The business end of the season has arrived for Europe’s top teams with the last 16 remaining to contest the Champions League.
The first batch of round of 16 matches provided some mouth-watering ties. Barcelona against Paris Saint-Germain was the pick of the round – Barcelona are back in form in La Liga with Lionel Messi firing while PSG have been hit and miss and were without Neymar for this crunch match. Meanwhile, Liverpool aimed to get back on track against a solid rival in Red Bull Leipzig. The remaining two matches were FC Porto at home to Juventus and Sevilla taking on Borussia Dortmund.
So let’s check out the five takeaways from these Champions League last 16 matches:
Champions League Knockout Stage: Barça Battered, Juventus Beaten
Mbappe’s Majestic Night
Paris striker Kylian Mbappe had a night to remember, scoring a hat trick in the Nou Camp against Barcelona. He became the first player to score three goals in the competition against Barça since Andriy Shevchenko and Faustino Asprilla in 1997. The Frenchman has remarkably had a hand in 40 goals in his last 41 games for Les Parisiens, and he almost single-handedly destroyed the Catalans with his electric pace and outstanding finishing. The striker very much reigning on Messi’s and his Camp Nou playground. It was another glorious night in the 22-year-old’s still young career.
The End Game for Barcelona?
For the second time in a year, Barcelona were humbled in the Champions League. The former kings of Europe were a shadow of themselves. They were devoured of heart, tempo and quality in their 4-1 thumping. This result comes as another sign of a team and club showing serious decay and in need of a thorough rebuild. It may turn out to be the night Lionel Messi privately makes his mind up about his Barcelona career. He might just have seen is future with another team in blue and red.
Liverpool Find Hunger in Hungary
Liverpool have had a real wobble of late, but Jurgen Klopp’s men effectively dispatched RB Leipzig 2-0 to put themselves firmly in charge of this tie. The match, played in the Puskas Arena in Hungary, could be a line-in-the-sand moment for the Reds to regain their form. It was an impressive victory against a team going very well in the Bundesliga. The clean sheet will particularly please the manager given the shaky performances in recent games.
Haaland Hits the High Notes Once Again
Norwegian striker Erling Braut Haaland continued his imperious form in the Champions League. His brace for Borussia Dortmund against Sevilla ensured he has scored 18 goals in 13 matches in the tournament. At just 20 years of age, the striker really does have the world, and a football, at his feet. Meanwhile, his two goals gave the German side a 3-2 advantage to take back to Dortmund in the second leg.
Porto Gain a Priceless Victory
Porto gave themselves a fighting chance of overcoming Juventus with a 2-1 win. There was to be no goal for Cristiano Ronaldo on his return to Portuguese shores. Although they do have the away goal in the bag, his side have work to do back in Turin to progress to the quarter-finals stage.