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Champions League lessons, from Premier League to PSG minus Mbappé

Written by on May 1, 2024

A knockout competition can produce delightfully confusing results. Kentucky can lose to Saint Peter’s and Oakland. The New York Giants can beat the New England Patriots (twice). Morocco can beat Spain and Portugal back-to-back, while the Premier League — by far the richest league in soccer — can flame out of UEFA competitions.

The quarterfinal round of Champions League and Europa League matches erased loads of English hopes and storylines. Manchester City’s prospects of a “Double Treble” disappeared with Antonio Rüdiger‘s deciding spot kick and a second knockout loss to Real Madrid in three years. Liverpool’s hopes of sending Jurgen Klopp into retirement with their own unique treble — League Cup, Europa League, Premier League — came to an end when a comeback attempt at Atalanta quickly fizzled.

Arsenal’s ongoing rebirth continues overall, but hopes of a first Champions League semifinal in 15 years fell apart in the same place a lot of its 21st century Champions League hopes have died: Munich. With West Ham also falling to Bayer Leverkusen, only Aston Villa’s comeback win over Lille in the Europa Conference League, aided by a funky goal late in regulation, kept England in any competition.

Meanwhile, Barcelona lost both their lead and composure against PSG, Germany’s two biggest clubs are in the Champions League semifinals for the first time in 11 years, and Bayer Leverkusen, which took eight points in four matches from those two heavyweights this season, remain incapable of losing in the Europa League.

Despite the randomness of these competitions, we always rush to the narrative machine immediately in the aftermath of interesting results. The Premier League is drastically overrated! The Bundesliga is underrated! PSG’s plan was on course all along! With a few days to reflect on what we saw, let’s talk about what we did, and didn’t, actually learn from these incredible quarterfinal rounds.

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