Champions League: Manchester City and Real Madrid qualified for the quarter-finals

The reigning European champion Manchester City outclassed Copenhagen (3-1) on Wednesday March 6, as in the first leg, and reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the seventh year in a row

Champions League: Manchester City and Real Madrid qualified for the quarter-finals

The reigning European champion Manchester City outclassed Copenhagen (3-1) on Wednesday March 6, as in the first leg, and reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the seventh year in a row.

Pep Guardiola had the luxury of resting some of his nuggets, reassured by the success of the round of 16 first leg in Denmark, and by the quality of his understudies. The young Rico Lewis and Oscar Bobb, 19 and 20 years old, were already like fish in water when the Champions League anthem sounded.

On the bench, the captains Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and even Kevin De Bruyne saw their partners tread water against a Copenhagen team rarely invited into the big European bath. In less than ten minutes, the visitors had already picked up the ball twice in the back of the net, enough to announce a very long evening.

Invincible in his last twenty matches

Defender Manuel Akanji took over like an attacker, on the fly, a corner from Julian Alvarez (5th, 1-0), before the Argentine world champion scored in his turn, with the help of a gross foul from hand of the goalkeeper (9th, 2-0). The meeting was barely restarted by Mohamed Elyounoussi (29th, 2-1), at the conclusion of a well-led counterattack with Orri Oskarsson, one of the three midfielders under 20 lined up by Copenhagen.

The chief gunner, Erling Haaland, killed all the suspense by adding a 29th goal to his collection this season: control between two players, ball protection, hook and cross shot (90th 3, 3-1). His passer, Rodri, left his place for the at least used Sergio Gomez at halftime. Ruben Dias followed later, then Haaland late in the match, replaced by 18-year-old Jacob Wright.

The only annoyance came from the injury to the left hand of Matheus Nunes, forced out in favor of Micah Hamilton. For the rest, it was a perfect evening for Pep Guardiola ahead of the clash against championship leader Liverpool, which he trails by a point, on Sunday at Anfield.

The reigning English and European champions are attacking the home stretch of the season with their feet on the floor, fueling the dream of a new treble (with the FA Cup) with sparkling form. On Wednesday, they stretched their unbeaten streak to twenty matches, in all competitions, in a stadium where they have not lost a single European match since 2018.

Another statistic shows the omnipotence of Manchester City, specifically in the Champions League: the English now have eight victories in eight games this season, with three goals scored each time.

Real Madrid are scared

For its part, held on its lawn by Leipzig (1-1), Real Madrid also validated its ticket for the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday. It was nevertheless done with pain, thanks to their advantage in the first leg (1-0) and a goal from Vinicius. The Madrilenians indeed suffered again against a German team who will long regret having dominated the great Real twice, without managing to bring them down. A first hitch – without consequences – this season on the European scene after seven victories in seven matches for the Merengue club, for whom elimination at this stage of the competition would have been a resounding failure.

To celebrate its 122 years of existence, Real wanted to finish the job and remind people, as written on a tifo displayed before the match, that they are “the King of Europe”, with their fourteen continental crowns. But the tactical move attempted by Carlo Ancelotti, who decided to lock in by depriving himself of the Brazilian Rodrygo's kick-off in attack to bring the surplus in the middle thanks to the versatile Federico Valverde, did not bear fruit. The English prodigy Jude Bellingham was the first victim of this choice, he who has shown himself so comfortable in the 4-4-2 pattern since the start of the season with twenty goals in thirty matches.

Alone in the middle with two players on him almost every time and often with his back to the goal, Bellingham tried to get away from it but was unable to exert his influence as usual and ended the first half showing a certain annoyance.

Vinicius to the rescue

The Madrilenians, imprecise and harmless with the exception of a header just above Vinicius (12th), have, as in the first leg in Germany, conceded several clear chances in the first period which could have cost them dearly. Fortunately for them, they were not converted by the former Lensois Lois Openda, who lacked realism on three occasions (13th, 15th, 42nd), nor by the Dutch hope Xavi Simons (41st), and both teams returned to the locker rooms under the whistles.

Symbol of the frustration of the Madrid players, Vinicius then came close to the red card after violently shoving Orban (54th), far from the action in progress. But as in Valencia last weekend, "Vini", well muzzled until now by the ex-AS Monaco defender Benjamin Henrichs, ended up finding the fault on a counter perfectly led by Bellingham to free the Bernabéu (65th, 1-0). A short-lived joy for the Merengue supporters, who began to tremble again barely a minute later after a shot from Xavi Simons was narrowly diverted by Rudiger (66th).

The thousands of Germans who had made the trip exulted in their turn, captain Orban bringing his team to within one goal of extra time with an uncrossed header in front of Nacho (68th, 1-1). The Leipzig players continued to believe in their luck until the end and almost succeeded in snatching thirty extra minutes, but the lob from the Spanish winger Dani Olmo at the end of added time crashed onto the bar. Lunin (91ᵉ).

In addition to Manchester and Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain also qualified this week. The other qualified teams will be known on March 12 and 13, after the other return matches of the round of 16 of the Champions League.