Harry Kane of FC Bayern Munich and England looks dejected during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between SS Lazio v FC Bayern Munich at Stadio Olimpico Roma on February 14, 2024 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Bayern Munich and England striker Harry Kane.
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Champions League: Four things we learned from this week’s knockouts

The Champions League returned this week, so here are four things we learned from the last-16 first leg ties. 

Harry Kane trophy hunt takes another setback

Lazio topped off a miserable week for Bayern Munich by completing a shock 1-0 win over the Bundesliga champions at the Stadio Olimpico.

A 3-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen put their title defence in serious jeopardy, while they now face a battle to remain in the Champions League, a competition they’ve won six times in their history and as recently as 2020.

That long standing record of success is almost certainly the primary reason Harry Kane left his boyhood club in the summer, so he could finally know what it feels like to touch silverware that isn’t confined to his kitchen drawer.

 

The wait, however, may go on for another year. Despite the Englishman’s stellar scoring rate this season (28 goals in 28 games), Bayern lost the DFL Supercup to Leipzig, were knocked out of the German Cup by a third tier club, are five points adrift of Xabi Alonso’s unbeaten Leverkusen side, and are teetering on the brink of European elimination.

Accusations of trophy dodging will doubtless come Kane’s way, although any serious person would recognise he is the last person to blame for Bayern’s slump. He just happened to join them at exactly the wrong time.

Injuries soil Man City win

Manchester City utterly dominated FC Copenhagen on Tuesday night and the 3-1 scoreline perhaps flattered the Danish outfit somewhat. It took a late Phil Foden goal to put a shinier gloss on the end result.

But a number of injuries incurred during the first leg have taken the sheen off the victory, with Josko Gvardiol, Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva all set for a spell on the sidelines.

Pep Guardiola says Gvardiol could miss two to three weeks with an ankle ligament injury, Grealish’s injury is muscular nature, and Silva took a “big knock” to his ankle. In better news, Mateo Kovacic is “ready to come back” to the fold.

Barring the most embarrassing Champions League collapse since La Remontada, passage to the quarter-finals is assured, but having just gotten Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland off the treatment table, Man City’s squad is once again looking threadbare as they enter the fine third of the campaign.

Since winning the Fifa Club World Cup, Guardiola’s side have been in imperious form, winning nine out of nine games in all competitions. Remarkably, they could win a second consecutive Treble, which would be truly unprecedented.

For that to happen, though, they would need everything to go right, and injuries like these don’t help.

Man City set new Champions League record

PSG can overcome last-16 hoodoo

In five of the last seven seasons, Paris Saint-Germain have been eliminated from the Champions League at the round of 16 – a frankly dreadful record for a club that has spent ludicrous amounts of money on its squad.

The French outfit have, though, put themselves in a great position to win a two-legged tie for the first time in three years after comfortably beating Real Sociedad at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday evening.

It took almost an hour for Kylian Mbappe to break the deadlock, before the impressive Bradley Barcola doubled their lead soon after, but the visitors offered scant opposition in a disappointing display. The Basque side were unbeaten in seven European games heading into this game and ghad conceded just twice in the group stages, yet they couldn’t even get a shot on target here.

One imagines they will provide a sterner test in the home leg, but it’s incredibly rare for teams to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the knockout stage. It sets up Luis Enrique’s men very nicely to progress past the last-16, and perhaps even further – after all, the last two times they did so they reached the final and semi-final.

 

Real Madrid miss Jude Bellingham

There was very little to separate Leipzig and Real Madrid on Tuesday night in a surprisingly even contest. Carlo Ancelotti’s troops were clear favourites heading into this tie, but the east German outfit tested them.

Leipzig took 15 shots, nine of which were on target – their most ever in a Champions League knockout game – and were unlucky not to find a way past the superb Andrey Lunin in nets.

But in typical Real fashion, they found a way. Shortly after the second half got underway, Brahim Diaz weaved his way past a litany of defenders before striking the ball perfectly past Peter Gulacsi from just inside the box.

Los Blancos will fancy themselves to secure progression to the next round as they head home for the return leg, but the absence of Jude Bellingham was notable. The English midfielder, who has been outstanding this term, missed the game through injury. Real were by no means poor, but not nearly as fluid as they have been with the Birmingham native when he’s in the side.

Indeed, one can argue their dependence on Bellingham has been outsized as Ancelotti oversees the club’s transition to a new team, gradually phasing out the likes of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.

The 20-year-old’s ankle issue is expected to keep him out for two to three weeks, although his replacement Diaz came off late on with a calf problem.

Read – Real Madrid building a super team without vanity of past regimes

See Also – The best defensive records in Europe’s top five leagues

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