The Champions League returned this week, and did so with a bang. The opening group of first-leg last-16 matches have blitzed by with a huge dose of drama, controversy and key talking points, with three ties still hanging in the balance and the other requiring a stunning upset.
The game “the whole world wanted to see” just about lived up to expectations, with Real Madrid and Man Utd playing out an enthralling 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu. United’s Danny Welbeck gave his side a surprise lead 20 minutes in but it didn’t take long for Real to respond, which was inevitably through Christiano Ronaldo who leapt magnificently to powerfully head in the equaliser. Fergie will be repeatedly patting the back of his heroic goalkeeper David de Gea, following a string of great saves which ensured that his side hold the narrow advantage going into the second-leg but given the chances the home side created at the Bernabeu, if they create just half as many at Old Trafford in three weeks time, this tie is far from over and that is reflected in the odds with Jose Mourinho’s men still favourites to progress to the Quarter Finals at 4/5 whilst United are an even money chance to make home advantage count.
Celtic’s dreams of progressing through to the last eight are all but over after their 3-0 hammering at home to Juventus. The classy Italians were lethal on the break and it will now take an almighty miracle for the plucky Scots to progress. Celtic were left fuming at the final whistle following a series of blatant shirt pulls throughout the match and have a right to be livid for not having received at least one penalty. The final score flattered the visitors somewhat and whilst it’s a 100/1 chance that the Hoops turn things around in Turin, that won’t deter the thousands of travelling fans making the most of a trip to Italy for the second leg.
The Shakhtar Donetsk and Borussia Dortmund match may have taken place in the shadow of the titanic clash between two European giants in Madrid but it certainly didn’t disappoint as a spectacle. The sides played out a thrilling 2-2 draw in the Ukraine as the Germans twice clawed their way back into the match having gone behind, notching a last gasp equaliser courtesy a of Mats Hummels header. The result means the two will reunite in a few weeks for what promises to be a firecracker of a second tie with the Germans strong favourites to make it through to the last eight.
Meanwhile, PSG came away from Valencia with a 2-1 win but, they will have to do without star man, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, for the second-leg following his late sending off. Valencia’s 90th minute goal courtesy of Adil Rami gives the Spaniards a glimmer of hope for the return fixture in Paris, but it has to be thought Carlo Ancelotti’s high flyers will have too much on home soil.
It’s now over to the remaining four round of last 16 fixtures next week, which sees Arsenal take on Bayern Munich and Porto v Malaga on Tuesday, followed by AC Milan v Barcelona and Galatasaray v Schalke on Wednesday and if this week’s games set the benchmark, fans should be in for plenty of goals!