Tuesday, May 21, 2024
HomeChampions LeagueFour talking points ahead of this week's Champions League action

Four talking points ahead of this week’s Champions League action

The UEFA Champions League’s semi-final line up will be confirmed this week, as the competition’s final eight meet in their quarter-final second legs.

Manchester City are in a commanding position ahead of their return with Bayern Munich, though Chelsea have significant work to do to progress as Real Madrid arrive at Stamford Bridge.

Ahead of this week’s quarter-final action, we look at four Champions League talking points.

Osimhen return key for misfiring Napoli

Napoli have been faultless for much of the campaign to date, emerging as one of Europe’s most impressive outfits under Luciano Spalletti. The runaway Serie A leaders appear to be wobbling of late however, with a goalless draw at home to Verona extending their recent run to one in four games across all competitions.

Napoli have failed to score in those three winless games and managed just one shot on target at the weekend. The absence of leading scorer Victor Osimhen has been felt in recent fixtures, though the Nigerian returned from a groin issue as a late substitute against Verona.

The 24-year-old is expected to be passed fit to return this week as Napoli look to overturn a 1-0 deficit against AC Milan at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Osimhen is one of just four players across Europe’s top five leagues to have scored 20+ league goals this season and his presence has been missed in recent fixtures, with the Nigerian capable of occupying backlines singlehandedly with his mix of pace, power and instinctive finishing.

Napoli have looked less threatening in the absence of their talisman, whose return will provide Gli Azzurri with a different dimension in the final third. With Inter Milan strong favourites to be the opposition awaiting in the semi-finals, Napoli have a real chance of reaching a Champions League final if the club can overcome the Milan sides – each of who have struggled to keep pace with Spalletti’s side domestically this season – in consecutive ties.

Lampard facing impossible task?

Frank Lampard’s return to Chelsea has not provided the lift first hoped, with the interim boss having lost three consecutive games in all competitions since taking on the reins.

Chelsea lost at home to Brighton in the Premier League at the weekend and the performance will not have inspired much hope ahead of Real Madrid’s visit to Stamford Bridge this week. Conor Gallagher’s deflected strike ended a run of four games without a goal for the Blues, but Lampard’s side were second best for much of the contest as Brighton dominated the game.

The Seagulls attempted 12 shots in the first half alone, the joint-most Chelsea have conceded in the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League game since Opta first collected the data in 2003/04. A similarly accommodating approach to the European champions could result in an embarrassing result, with the likes of Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior unlikely to squander the sort of chances Brighton passed up last weekend.

Already two goals down from the first leg in the Spanish capital, it looks an impossible challenge for Lampard to lead Chelsea into the semi-finals. The club’s record goalscorer was bullish after defeat at the Bernabeu and said ‘special things can happen at Stamford Bridge’ as Chelsea look to recover the tie. On current form, it will take one of the club’s greatest European nights to progress.

Munich managerial change unconvincing to date

Julian Nagelsmann’s departure from Bayern Munich last month sent shockwaves through Europe, a decision which appeared harsh given the German giants remained in contention for three trophies. Thomas Tuchel – named immediately as his replacement – seemed a suitable successor, but the Champions League winning coach has failed to have the desired impact in Munich to date.

Bayern crashed out of the DFB-Pokal after a home defeat to Freiburg earlier this month, while the Bundesliga champions are on the brink of Champions League elimination after being thrashed at Manchester City in their quarter-final first leg.

Tuchel – whose Chelsea team beat Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the 2021 final – was unable to stop the wave of momentum in Manchester, as City produced a statement showing to win 3-0 at the Etihad.

Bayern’s backline were nervous and vulnerable to the City press, while their attacking options failed to make significant inroads in the final third. It’s perhaps playing devil’s advocate to suggest Nagelsmann would have fared better, but there’s little doubt the change to Tuchel has not had the impact intended.

Just a handful of teams have ever recovered a 3-0 first-leg deficit to progress in the Champions League era.

Can Benfica bounce back?

Benfica are up against history as the club look to reach a first European Cup semi-final since 1990, with just one team – Manchester United against Paris Saint-Germain in 2017/18 – having lost a home leg by two or more goals before progressing.

The Portuguese league leaders were disappointing in defeat to Inter Milan last week, with the Italians defensively impressive to record a 2-0 win in Lisbon. It was a rare poor performance in what has been an otherwise impressive season for Benfica, who topped a group containing PSG and Juventus before thrashing Club Brugge to reach the last eight.

Roger Schmidt’s side are suffering a blip however, with three consecutive defeats in all competitions. Successive league losses to Porto and Chaves have seen their gap at the top of the Primeira Liga reduced to just four points, either side of their first leg loss to Inter.

Benfica had lost just one of 45 games in all competitions before their recent wobbles and Schmidt will hope his side can re-find their form ahead of a trip to the San Siro. A win at Juventus and draw at PSG earlier in the competition demonstrated what Benfica are capable of on the road in Europe, but it will take a huge performance to prevent Inter from reaching a first semi-final since 2009/10.

Read – Premier League weekend: Five things we learned

Read Also – Premier League Team of the Week – Matchday 31

Subscribe to our social channels:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Most Popular

Related Posts