3 things we learned from Champions League quarterfinals

Karim Benzema celebrates Real Madrid's victory over Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Karim Benzema celebrates Real Madrid's victory over Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /
Champions League
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola confronts Atlético de Madrid player Rodrigo De Paul during their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal match in Madrid on April 13. (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) Champions League /

The quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League produced some highly entertaining, matches between some of Europe’s best teams.

Only Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side had an “easy” route to the semifinals after comprehensively defeating Benfica. All the other series went down to the wire.

Manchester City defeated Atletico de Madrid in a really heated tie full of controversies. Real Madrid edged out a win in overtime to knock out defending champs Chelsea, guaranteeing new winners this season. Villarreal pulled off the real shocker, getting a win over German giants Bayern Munich in exceptional fashion.

With some intriguing semifinals set in stone, the quarterfinals’ results made a few very glaring points about the future of the competition. Here’s a look at the 3 things we learned from the Champions League quarterfinals results.

Don’t underestimate Villarreal

Villarreal have been the ultimate underdogs of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League season. Since emerging from a challenging group, few expected them to go much further into the knockout rounds. Unai Emery’s side has now knocked out Juventus and Bayern Munich in successive knockout clashes.

Emery’s side has been a nightmare to play against this season. Their sturdy defensive layout frustrated both Juve and Bayern, helping them get clean sheets against both sides. Inspired by the brilliant centre-back Pau Torres, Villarreal have developed the ability to frustrate their European oppositions into submission.

The La Liga side have also been superb in counter-attacks, led by speedy wingers Arnaut Danjuma and Samuel Chukuwueze (who scored the equalizer against Bayern in the second leg). Villarreal now faces their toughest challenge yet – an in-form Liverpool side.

But knowing their excellent defensive foundations can annoy any attacking line and its unpredictable counter-attacking ability, any side right now would be foolish to underestimate Villarreal’s threat.

Man City yet to find Champions League spark

Manchester City had to take a very ugly route to the semifinals, barely scraping past an aggressive, negative Atletico de Madrid squad in the quarterfinals. 180 minutes of football produced just 1 goal, summing up how frustrating it was for both the teams.

The games weren’t without controversy or drama. The two sides were involved in brawls in each game, with most of the drama transpiring in the second leg. Phil Foden and Jack Grealish were the victims of some reckless, unforgiving aggression from the Atletico players and this sparked major scuffles between the two sets of players.

City might even be punished for their role in the mad violence during the second leg. Despite the drama, the Citizens scraped their way into the semis. Atletico missed many chances in the second leg that could’ve won the tie for them or dragged it to extra time.

Despite their dominance in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola’s side are yet to find their perfect formula for Europe. They’re still showing signs of vulnerability in the Champions League, mostly because of the lack of a proper striker and some defensive frailties. City (as per FiveThirtyEight) is second-favorite to win the Champions League, but the Atletico games showed that on the pitch on these European nights, they’re far from “perfect.”

Karim Benzema is Ballon d’Or worthy

Karim Benzema is truly aging like fine wine at Real Madrid. It’s gotten to the point that you don’t even know whether he’s still in his peak or is yet to reach it. The Frenchman is absolutely relishing his role as Madrid’s main guy and he proved his quality against Chelsea.

Benzema decided to silence Stamford Bridge with an incredible display in the first leg. He started by scoring two excellent headers from relatively difficult chances to give his side a 2-0 lead in the first half. The Frenchman then chased down goalie Edouard Mendy and Antonio Rudiger so rapidly they were forced into an error, leading to his hat trick.

In the second tie, Benzema was the point of very strict marking from the Chelsea defenders. They weren’t going to allow him any space and they ganged up on him, while the visitors dominated the possession at the Santiago Bernabeu as well. After a wild 90 minutes that finished 3-1, extra time was forced.

Despite having a tough game, Benzema didn’t give up. He showcased great character to score in extra time, making it 2-3 and helping Real win the quarterfinals with a 5-4 aggregate. Benzema has now scored 12 goals in 9 Champions League games this season, including two hat tricks. He has 39 goals and 13 assists in 39 appearances overall.

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Spanish outlet Marca claims that Benzema is already a favorite to win the 2022 Ballon d’Or. Seeing the fabulous season which he’s having and his heroics in the Champions League, there is little point in debating his qualificartions.