What have we learned after the Champions League last-16 games?

Author: GREGORY WILCOXThu, 2018-02-22 18:32ID: 1519325799320176500Here’s five things Arab News learned after the first legs of the Champions League second round…
PARIS ST. GERMAIN ARE CHOKERS: You may have just read that and thought “that’s a bit harsh,” but if ever there was a time to make a statement of intent against one of the established European greats, it was against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Zinedine Zidane’s team have endured a torrid time in La Liga and during the first leg of the tie barely got out of second gear. But the fact is they did not need to put on a display of brilliance to grab the 3-1 advantage they take to the French capital. PSG have long had designs of joining European footballing aristocracy, but on this evidence they will remain arrivistes for some time yet.
TOTTENHAM ARE DARK HORSES: Considering they may still yet finish outside the top four of the Premier League, it seems strange to view Spurs as possible winners. But on the evidence of their 2-2 draw against Juventus that is exactly what they are. The Turin team were second best by some distance in the first leg and were fortunate they went two goals up so early on. With Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli on form and as solid a defense as there is in Europe Mauricio Pochettino’s side is capable of going far in the competition.

DAVID DE GEA IS THE BEST KEEPER IN THE WORLD: If there is one thing most people can agree on, it is that this Manchester United side, packed full of exciting talent, is pretty dull to watch. The flip side of that, so the argument goes, is that Jose Mourinho sides tend to get the results they need — think Inter Milan against Barcelona in 2010. On Wednesday night United got a draw against a good Sevilla side in Spain. However, it was based less on a defensive masterclass and more on the heroics of de Gea. The keeper produced two great saves to keep out the hosts and not for the first time the Spaniard proved himself to be this bland, functional United side’s key man.

CHELSEA SHOULD DO EVERYTHING TO KEEP CONTE: Watching Chelsea stifle Barcelona on Tuesday night it was hard to fathom how the Blues were beaten 4-1 by Watford. No offense to Troy Deeney and Co. but Lionel Messi, Andres Inesta and Luis Suarez are in what is known politely as a different league and as formidable an attacking unit as you will find. But Antonio Conte set up the Blues perfectly, playing with Eden Hazard as a false No.9 when the temptation would have been to have Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud as a target man. Barcelona were restricted to just two clearcut chances all game and the hosts looked by far the more incisive side. That is all down to Conte and Chelsea would be mad to let him go, as appears likely, at the end of the season.

THE COMPETITION IS WIDE OPEN: With Real Madrid looking a pale imitation of their title-winning teams of the past two years, Barcelona looking far from their exciting, attacking best, Manchester City only having felt the nerves of a last four clash once and PSG seemingly on their way out, it is very hard to make a case for a clear standout favorite. Any side that makes it though to the last eight will fancy their chances and with good reason. It is not hard to make a case for any of the above or Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United ultimately lifting the famous trophy in May, and that is why it is the most watched club knockout competition in the world.

Main category: SportsTags: footballsoccerchampions leagueLa LigaPremier leagueChelseareal madridManchester UnitedTottenham HotspurPSGrelated_nodes: Willian confident of Champions League progress despite Lionel Messi magicLionel Messi ends Chelsea drought to give Barcelona Champions League last-16 edgeOff Premier League pace, Champions League now more important for Manchester United

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