Real Madrid player Vinicius Junior.
Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior.
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UEFA Champions League: Four things we learned

Following the latest round of UEFA Champions League last-16 action, we look at four things we learned from the midweek European ties.

Can this be the turning point for Bayern Munich?

Harry Kane has said he hopes Bayern Munich’s 3-0 win over Lazio can be the turning point in the club’s season after the German champions turned around a first-leg deficit to reach the last eight.

Bayern have had a disappointing domestic campaign despite the additions of Kane and Kim Min-jae last summer, falling 10 points behind unbeaten league leaders Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga title race.

Barring an unforeseen collapse from Leverkusen, the club’s 11-year grip on the Bundesliga appears set to come to an end, leaving the Champions League as their best hope of a successful campaign.

Though far from convincing for much of the campaign, Bayern have a squad capable of challenging any team in this competition. There will be tougher tests to come than a Lazio side who sit ninth in Serie A this season, but Bayern will take confidence from a win that seemed inevitable after Kane levelled the tie six minutes before the break.

The England captain has 33 goals in 33 appearances since arriving in Munich from Tottenham and will be key to hopes of a seventh Champions League crown.

PSG need more from supporting cast

A sparkling performance from Kylian Mbappe secured Paris Saint-Germain a comfortable passage into the quarter-finals, with the French forward scoring three times over the two legs with Real Sociedad.

Mbappe’s impending exit for Real Madrid has been the dominant narrative surrounding PSG this season, though the Ligue 1 side will be keen to focus on the here and now. After an unconvincing group-stage performance, PSG impressed over two legs against a Sociedad side that had topped a group containing Inter Milan.

On and off the pitch, Mbappe is the headline act in this team, but Luis Enrique will need more from his supporting cast to ease the reliance on the 34-goal forward. No other PSG player has reached double figures for goals so far this season, while Randal Kolo Muani and Gonacalo Ramos – two forwards signed for a combined £132m in the summer – have one Champions League goal between them from 590 minutes of action this season.

Meanwhile, Ousmane Dembele, another high-profile recruit from Barcelona, has scored just once in 30 games in all competitions.

Real Madrid weaknesses exposed by Leipzig

Real Madrid booked their place in the quarter-finals though there was little convincing from Carlo Ancelotti’s mean in the last 16.

After six straight group stage wins, the Spanish giants rode their luck over both legs of an entertaining tie with RB Leipzig. The club’s significant defensive absences were exposed as Leipzig created – and wasted – numerous chances in both games and there will be relief that an early exit was avoided.

Antonio Rudiger’s recent return from a hamstring issue was welcomed and the German stood firm under pressure this week, while Real Madrid will hope more key figures can return before the tournament reaches its business end. David Alaba is a confirmed absentee for the remainder of the campaign, though Eder Militao and Thibaut Courtois could return from their ACL lay-offs next month.

The draw for the quarter-finals will be made on March 15, with the first legs to be played on 9 and 10 April, and the second legs a week later. It would be foolish to expect Courtois and Militao to return at peak fitness given the nature of their injuries, but the return of either – or both – in the latter rounds would be massive for Madrid’s challenge.

Can anyone stop Manchester City?

In the 31 years since the Champions League was rebranded, just one team – Real Madrid – has ever won the competition in successive seasons. It would be a brave person to bet against that number doubling this season, with Manchester City strong favourites to defend their crown.

In truth, a clash with Copenhagen represented as straightforward a task as you can expect in the competition’s last 16, but the Citizens swept aside the Danish side with an ominous ease.

Pep Guardiola’s team have become the first English side to win 10 consecutive Champions League games and the first team in European competition history to score 3+ goals in nine successive home games.

That imperious home form has also seen the Blues extend their unbeaten run at the Etihad to 30 games in the Champions League, becoming only the second team to achieve that feat after Barcelona (38 games) between 2013 and 2020.

28 of those 30 games have been wins and no team has conceded fewer shots on target (18) in the Champions League this season. It’s barely believable, but back-to-back trebles are not beyond this side this season.

Read – Champions League Team of the Week – Mbappe stars

See more – Champions League Awards: Bayern bounce back, Akanjiiiiiii!

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