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Four things we learned from the Champions League action

Four thing we learned from the Champions League quarter-final first legs, featuring Xavi’s super subs and the familiar faces that haunted Arsenal.

Advantage Manchester City – but flaws exposed

Real Madrid and Manchester City delivered another all-time classic this week, a rare case of two elite teams involved in end-to-end action, on an occasion when tension normally takes over. The back-and-forth between arguably the two tournament favourites ended in a 3-3 draw at the Bernabeu, a score that Phil Foden declared “a fantastic result” for the holders at full-time.

Real Madrid must now do what the Spaniards have failed to do before – win at the Etihad. Los Blancos have visited Manchester City five times previously in the Champions League and have failed to win on each occasion. Their last two visits have seen eight goals conceded and Carlo Ancelotti’s men can ill-afford to be as open in the return.

Madrid, however, have the tools to trouble City. Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo exposed a high defensive line on occasion this week, while Jude Bellingham’s powerful running could be more impactful on the road than it was in Spain.

Much could depend on Kyle Walker’s fitness. His absence was felt this week with Manuel Akanji unable to catch Rodrygo on the break for the Spanish side’s second goal. Against the threat of Vinicius and company, there’s perhaps no better option.

Familiar faces haunt Arsenal

Arsenal looked on course for a statement win when Bukayo Saka opened the scoring against Bayern Munich, but the German champions showed their pedigree on this stage. It was familiar faces who turned the game around for the visitors, as Serge Gnabry returned to haunt his former club.

Gnabry spent four years at Arsenal without making an impression but has evolved into an elite wide option in Munich. His goal levelled the game as he rolled a finish through David Raya’s legs before Harry Kane marked his own return to north London with the visitor’s second.

Kane confidently converted a spot-kick to make it 15 goals in 20 career appearances against Arsenal, with the former Tottenham talisman on target again against the Gunners. An equaliser from Leandro Trossard ensured it finished 2-2, setting the stage for a huge rematch at the Allianz Arena.

Xavi’s changes hand Barcelona big win

Barcelona had not won a Champions League quarter-final game without Lionel Messi in their side for 16 years heading into this week. That Messi departed the Camp Nou almost three years ago is evidence of the decline of the Spaniards on this stage.

Barcelona, however, are within touching distance of a first semi-final in five years after a thrilling 3-2 win at Paris Saint-Germain. Xavi has confirmed he will depart the dugout at Barcelona at the end of the campaign but the club great is doing all he can to ensure a fine farewell. It’s 12 unbeaten since he announced his intention to leave, while the 44-year-old’s tactical tweaks are propelling a strong end to the season.

Raphinha, whose future appeared unclear after the emergence of Lamine Yamal, has found form on the opposite flank, while Pedri and Andreas Christensen took the roles of super subs in Paris. The former assisted Raphinha’s second goal just seconds after coming off the bench before Christensen took two minutes to head in the winner, after his own introduction.

Xavi’s managerial masterstrokes were in contrast to ex-Barcelona boss Luis Enrique, whose decision to push Kylian Mbappe wide nullified his impact on the game. Changes are needed if PSG are to turn the tie around in Catalonia next week.

Atletico an impossible nut to crack at The Metropolitano

Atletico Madrid are in pole position to secure a place in the Champions League semi-finals after beating Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Spanish capital.

Rodrigo De Paul opened the scoring after a calamitous conceding of possession from the visitors early on, before Samuel Lino doubled the lead after sublime work from Antoine Griezmann.

Sebastian Haller’s late strike has given Dortmund a lifeline, but Atletico have a lead to protect in the return. History tells us that Simeone’s side are well-versed in grinding out results when required.

Their win over Dortmund continued a phenomenal record in the Champions League at home, with Atletico unbeaten in all 17 games played in the competition’s knockout rounds on home soil under Simeone. It’s a run that stretches back to 2013/14 with 11 wins, six defeats, and zero defeats, a record that has put the Colchoneros in reach of the semi-final.

Read –ย Champions League Awards: Decision drama and stunning goals

See more –ย Champions League Team of the Week – Quarter-final first legs

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