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Lessons From The Champions League 1st Leg Q/finals

The best footballers play in the UEFA Champions League because this is the league where the crème-de-la-crème in world football aspire to get their hands on the big-eared trophy.

Some are lucky while some, with unbelievable and undeniable talent, like Ronaldo Da Lima, never achieve the accolade throughout their career.

This is the competition that witnesses new formations and tactics to enable teams to have the tiniest of advantages over their opponents.
The four quarterfinals first leg matches on Tuesday and Wednesday showed that the competition continues to evolve. Here are four things we learned from the four matches.

Messi, Ronaldo are still relevant

What would be the fate of Barcelona and Juventus without the influence and goals from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo? Messi set up the only goal for Barca away at Manchester United while Ronaldo got the Juventus goal in the 1-1 result away to Ajax.

With both superstars beyond the 30-year mark, they continue to be the relevant cornerstones for their respective teams.

Since the 2007/08 season, Ronaldo and Messi have emerged as the highest goal scorer in the competition – Ronaldo seven times and Messi with five. With the duo still going strong, don’t rule out a Juventus/Barcelona final in Madrid on June 1.

Guardiola remains unfulfilled outside Barcelona

Spoken on many occasions and in many fora, Pep Guardiola is acclaimed as the best football manager on earth, with his maniacal resolve to create new systems and new ways of befuddling opponents.

But he possesses an Achilles heel – the inability to negotiate the Champions League terrain since his successful stint with Barcelona and aided by a certain Lionel Messi.

Guardiola is without a win in his last 10 quarterfinals away matches with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Despite the VAR penalty and 70 per cent of ball possession, City conceded and now Guardiola has to find a way past a determined Tottenham side next Wednesday.

United need more than Solksjaer

The honeymoon seems to be over for new Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. Though his team was full of running and endeavour, Barcelona’s class was way above what the Old Trafford side could muster.

The second leg next week would show how much work United have to do on their squad looking at next season.

Paul Pogba was bought specifically to be the rallying point for the Red Devils but after an upsurge in his form immediately Jose Mourinho was sacked – it has been an average showing from the World Cup winner.

Ajax show age is no deterrent

The Dutch side has an average age of 24 and they competed favourably against the more experienced Juventus team, with an average age of 29.

It is also clear when the ages of the goal scorers on Wednesday are considered; David Neres is 22 while Cristiano Ronaldo is 34. Ajax had 18 goal attempts with six on target compared to seven from Juventus with just one on target.

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