Story by Joshua Mason
Two big games took place last night and showcased how the premier European competition should be played, unlike the PSV against Atletico Madrid tie. Barcelona and Bayern Munich went through on the night, one with a dominant display and the other with a late and somewhat lucky showing. The final eight teams have been decided with PSG, Atletico, Man City, Benfica, Real Madrid and Wolfsburg all joining the two aforementioned teams.
Juventus vs Bayern Munich
Juventus will be gutted to come away from these two legs as the losing side. A valiant performance from the Bianconeri, which had troubled the Germans all night was ultimately in vain. The game started at a 2-2 draw, and with the score at 2-1 it looked like Juventus were in an imperious position. Their star man Pogba had scored and their constant pressuring was putting Neuer in a strained position, it looked like it was going to be the Italians’ night. You can never write off the Germans though and the game swung in the 90th minute. Reminding me of what the youth coaches used to say about playing until the final whistle, Juventus were caught sleeping as Muller rose to head home and take the game to extra time. Bayern then capitalised on Juventus’ shock and managed to score another two goals to make the score look more comfortable than it should have been. To add insult to injury the last goal came from Kingsley Coman, a Juve reject, who is on loan at Bayern for two years with an option for an outright buy.
Guardiola will be delighted he is one step closer to achieving Champions League dream in his final year in charge at Bayern, before he moves on to City next year. He has already won 3 league titles in a row (well, almost three) but the highest European accolade has eluded him. Though he claims he doesn’t care who they face in the last 8, anything less than a semi-final would be deemed a failure.
“If you want to reach the semi-finals then you have to be ready to beat any opponent,” Guardiola said. Whether he likes to admit it or not though he will want to avoid Barcelona for obvious personal reasons, but now also because they seem to be favourites for the Champions League with betting tips experts. It could be the first time Guardiola will hope they lose, before they may meet.
Arsenal vs Barcelona
In contrast to the Juventus game Barcelona comfortably overcame the perpetual underachievers in Arsenal. I read an article recently how since the tight Final in 2006 between the two sides, which Barcelona just overcame, the gap between the two sides is now vast. Wenger seemed to agree with a hint of jealousy when he said that Barca had “two or three players are able to transform normal life into art”.
The three players he was referring to were the goal scoring trio of the night at the Nou Camp. Neymar slotted for the first goal whilst Suarez showed off his knack for scoring spectacular goals, with a stupendous volley. Lionel Messi put the cherry on the cake with another chip finish that he could probably do in his sleep nowadays. The only positive for Arsenal was a first goal from recent signing Mohammed Elneny, who finished impressively from 18 yards.
Wenger meanwhile will be facing more questions and more fan unrest. It seems Arsenal will soon be joining the rest of the football world on the managerial conveyor belt. To me, the blame should not all lay down at his door, conservatism in the board room has led to conservatism in success. Arsenal always had the toughest task, but the comparison between the two sides over the last ten years could be the biggest evidence yet that Wenger is treading water.