Well, that was more drama than expected.
Four teams punched their tickets this week into the 2019 Champions League Quarterfinals. At least two of them were decidedly not expected to do so. Here are 5 things we learned from these Round of 16 Leg 2 matches.
1. Your FiveThirtyEight percentages mean nothing! Soooo…that’s why they play the games, right? Going into Leg 2, FiveThirtyEight Champions League probabilities had Paris Saint-Germain at 97% to advance. Real Madrid was at 75%. Roma was basically a coin-flip at 56% to advance, but still favored. All three were sent packing. The Ajax win over Madrid and Porto advancement we saw coming. Manchester United we did not. We love the club rankings at FiveThirtyEight and the probabilities, but it might be time to tweak that algorithm. Soccer can be fluuuuukey and there is higher variance game-to-game then the probabilities are accounting for right now.
2. VAR is going to be controversial af. So, yeah…about Manchester United and Porto advancing. Both came on VAR reviews on missed calls in the box. Both weren’t originally called as penalties for a reason (and players weren’t necessarily doing Neymar-level histrionics over the missed calls). However, VAR officials called down to the field and eventually awarded game-deciding pk’s in the closing minutes to United and Porto. We’re not saying there wasn’t some level of merit to the handball by PSG and jersey tug by Roma. But the refs missed both calls on the field, the evidence in either case wasn’t overwhelming (oddly, the PGS handball looked worse at full-speed than slow-motion), and to allow ticky-tacky outcome-altering penalties at that stage of the game in this tournament was a bit harsh. VAR will be a hot topic the rest of this Champions League competition.
3. We know nothing about Tottenham. To paraphrase Slim Shady, will the real Tottenham please stand up? Is Tottenham the world-beater who depants Borussia Dortmund? Or are they the team that just lost to Burnley 2-1 and then to colossally struggling Chelsea 2-0? We won’t know until the quarterfinals, a round Tottenham hasn’t seen since 2010-11.
4. It’s time for Real Madrid to reboot. Other than maybe Manchester City, is there a harder team to root for than Real Madrid? Rooting for them is like cheering on the flu. Isn’t it kind of fun that they have to reboot? Things are a mess and amiss with Los Blancos. The only sure thing is whatever squad they bring to the 2019-20 Champions League, it’ll look different than this group.
5. Kylian Mbappe may be the best player on the planet and we’re robbed of seeing more of him. This was covered over at No Grass in the Clouds last week, but it really leapt off the screen today: Kylian Mbappe is a beast. Mbappe moves at a different speed and at a higher technical proficiency than his peers. Since he plays in Ligue 1, Americans really only get to see him during the Champions League, World Cup, or YouTube highlights. It’s a shame. He’s challenging Messi for world’s best footballer.
PSG have an unbalanced squad, but they could easily win the Champions League on the back of Kylian Mbappe, who is now legitimately in the Best In The World conversation. And he only just turned 20! https://t.co/i919bn2GWC pic.twitter.com/IwrbQvHPAE
— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) March 4, 2019