UCL Preview: A blockbuster in Bavaria, Real troubles for Man City and PSG revisit the scene of the crime


It’s back, and it’s better than ever.

The Champions League is one of the great sporting competitions in the world, and if you want to know why, last week was as good an example as you could have hoped for.

There were goals on goals, with 18 in just four games, and not just quantity: go watch Manchester City’s 3-3 draw in Madrid to see six of the very best.

There were upsets too, as Barcelona picked up an unlikely win on the road in Paris and Bayern Munich a creditable draw against Arsenal.

There was a late drama, with Dortmund turning what had looked like a sticky situation into a live tie going into the second game with Atletico Madrid thanks to a Sebastien Haller strike at the death in the Metropolitano.

With return legs this week, all four quarters are nicely poised. Let’s get into it.

There were some incredible goals in Leg 1. What’s in store this week in Leg 2? ????

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Barcelona (3) v (2) PSG, Wednesday April 17, 5am, live on Stan Sports

Plenty would have thought that this would have been over going into the second game, but instead, it is all to play for.

PSG were hefty favourites to advance to the semis, but came unstuck in the face of a Barca side that knew exactly what to expect, then brought something unexpected of their own.

Luis Enrique, the PSG coach, won this competition with Barcelona in 2015 and made the mistake of claiming, ahead of the first game, that his side played the more authentically Barca style of football.

Tactically that might be true, but Xavi, the incumbent Blaugrana manager and someone who knows a thing or two about what the club’s style is, won’t care.

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As much as passing and angles are part of the Barca tradition, so is beating PSG when it matters in Europe, and Xavi came out on top there.

Moreover, PSG’s ability to capitulate on the biggest European stage is their grandest tradition, and it will be until they actually win the big cup. In Barcelona, where they suffered their worst defeat ever in 2017, they’ll be reminded of it constantly.

Kylian Mbappe was near-anonymous at the Parc des Princes and will have to be better this time around for his side to stand a chance. It’s Barca’s to lose now, and PSG are forced to attack from the off. Expect fireworks.

Barcelona made a statement from this win ????

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Dortmund (1) v (2) Atletico Madrid, Wednesday April 17, 5am, live on Stan Sports

It was all going so well for Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid. They were 2-0 up and cruising. They should have made it 3-0, essentially ending the tie, but Samuel Lino missed at the back post and, before the night was out, the Germans would strike.

Now, this is anyone’s game. Dortmund are behind on aggregate but have a home crowd behind them and nothing to lose.

Atleti are far, far better at home than away and BVB are just about the opposite, so how this goes is anyone’s guess – though the smart money might be that it goes deep, with extra time a distinct possibility.

This is the best that either side can hope for in terms of trophies this season, with neither able to win their league, and with Barca a possibility of knocking out PSG in the other game, they’ll fancy their chances of a place in the final with the Catalans on their side of the bracket.

Atleti are masters at shutting down a game, but can they do it in front of a hostile crowd on the road in Germany? BVB love a bit of chaos and momentum, and will throw everything they have at this one. Anything could happen.

Bayern Munich (2) v (2) Arsenal, Thursday April 17, 5am, live on Stan Sports

This was a belter in the first leg, with Bayern coming from behind to lead going into the final 15 before being pegged back by a Leandro Trossard goal.

There was controversy, too, as Bukayo Saka was denied a late penalty by the referee, confirmed by VAR, when he thought that Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer had brought him down in the box.

For neutrals, the result is perfect in keeping this one alive going into the second leg. Bayern conceded the German title at the weekend to Bayer Leverkusen and will now throw all their eggs into the Champions League basket, but in England, Arsenal’s defeat to Aston Villa leaves them fighting on two fronts to keep their season alive.

The Gunners have an exceptional defence and will back themselves to withstand pressure and strike on the counter, which is exactly what Bayern did to them in London.

The Bavarians are rarely allowed to play on the break and relished it last week, so it might suit Arsenal to force Bayern to have the ball. That’s not often Mikel Arteta’s way, however, and the tactical battle here is going to be key.

Penalty or not? ???? Late drama at the Emirates has the crew debating this call.

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Manchester City (3) v (3) Real Madrid, Thursday April 17, 5am, live on Stan Sports

Tactics might not be at the centre of this heavyweight clash, at least if the first game is anything to go by.

Manchester City almost always want the ball and, having had 62% of it in the Bernebeu, it’s hard to imagine things will be much different on their own patch.

Yet Real will love that. They’ll have Vini Junior, Rodrygo and Fede Valverde primed to strike as soon as the ball is turned over, and a defence that should be stronger given the return of Eder Militao from injury at centre back and maybe even Thibaut Courtois in goal.

Jude Bellingham was well below his best in the first game, as was Erling Haaland, who was shut out entirely by the Madrid rearguard. It’s rare that both are so quiet, so expect the superstars to shine in Manchester.

City smashed Madrid 4-1 in this game last year, at the semifinal stage, but it would be a huge suprise if things were that one-sided again.

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