trophy this season.
Is this Manchester City’s year?
After a slightly unconvincing display against FC Schalke in the first-leg, Manchester City showed their true colours by securing a whopping 7-0 win over the Royal Blues this week.
The English defending champions were simply ruthless against a lacklustre Schalke defence and with players like Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling in top form, it won’t be surprising to see City take long strides in the Champions League this campaign.
Lionel Messi’s rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo is prolonging their era of dominance
While Ronaldo shook the Allianz Stadium with his mesmerising performance against Atletico Madrid, Lionel Messi was also on fire against Olympique Lyonnais as FC Barcelona secured a convincing 5-1 win.
Messi scored twice and further assisted two, drawing level with Robert Lewandowski as the top goalscorer of this season’s Champions League and while Ronaldo has slightly lagged behind in terms of productivity, despite his hat-trick against Atleti, fans around the world will certainly be hoping for Juventus and Barcelona to face each other in the quarterfinals of this coveted tournament.
English teams finally come to the fore in Europe
The round of 16 of this year’s Champions League was a positive one for the English fans as all four Premier League sides went through to the next stage thus forming half the teams in the quarter-finals after a gap of 10 years.
Tottenham Hotspur ousted Borussia Dortmund, thanks to a dominant display in the first leg while Sadio Mane’s brace helped Liverpool beat Bayern Munich this midweek.
Manchester City’s triumph over Schalke was expected, but it was Manchester United, who arguably produced the biggest surprise by upsetting PSG with a 3-1 victory at Parc des Princes with an outrageously weakened first team.