UCL / UEL second legs – what we learned this week

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Written by Sujay Gaurav

In a week that saw Manchester City humble PSG, Chelsea teach Real Madrid a lesson, Manchester United and Roma involved in a 5-goal thriller and Villareal tame Arsenal, we look back at some of the talking points from the second leg semifinals of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.

Manchester City 2-0 PSG

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Majestic Mahrez

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Riyad Mahrez is making a habit of scoring important goals for Manchester City. His last two goals might well turn out to be the most important of his entire career, as he helped City book a place in the finals of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history. After scoring the winner in the form of a sublime free kick in the first leg, the Algerian came up with goods yet again, scoring twice in the second leg. While neither of his goals in the match were down to the same amount of brilliance as his first-leg free kick, the Algerian found himself in the right place at the right time to hammer the ball home and give City the edge. The former Leicester City winger dazzled on the right flank and had Diallo on toast since the first whistle. If he keeps up this rich vein of form, he will be very difficult for Chelsea to stop in the final.

if you can’t beat them, foul them

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PSG started the tie as clear underdogs, and that continued into the second-leg as they lost Kylian Mbappe to a thigh strain. The difference in quality was clear to see as his replacement – Mauro Icardi, failed to make an impact. PSG had zero shots on target over the course of the 90 minutes and found no wiggle room to breathe throughout the match. City played them off the park, and PSG’s frustrations grew as the match wore on. After the second from Mahrez went in and their hopes of making it to two back to back finals extinguished, tensions boiled over. Angel Di Maria was shown a straight red card for kicking out at Fernandinho, an out of character moment for a normally nice footballer. A few moments after that, Kimpembe and Marco Verratti started lunging into reckless tackles, which could have badly injured the city players if not for good fortune. All ends up, PSG got outplayed. It’s unfortunate that they had to resort to fouling Man City’s players to gain any potential upper-hand, and the strategy clearly didn’t pay off.

Chelsea 2-0 Real Madrid

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Indomitable Kante

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N’Golo Kante is one of a kind. There is not a player in the world who can play a role quite like him. On the night where Chelsea were looking for inspiration, the Frenchman played the perfect game. His tireless running choked the Madrid midfielders from sliding through any penetrating passes, and he played a key role in both Chelsea goals. First, he opened up the Madrid defense with a cute turn in the final third, playing a devastating one-two with Werner before releasing Havertz. The German’s shot rattled the bar but Werner was on hand to head the ball into an open net. For the second goal, Kante stole the ball off Nacho and released Pulisic, who then found the onrushing Mount to slam the ball into the net. This all but sealed Chelsea’s place in the final, and Kante’s man of the match performance. The common factor why Chelsea were so dominant over both legs was certainly the Frenchman. Playing under Thomas Tuchel has seen him find a new lease of life again and he looks like the Kante of old after every passing game.

Another big win for Tuchel

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After the semi-final win, Thomas Tuchel has now beaten a host of big-name managers, including Guardiola, Klopp, Ancelotti, Mourinho, Simeone and Zidane. After taking over from Frank Lampard, nobody expected the German to lead the blues to their first CL final since 2012. He has done so by forming a strong defense under the leadership of Thiago Silva, who keeps defying his age. He’s consistently played the right midfield combinations on a game by game basis, and finally found the right balance up front with the likes of Havertz and Werner improving by the game. In fact, if not for some poor finishing here and there, Chelsea would have blown Madrid away with the number of chances they created in both legs. Having already beaten Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinal, Tuchel will be ready for whatever Guardiola could throw at him. If he follows the same tactics that helped him see off Madrid, a first Champions League crown for the German coach could be inevitable.

Roma 3-2 Manchester United

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De Gea back to his best

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The Roma faithful have witnessed some epic European comebacks in the past. It it hadn’t been for David De Gea, we could be talking about yet another classic Roma comeback. After conceding two goals early in the beginning of the second half due to no fault of his own, the Spaniard produced cat-like reflexes to keep the Roma attackers at bay. The first of these incredible saves was a double from point-blank range, one from Dzeko and the other from Pedro. The second was an instinctive reactionary save that thwarted former United player Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Spaniard also dealt well with crosses into the box and his distribution was on point. With another five games to go in the Premier League, it will be interesting to see if Ole sticks with Dean Henderson or if he will bring De Gea in from the cold. If his performance this week is anything to go by, De Gea might be back to his best. Whether or not that’s true certainly remains to be seen, but it was an inspired performance from the Spaniard keeper nonetheless.

Arsenal 0-0 Villareal

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a Tale of two managers

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Arsenal needed a 1-0 win to book their place in the finals of the Europa League, but instead, they fell flat on their face. In the process of doing so, the Gunners have officially failed to qualify for Europe next season for the first time since 1995. Mikel Arteta’s men were sterile in possession, creating hardly anything and mustering just two shots on target. The tactics were dire, and some of the decisions were baffling, to say the least. Subbing off their best player in Aubameyang, who had just hit the post, showed Arteta’s naivety and shed a poor light on his management. The players look lost and it seems like Arteta’s race as manager of Arsenal has run its course. On the other hand, Unai Emery performed well on his return to North London, securing his Villareal side a 0-0 draw to secure their place in the final. Villareal showed discipline and dominated large spells of the possession, which has now resulted in a fifth Europa league final for Unai Emery. The Yellow Submarine will now take on the Red Devils in Gdansk on the 27th of May.

So there it is! Everything we learned this week in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon.


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