champions league

The Champions League made its triumphant and long-awaited return last week and we were treated to four matches this weekend that wrapped up the Round of 16. Here’s how things played out for those that were in action:
  • Manchester City 2, Real Madrid 1 (City advance 4-2 on aggregate)
  • Juventus 2, Lyon 1 (Lyon advance, 2-2, on aggregate via away goals tiebreaker)
  • Barcelona 3, Napoli 1 (Barcelona advance 4-2 on aggregate)
  • Bayern Munich 4, Chelsea 1 (Bayern advance 7-1 on aggregate)
With those contests in the books, we can now move forward with quarterfinals action later this week, and there are some pretty exciting matches ahead. The scene shifts to Lisbon, Portugal, and here’s what’s in store this week:
  • Wednesday: Atalanta vs. Paris Saint-Germain, 3 p.m.
  • Thursday: RB Leipzig vs. Atletico Madrid, 3 p.m.
  • Friday: Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich, 3 p.m.
  • Saturday: Manchester City vs. Lyon, 3 p.m.
All of those matches can be streamed on CBS All Access, which means we’ve basically got you covered from all angles here. I’m crossing it straight into the box and all you have to do is just catch it with the body and finish. I’m your favorite teammate.
Also, we’re in for a pretty wild sprint to the finish over the next couple of weeks. The quarters, semis and final will all be played over the next 13 days, with the tournament set to wrap on August 23. Strap in.
But if you can’t wait to get your soccer fix, there’s also the Europa League back in action today with two quarterfinals matches. We’ve got Inter Milan vs. Leverkusen and Manchester United vs. Copenhagen. If you’re itching to put in a wager, our Roger Gonzalez has you covered with his best bets.

Before Champions League

Before their Champions League quarterfinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday, RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann called on Tyler Adams and the rest of his players to step out of the shadows and embrace the blinding spotlight that used to shine on their former star striker Timo Werner.

With Werner watching his old team in his new London flat adapting to life at Chelsea — he was mentioned more prematch than any of his teammates — Leipzig answered Nagelsmann’s challenge. And it was United States midfielder Adams, the unlikeliest of heroes, who scored the crucial goal to guide Leipzig into their first Champions League semifinal, just 11 years after the club was officially formed.

Atletico were prematch favourites — they had the “easy” side of the draw — but were tactically outmanoeuvred. Leipzig, in contrast, played with a wonderful fluidity; the antithesis to Los Rojiblancos‘ rigid style, anchored on footballing claustrophobia rather than any urgency in utilising their embarrassment of attacking riches. Atletico wanted an arm wrestle; Leipzig had their own ideas. Mark this down as a victory for the tactical mastery of Nagelsmann and affirmation for his understanding of the ebb and flow of a 90-minute match as he judged each of his substitutions to perfection.

In the Champions League

When Joao Felix came on after 58 minutes, it looked like Diego Simeone had plucked another game-winning substitution out of the hat, after Marcos Llorente saw off Liverpool in the round of 16, played back in March. Felix found this narrow glimpse of opportunity down Leipzig’s right wing, and prodded it until the dam burst and the otherwise-superb Lukas Klostermann brought him down and Felix equalised from the penalty spot.

The £113 million super-sub looked to be Atletico’s ticket to the semifinals, but there was another replacement who would take the headlines. As Felix was turning the match on its head, Nagelsmann was readying his antidote, with Adams standing on the touchline. The American’s prime mission was to plug the Felix-shaped gap in Leipzig’s defence and mark him out of the game. In defence he’d switch between right wing-back to central midfield, tracking his man; in attack, well, he’d never scored for Leipzig in 28 appearances — a job left to others. But that’s no longer the approach in life after Werner.

In the midst of Adams’ defensive duties came a rare attacking opportunity. The move was the embodiment of Nagelsmann’s philosophy: Make the transition, seize an opportunity while being football’s positional equivalent of a chameleon. As he approached the edge of Atletico’s box, it was the sort of space that would usually be foreign for Adams.

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