Things we learned from this week’s Champions League action

Things we learned from this week’s Champions League action

For the first time in 16 years, neither Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo will grace the quarter-final stage of the Champions League.

It feels like the end of a footballing era – and it many ways it is – but with the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland booking their places in the last eight with their respective sides, it’s nice to know the future of the sport is in good hands.

There’s a definite ‘looking to the future’ theme in this week’s roundup of Champions League action, as 90min checks out what we learned from the four last 16 ties to be completed.

Mohamed Salah and Thiago celebrate as Liverpool beat RB Leipzig in their Champions League last 16 second-leg tieMohamed Salah and Thiago celebrate as Liverpool beat RB Leipzig in their Champions League last 16 second-leg tie
Liverpool notched a 2-0 win to sail through to the last eight of the Champions League | David Balogh/Getty Images

Our first glance to the future is where Liverpool should look to move Anfield to.

You may laugh, but the Reds hold a 100% record from their two recent outings at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, having secured back-to-back 2-0 wins over RB Leipzig.

Meanwhile, the Reds can’t buy a win on Merseyside and are yet to pick up a win there this calendar year.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have drawn one and lost the other six of their seven Anfield outings in 2021, with the aggregate score of their seven games on Merseyside currently standing at 10-1 to the opposition.

It’ll be one hell of a commute, but it might be worth thinking about.

Lionel Messi's missed penalty all but ended Barcelona's hopes of a comeback against Paris Saint-GermainLionel Messi's missed penalty all but ended Barcelona's hopes of a comeback against Paris Saint-Germain
Lionel Messi’s missed penalty all but ended Barcelona’s hopes of a comeback against Paris Saint-Germain | FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

Alright, so this seems a bit of a weird conclusion to make after Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of Paris-Saint Germain on Wednesday night, but bear with us.

While talk of ‘Remontada #2’ had us all swept up in the hysteria of a potential Barça comeback, it was never going to happen.

Trailing 4-1 from the first leg, Barcelona’s trip to Paris was more about dignity than anything, and they walked away from their 1-1 draw at Parc des Princes with plenty of it.

Were it not for some wayward finishing, Ronald Koeman’s side might actually have stood a chance of overturning their three-goal deficit, and when the dust settles on another disappointing exit from the Champions League, the Dutch boss will be able to look back on a very good performance which suggests the future at the club could be bright.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus side crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of PortoCristiano Ronaldo's Juventus side crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of Porto
Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t had the desired impact since moving to Juventus | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

While Barcelona’s Champions League exit could spell the end of Lionel Messi’s time at the club, Juventus’ should do the same for Cristiano Ronaldo’s stint in Turin.

The Portuguese superstar was brought in at huge expense in a bid to finally end Juve’s years of hurt in the Champions League – but it really hasn’t worked.

The Old Lady have too many quality operators who are being shifted into other positions or not played regularly so Andrea Pirlo can wedge Ronaldo into his starting XI, and for the money they’re paying him he’s just not worth the hassle.

Time to (try to) move him on and look to the future.

Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou mocks Dortmund's Erling HaalandSevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou mocks Dortmund's Erling Haaland
Yassine Bounou mocks Dortmund’s Erling Haaland | Pool/Getty Images

This is a picture that will haunt Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou for the rest of his life.

The Morocco international decided it would be a good idea to taunt Erling Haaland following his penalty miss in the second half of Borussia Dortmund’s 2-2 draw with Sevilla, only for the striker convert his second spot kick of the night and do the same back to him.

Seriously, just don’t try and get one over on Erling Haaland – he’s always going to win.

Federico Chiesa was superb in Juventus' 3-2 win over PortoFederico Chiesa was superb in Juventus' 3-2 win over Porto
Federico Chiesa was superb in Juventus’ 3-2 win over Porto | Chris Ricco/Getty Images

You may think it’s madness that we’re suggesting Juventus should try to get rid of Ronaldo – after all, he’s still a goalscoring machine – but as we touched on earlier, there’s plenty of talent waiting in the wings.

Federico Chiesa was sensational in Juve’s 3-2 win over Porto on Tuesday night, though his two goals weren’t enough to save the club from yet another Champions League exit.

The 23-year-old is a top prospect and if Juve can build their team around players like him and Paulo Dybala they might finally get their hands on that European trophy again.

Nat Phillips was superb in Liverpool's 2-0 win over RB Leipzig on Wednesday nightNat Phillips was superb in Liverpool's 2-0 win over RB Leipzig on Wednesday night
Nat Phillips was superb in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over RB Leipzig on Wednesday night | David Balogh/Getty Images

Obviously we’re joking, but he’s proved himself to be perfectly capable of doing a job for Liverpool in their time of crisis.

Nat Phillips hasn’t enjoyed the finest of seasons so far, with the youngster struggling to adapt to life at the top level and the Reds’ sub-par campaign doing little to take the heat off the former Bolton man.

His display against RB Leipzig almost seemed like a coming of age moment, as he pretty much single-handedly repelled everything the German side threw at Liverpool as they secured a 4-0 aggregate win.

He’s certainly got a long way to go before he’s considered good enough for a regular place in the starting XI, but for now he’s a solid deputy in the club’s time of need.

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