Champions League takeaways: Atalanta still has hope after 10-man loss to Real Madrid; City in cruise control

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action didn’t bring as many goals as most thought, but it did continue the trend of no draws so far in the round of 16. Manchester City beat Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0 in their first leg, while Real Madrid earned a 1-0 victory at Atalanta in their first leg. 

Following Wednesday’s matches, here are four takeaways, one for each team.

1. City all but through, yet still wasteful

This one is pretty much over after those two road goals, with Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus finding the net, but City still weren’t at their sharpest. Just days after struggling in front of goal against Arsenal, it was more of the same in this one. But when you have two games where you aren’t all that great, including the win at Arsenal last weekend, and you win both, you are doing something right.

This result puts them in a comfortable position knowing just one goal in the second leg is probably enough as Gladbach showed next to nothing in attack, couldn’t come close to winning the battle in the middle and lacked creativity. 

It’s now only a matter of time before City go off in attack, which could be bad news for West Ham this weekend in the Premier League.

2. Gladbach lucky to still have a slim chance

This really should have been a 3-0 or 4-0 defeat, which would have cemented this tie. The fact that it was just a two-goal defeat means Gladbach are still in it but just barely. They created only two chances on the night, the passing in the final third was horrible and they deserved the loss. Entering the second leg, they are going to need to go with more in attack and hope to find a moment of magic to get back into it. Whether it is the underachieving Breel Embolo or Alassane Plea.

3. Real Madrid weather the storm

Los Blancos weathered the storm of having nine players out, including vital pieces like Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema, to earn what in the end was probably a deserving result in Italy against Atalanta. A first-half red card really did Atalanta in, and, for that, Los Blancos benefited, taking home a win that puts them in a good spot. 

What was more impressive was being able to grind out a game like that without playing with a true striker, going for Isco in the false nine position. They didn’t generate much in attack, but considering Atalanta’s ability to score, they’ll take that result, no matter how much of an impact the card had.

This tie is far from over though, as there is still plenty of work to be done. Atalanta are more than capable of scoring multiple goals at the Santiago Bernabeu, and Real are more than capable of letting this one go.

4. This one isn’t over for Atalanta

They usually bombard an opposing goalkeeper with shots, but they just didn’t get the chance to in this one due to an unfair red card. It wasn’t a bad challenge, it was worth of a yellow, but a red was flat out harsh. 

What Real Madrid saw wasn’t the true Atalanta, and they’ll need to be cautious. Let’s remember — Atalanta scored four at Valencia last year to cruise into the quarterfinals, and they can do it again here. Valencia’s defense was formidable, not nearly as strong as a defense of Raphael Varane and a healthy Ramos, but with so many question marks ahead of the second leg in March, it would shock nobody to see Atalanta advance. 

They have absolutely nothing to lose, and that mentality nearly saw them knock out PSG last season. Look for them to be hungry and ready in the Spanish capital. 

Source link