April 10th saw the continuation of the Champions League with four of the best football teams in the world meeting their opponents in the quarterfinals. In the Netherlands, we saw the Old Lady struggling to prove their might, while Barcelona managed to grab a minimal lead with a 0:1 win in England.
The quarterfinals of the Champions League is here and with that the last remaining 8 teams that fought their way into the final stages of the tournament. Three English giants alongside the Portuguese club Porto had their chance to prove their worth on April 9th, and while some managed to do just that, others failed to end the first leg the way they would have wanted. Manchester City walked away from the first leg at the new Tottenham Stadium 1 goal behind, while Liverpool managed to grab themselves a nice 2 goal lead before heading to Portugal.
Only a day after the first two pairs had their go at each other, the remaining four teams were to prove their strength to the world. The matches that took place on day one of the quarterfinals were far from dull, but when it comes to deciding on which match was the most anticipated, it was without a question the clash of two of the biggest clubs in the world; Manchester United and Barcelona.
By now it has become a staple that every time Leo Messi plays on the big stage, it will surely bring a lot of attention to the match. Add the magnitude of the Champions League tournament, the fact that Manchester United and Barcelona met in the final stages of the Champions League and the burning question of how will United perform on the highest level under the new coach Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and we have got the right recipe for an attention-grabbing fixture.
But did the match live up to the hype? That really is up to anyone to decide. It was an entertaining match from a football perspective, but the main topic everyone is talking about is the clash of Smalling and Messi, which left Messi with a small souvenir on his nose.
To be fair, challenges and injuries like that are fairly common in the football world, but as usual, it gains much more traction when a superstar player like Messi is involved in it. It sometimes even comes to guessing if it was intentional. If we travel back in time to last season, when Salah got injured after clashing with Ramos in the finals of the Champions League, the speculations of if it was an accident or not lasted for a while. While we will never know for sure, I tend to believe most of the injuries happen by accident.
After the match against Barcelona Smalling said that hitting Messi was an honest accident and that it was just one of the things that happen in the “heat of the battle”. In an interview with BBS Sport Smalling stated:
“We spoke afterwards. We had a brief chat and shook hands. He knew it was an accident.”
“I didn’t realise at the time that I’d actually caught him like that.”
“Luis Suarez came up to me after the game as well. We had a good tussle and he just shook my hand afterwards and said ‘good luck.”
“It’s nice when you can have that battle on the pitch and then there’s respect after the game because, ultimately, you are just trying to do your best.”
Despite doing his best, Smalling and his team had to admit defeat to Barcelona, who won by a minimal margin of one goal. While it was a own goal from Manchester United defender, Luke Shaw, that was the deciding goal, we must remember Manchester United came back from a 2 goal deficit against PSG in the second leg. Could the Red Devils do it again? I’ll leave the answer to Smalling, who stated:
“We know it can be done.”