While on Friday night two of Europe’s biggest clubs in Real Madrid and Juventus bowed out of the Champions League, the following night was a reality check for two other clubs.
At the end of 90 minutes, it was clear to Chelsea and Napoli that they are some way away from matching the biggest clubs of European football. It was a reality check for two relatively young managers in Frank Lampard and Gennaro Gattuso on a big stage.
Bayern Munich are big favourites to win the Champions League
Bayern Munich 4-1 Chelsea (7-1 aggregate)
Chelsea had little hope of making it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League after losing the first leg at Stamford Bridge 3-0. There was the inevitable talk of the Blues pulling off miraculous result but those hopes faded within ten minutes of the game.
Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty early in the game to score his 52nd goal of the season and snuffed out any flickering Chelsea hopes of progress. The German champions dominated the game and repeatedly exposed the defensive frailties of Frank Lampard’s side.
With Thiago, who Bayern Munich bafflingly want to sell, pulling the strings from the middle of the park, Chelsea often looked clueless and the difference in class between the two teams was apparent.
Ivan Perisic and Corentin Tolisso also got on the scoresheet before Lewandowski scored again with a towering header in the 83rd minute to complete another rout of Chelsea.
Tammy Abraham scored a consolation goal just before half-time but Chelsea never really were in the tie over the two legs.
If having the worst defensive record in the Premier League top 10 was not a sign, Chelsea’s performance against Bayern Munich should give enough reasons to Lampard to demand one, if not two centre-backs this summer from the club’s board.
On the other hand, Bayern Munich showed one more time why they are being considered as one of the favourites to win the Champions League this season. They have a solid defence, a mixture of creativity and tenacity in midfield and possibly the best striker in the world – Robert Lewandowski – in their team.
They will take on Barcelona in the quarter-final at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon next Friday.
Lionel Messi carries a flawed Barcelona to the quarter-finals
Barcelona 3-1 Napoli (4-2 aggregate)
Barcelona’s form coming into the game was not the best. They just surrendered the La Liga title to arch-rivals, Real Madrid. There was talk around the future of coach Quique Setien and there are still question marks over whether he will be in charge next season.
The club’s financial situation is tricky and the club are looking to move out some of the high earning underperformers this summer.
But amidst the mess, they have one man – Lionel Messi – and the Argentine produced another virtuoso performance to take Barcelona to the quarter-finals.
The 1-1 draw in Italy in the first leg had the tie against Napoli nicely poised but Clement Lenglet’s towering header in the 10th minute gave Barcelona the lead and calmed nerves at the Nou Camp.
The second goal came from Messi and it is hard to describe how the Argentine conjured the goal out of literally nothing.
He made one of his marauding runs inside the box from the right flank and had the Napoli defenders on a string before curling one in around David Ospina’s outstretched right arm. And yes, he was out of balance while taking the shot! Just Messi things!
Luis Suarez converted a penalty at the striker of half-time to make it 3-0 for Barcelona. Lorenzo Insigne’s goal from the spot just before the break had little impact on the game.
Messi has lifted a far from convincing Barcelona side to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. But the collective need to step up when they will take a well-oiled Bayern Munich next Friday. The Argentine could still produce a moment of magic but alone that might not be enough against the Bavarians.
Despite Barcelona’s flaws, Napoli were never really expected to beat them. There is a reason Gennaro Gattuso’s side finished seventh in Serie A last season and will not be playing in Europe in the upcoming campaign.