‘It’s led to teams going for it’: Mark Bosnich on the one rule change that has made this the Champions League ever


The UEFA Champions League is set for its biggest change in two decades next year with a shake-up for the group stages – but, according to one of the biggest names in Australian football, it’s another rule change altogether that has made this year’s competition one of the best ever.

The 2023/24 knockout stages have delivered on every front, with high-scoring, high drama ties in both the Round of 16 and quarter finals, as well as the first legs of the semis last week.

The second legs set to be played this Wednesday and Thursday morning Australian time and carried live on Stan, with Bayern and Real Madrid facing off in Spain with the score at 1-1 from the first game and Dortmund carrying a slender 1-0 lead to France to face PSG.

Speaking to The Roar, Australian football legend Mark Bosnich explained how a subtle tweak in the Champions League competition rules has drastically changed the nature of the knockout stages.

“I can’t recall a time when every knockout game was of such high quality but great excitement as well,” said the former Socceroos keeper.

“I think a lot of it is to do with the abolishment of away goals after all these years.

“Especially with these first legs, the home teams used to be so cautious because they didn’t want to concede an away goal and the away teams were cautious because they were away from home, but this change has led to teams going for it.

“It’s going to be the last season of this particular format and it’ll be remembered for a long time. If you look at all the quarters, there wasn’t a game that was hard to watch – they were phenomenal.

“The Champions League is huge competition with a lot of teams so there’s a chance of it being hit or miss, but all the quarters and now the first two games in the semis were exceptional games and for different reasons.

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“It’s overlooked how the five subs rule has allowed the fabric of the game to change. You’re changing half your outfield team and that’s not been talked about enough.

“There’s been a lot of talk about VAR, but if you look at the Bayern-Real game last week, Clement Turpin refereed that superbly well. You’re getting the best of everything in terms of making the right environment where teams can flourish.”

It’s all to play for next week ???? Check out what stood out for Max, Foz and Boz from the Semi-Final first legs.#StanSportAU #UCL #UEL #UECL @TheRealBozza @Craig_Foster @maxrushden pic.twitter.com/Li7Y07osC3

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Those teams are certainly flourishing: goals are way up on average and every tie in the last round was in dispute until late on, with upsets like Dortmund’s turnaround victory over Atletico Madrid, comebacks like PSG’s over Barcelona and close encounters like Bayern’s win over Arsenal and Real Madrid’s shootout success away at holders Manchester city.

For Bosnich, the rise in goals dates back to the City boss and how he opened up the game for other managers – and combined to make this the best UEFA Champions League to watch in years.

“You’ve got teams who are highly adaptable, who can change the way they play three or four times during a game and you also have – and this is on Pep Guardiola and what he did with Barcelona way back when – that you could play attractive, beautiful football and win things,” said Boz.

“Sometimes you have to make adjustments based on the personnel that you have but you’ve seen the trend pretty much all around Europe that a whole lot of teams try to play in the right manner – and that’s not disparaging the teams that don’t, because that adds to the spice as well.

There were some slick skills on show in the first legs. Who’ll light up the Semi-Final second legs this week? ????

↳ UCL Semi-Finals. Wednesday from 4:35am AEST. Every Match. 4K UHD. Exclusive & Ad-free. Live & On Demand, on Stan Sport.#StanSportAU #UCL pic.twitter.com/8BRhEygoQw

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“You have a real underdog as well with Borussia Dortmund: nobody expected them at the start of the season to get to the semis, especially after losing Jude Bellingham, but they’ve captured the hearts and imaginations of a lot of people.

“You’ve got that narrative of them and then of PSG, who’ve never won it before, a little like with Manchester City last year.

“You’ve got Real Madrid, who truly think this trophy belongs to them, and then Bayern Munich, who have lost the Bundesliga for the last 11 seasons, but will the footballing gods sort it out that Harry Kane wins them the Champions League?

“There’s all those narratives floating about.”

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