Winners and Losers from the Last 8

After a less than ideal start to this round of fixtures in Dortmund, all the games have been played. We are 90 minutes, and or extra time, away from knowing who will be in the semi-finals.

Winners: Real Madrid, Monaco, Juventus and controversially, Leicester.

Real Madrid were given a boost when Robert Lewandowski was seen to be absent from the match day squad. However, Los Blancos didn’t have it all their own way. The man who masterminded the much coveted tenth European crown was out to spoil the party. Bayern took the lead through Arturo Vidal and could have doubled their lead before half time had he converted a dubious penalty. Zidane sent his men out in the second half to continue their run of scoring in 52 consecutive matches and that they did. The equaliser came from none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. That being his 99th goal in European competition. Javi Martinez would then get a second yellow for a foul on Ronaldo before the Portuguese forward scored his 100th and important second away goal. Madrid left the Allianz with a win, 2 away goals and a good performance.

A dark cloud was cast over Dortmund’s game with Monaco following the bomb attack close to the team hotel. Thankfully, there were no casualties, but Marc Bartra was injured. The game was played a day later and it was clear from the first whistle that Dortmund were still struggling. Monaco took the lead early in the first half through French wonderkid Kylian Mbappe. Dortmund’s bad day got worse as Sven Bender headed into his own net to put Monaco 2-0 up. The Germans did eventually pull a goal back through their own French sensation Ousmane Dembele. Mbappe would then capitalise on a defensive mix up to finish emphatically past Roman Burki, before Shinji Kagawa restored some dignity to the scoreline. Under the circumstances, it was a decent result for Dortmund. With three away goal, Monaco are in the drivers seat.

Juventus, I think, were the biggest winners of all. They welcomed a Barcelona side fresh off of one of the best comebacks in Champions League history. The Italian giants still managed to make them look like mice. Paolo Dybala produced on of the performances of his career. The man that was touted at the next Messi, far outshone his compatriot. Two smart finishes in the first 22 minutes of the game pretty much ended the tie. Chiellini put gloss on the result with a very easy header on 55 minutes. Max Allegri outsmarted his opposite number, managed the game impeccably and made it look  easy. Buffon once again illustrated why he’s still one of the best in the world. I know you should never bet against Barcelona, but if there was a team I’d put my house on to defend a 3-0 lead, it would definitely be Juventus.

Finally, my slightly contentious winner. Leicester City. Although they fell to a 1-0 defeat at the Vincente Calderon, they are still in touching distance for the return leg. The goal came about rather fortuitously. Griezmann was awarded a penalty for a foul that had occurred outside the box. The Frenchman dispatched the spot kick and gave Atleti the lead. Leicester will be looking forward to welcoming a team of Atletico’s quality to the King Power. The occasion will be huge, the stadium will be rocking. Leicester will be up for it and will have a point to prove. It won’t be the same game in the second leg.

Will CL define Guardiola’s season?

After City’s 10 game winning streak at the beginning of the season, you could be forgiven for thinking that Pep had cracked English football. That has not been the case. It would be grossly hyperbolic to say that Pep’s first season has been a disaster, but City fans might have expected more. The Citizens currently sit second in the Premier League, are in the hat for the last 8 of the FA Cup and about to play Monaco in their last 16 clash.

Expectation might have been that Pep would walk the Premier League and elevate them to that elite table of European clubs. That is not going to happen after one season, could it happen in the future? Maybe. I think even the most optimistic of City fans would conceded that barring a catastrophic turn around in Chelsea’s form, the league is over. So that leaves the FA Cup and Champions League.

A trophy would be imperative for this season to be deemed a success, but a semi final or dare I say Champions League final appearance, might be a big enough indicator. Last season City managed their first appearance in a CL semi final, albeit a meek attempt at winning it. City have a huge chance of matching or even surpassing that this season. With Barcelona being all but knocked out, Bayern not being as strong as previous campaigns, City and Guardiola have a chance to stamp their authority on this competition.

Will City win it? Probably not. However, with a man who has won the competition twice as their manager and a fit and firing Sergio Aguero, anything is possible.

Wasteman of the week: Dom Solanke

Dom Solanke is a promising English forward currently at Chelsea Football Club. He possesses all the characteristics to become a great player as long as he works hard and stays humble, key word, humble. The 19 year old has made 1 senior appearance with the blues, coming off the bench to replace Oscar in the Champions League against Maribor in 2014.

Last season, as has become customary for Chelsea youngsters, he went on loan to Vitesse where we scored 7 goals in 26 appearances in all comps. Coming back off that season, Chelsea decided to keep him around the squad, giving him the chance to learn from the likes of Diego Costa. This clearly wasn’t enough for young Dominic, he felt like he needed more. He wasn’t content being around some of the best players in the Premier League, he needed more.

Solanke’s contract is up in the summer and he and his representatives are demanding £50,000 a week if he is to sign a new deal. As Chelsea clearly have common sense, they are not willing to meet these terms. Demanding £50,000 a week after playing only 27 minutes of first team football for the club is ridiculous. Marcus Rashford came on for his 50th appearance for United last night, why isn’t he demanding wage increases?

I don’t know Solanke or the situation around his representation, but this looks like another case of an agent inflating a young players ego for financial gain. He’s a talented player, but needs to focus on playing football and improving, then the money will follow. It looks certain that he’ll leave Chelsea, I hope that wherever he goes he will fulfil his potential, but let me be the first to tell you, unless you go to China, no one is paying you £50k.

 

Wayne Rooney: An English great

It is clear that Rooney isn’t the same play that burst onto the scene as a teenager at Everton. He has lost that explosive pace and eye for the spectacular that we associated with him. However, over the years, he has matured into a more cultured footballer and added more to his game.

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After impressing for two seasons at Everton, 18 year old Wayne Rooney handed in a transfer request. The Toffee’s rejected a £20 million bid from Newcastle, but when United bid £25.6 million, they couldn’t refuse. Rooney signed on 31st August 2004.

After his scintillating performance for England at the Euro’s that summer, the question of whether a move to one of Europe’s elite clubs would phase the teenager. Any questions were immediately answered when he scored a hattrick in the Champions League on his debut against Fenerbache. He continued to develop as a player in his first season at United, scoring 11 goals in 29 league games.

As the seasons past, United’s reliance on Rooney increased. He had to wait until 2007 to win his first league title. His goal scoring partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo helped United to the first of three premier league titles in a row, the clubs first since 2003. In the next two seasons Rooney would be more of a supporting act to his Portuguese teammate. Ronaldo was deployed more as a striker while Rooney’s hard work and versatility rewarded him with a spot out wide. His goal production may have decreased, but he his importance was clear

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In 2008, with a front three of Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez, United managed to recapture the Europe’s top prize, beating Chelsea on penalties in Moscow. This would be Rooney’s only Champions League triumph, he would go on to lose to Barcelona in the final twice in the next three years.

Ronaldo would leave to go to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009, once again allowing Rooney to be the focal point of United’s attack. The 2009/10 season was an incredible season for him, scoring 26 goals in the league and 34 in all competitions. After a drop of in productivity the season after, he posted virtually identical numbers in 2011/12. 27 league goals saw him miss out on the golden boot again, this time to Robin Van Persie. This would end up being Rooney’s last ‘world class’ season.

In seasons after this Rooney was a shadow of himself at United. He was never able to recapture that form and changes in management and position made sure of that. Regardless of some of his recent performances over the last few seasons, it cannot be disputed how good a player he was and has been. Wayne Rooney is an icon and deserves more respect than he is given.