What a week of European football.
Odds were once again flipped on their head, all time great players turned in all time great performances, and the field is now set for the Champions League Quarterfinals. Here are five things we learned this week.
1. The Premier League is Tops. For the first time since 2008-09, four Premier League teams have advanced to the Champions League final 8. It’s not just that Premier League teams have been dominant this campaign (they were also the only domestic league to produce four Round of 16 qualifiers)–it’s that two titans have capsized in their wake. Real Madrid will miss out on the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009-10. Bayern Munich won’t advance to the final 8 for the first time since 2008-09.
2. Sadio Mane is the new Mo Salah. Remember a year ago right now, when Mo Salah was scoring Messi-like goals on a weekly basis? May I introduce you to Sadio Mane? The Senegalese striker is on fire, scoring in both volume and quality at a team his team needs it most. From backheels to poise under pressure, enjoy this run of form from Mane.
3. Bayern Needs a Reboot. A few years from now, we’ll likely look back at the 2018-19 campaigns of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich the same way: the year that prompted both to reset, spend, and get younger. It wasn’t just that Liverpool looked better than Bayern yesterday, it was that Bayern looked limp. Toothless. Old. Expect big changes this summer from the German giants.
4. Ronaldo and Messi are the Best Ever. Yeah, on a personal level, Ronaldo is exceedingly unlikable. But you can’t disrespect his game. Messi is like a good bottle of Andrew Murray wine, aging better and better. Enjoy these two and the moments of brilliance they produce. While their primes are both stretching to Tom Brady-like levels, it won’t last forever.
5. Don’t Discount the Underdog. While the probabilities weren’t flipped on their head as drastically as the previous week, Juventus (25% to advance) and Liverpool (47%) both overcame the odds to make the quarters. As we keep writing, on a game-by-game basis, soccer can be fluky. A team can greatly exceed their xG (cough Manchester United cough) and shock the world. At least one team will probably do that in the next round.