After an exciting first leg of Champions League games there is still a lot to be settled. Heading into the second leg nearly all sides still have a chance to advance.
The two exceptions to this are Celtic and Arsenal, each of whom gave up 3 away goals, making things very tough on themselves for the return fixture. Arsenal was defeated handily 3-1 by Bayern Munich and Celtic battled valiantly against Juventus but went on to lose 3-0 at Celtic Park. Stranger things have happened, but Celtic and Arsenal have all but eliminated themselves from the competition.
Though Barcelona dug themselves an early hole at the San Siro, losing 2-0 to AC Milan, it would be unwise to count them out. As long as Lionel Messi suits up for the Catalonian giants, Barca breaths life. Xavi and Iniesta will not let Barca go crashing out without a fight. One thing is clear however, Barca is not the favorite everyone pegged them as at the beginning of the competition.
Regarded as the fixture to keep an eye on when the draw came out, nothing has changed as Manchester United and Real Madrid played to a 1-1 tie at the Bernabeu. Cristiano Ronaldo showed why he is such a special talent, not only dazzling with his runs down the flank, but elevating well above Patrice Evra on Di Maria’s cross to give Real their only goal. Defender Phil Jones will likely miss the return leg, which will be a big loss for Manchester United. If De Gea plays like he did in the first leg, Sir Alex Ferguson should like his chances of beating Real at Old Trafford.
PSG remains in the driver seat in their match-up with Valencia, scoring 2 away goals to win 2-1. PSG looked like a side that could make some serious noise in the competition as Ibrahimovic finally got some much needed attacking help in the form of Argentinean duo Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Lavezzi gave the Valencia defense fits for much of the match. Though Valencia controlled possession for large chunks of time, they could not capitalize on any of their build-ups. PSG should go on to advance thanks to 2 crucial away goals.
Home side FC Porto defeated Malaga in the first leg 1-0. Porto would have liked to add another goal or two to their tally considering they outshot their Spanish counterparts by a count of 18 to 2. Malaga will need to improve at home in order to have a chance at advancing. At Porto they conceded 11 corners, an astronomical amount, and only controlled 37 percent of possession. By all counts Malaga is lucky to be returning home only needing to make up 1 goal. If Porto dominates play like they did in the first leg they should advance.
In a match-up that flew under the radar thanks to the Manchester-Real game, Shakhtar Donetsk drew Borussia Dortmund 2-2. The German champions are somewhat lucky to be returning to the friendly confines of Westfalenstadion having scored 2 away goals. The Dortmund defense looked sloppy and porous, including a few miscues from veteran keeper Roman Weidenfeller. Croatian sensation Darijo Srna will have his side ready for the return leg, but Dortmund manager Jürgen Klopp is one of the finest tacticians in Europe and will find a way to pull out the home win. Borussia Dortmund remain a serious threat to win the competition despite their poor first performance. Traveling to Ukraine and dealing with the passionate Shakhtar fans is something all teams in Europe despise.
Galatasaray tied 1-1 with German side Schalke 04 at home in the first leg, amid speculation of wrongdoing regarding Galatasaray’s newly acquired Didier Drogba’s eligibility. Drogba was very noticeable for the home side, as always he was a menace through the air. However, it was Burak Yilmaz who was the first to break the deadlock in the 12th minute for Galatasaray before German-American Jermaine Jones equalized just before half. The match experienced long lulls broken up by periods of up and down chances both ways. Each side had a chance to win it in the last 15 minutes. Schalke keeper Timo Hildebrand made a world class save on Galatasary skipper Sabri Sarioglu’s volley late. On the other end, Julian Draxler put a shot just wide of Gala keeper Fernando Muslera very late. The return leg will likely depend on the fitness of each team’s Dutch stars,Wesley Sneijeder and Klass-Jan Huntelaar. Sneijder was subbed out after 45 minutes for Gala while Huntelaar was visibly hindered by an eye problem he endured while on duty with the Netherlands national team. Neither player looked like themselves in the game. The return fixture will be very intriguing and a highly contested affair.
After the first leg a few things are now clear: Bayern has to be the run away favorite, This could be the beginning of the end for the Barca dynasty that has so dominated Europe recently, The Bundesliga could put three teams into the quarter-finals, solidifying themselves as the best league in the world.