Wednesday 28 September 2016

Luis Suarez is match for Lionel Messi - and six other Champions League talking points

Charlie Eccleshare

Published 16/04/2015 | 10:58

Barcelona's Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi looking pleased last night
Barcelona's Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi looking pleased last night

Luiz Suarez is brimming with confidence, there's no clear favourite to win the competition, and Arsenal made Monaco look good in the round of 16

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1) Luis Suarez is back to his irrepressible best

With 11 goals in his last 11 games, the Uruguayan striker is showing the kind of form that persuaded Barcelona to spend £75 million on signing him from Liverpool last summer.

On Wednesday night, Suarez was simply unplayable – constantly running at the PSG defenders and easing past them with a mixture of pace and strength.

His two goals, both including school playground-like nutmegs of David Luiz, perfectly summed up an outstanding display that brimmed with purpose and invention.

The supporting cast of Neymar and Lionel Messi weren’t bad either, but Suarez's performance showed that he can hold his own with both of them.

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2)  There’s no clear favourite to win the competition

Yes, Barcelona won handsomely in Paris, but a victory against a heavily weakened PSG side that included a half-fit David Luiz must be taken with a considerable pinch of salt.

Over in Madrid meanwhile, Atletico and Real will still fancy their chances of lifting the trophy, but neither made much of a statement during Tuesday’s 0-0 stalemate.

Bayern Munich looked anything but champions-elect with their 3-1 defeat in Porto, and now look a doubt to even reach the semi-finals.

Porto themselves were mightily impressive at the Estadio do Dragao, but a tournament win for them would still be a major surprise, as it would be too for Juventus or Monaco.

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3)  Real Madrid’s winless run against Atletico just will not end

Tuesday night’s drab 0-0 draw was the seventh time the sides have met this season, and Real are yet to win.

Granted they had much the better of the match, and Atletico’s keeper Jan Oblak kept the hosts in it with eight saves, but the draw will have frustrated Carlo Ancelotti immensely.

He’ll be acutely aware that if Atletico get a goal in the second leg, as they have done in their last three visits to the Bernabeu, Real will have to score twice against one of the most obdurate defences in Europe, which can time-waste, dive and infuriate with the best of them.

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4)  David Luiz and Dante still can’t defend

Nine months on from being the centre-back pairing for Brazil’s 7-0 World Cup defeat to Germany, the pair were performing similar gaffes for their club sides.

Luiz was at his comical worst for PSG against Barca as he allowed Suarez to twice nutmeg him and score, while Bayern Munich’s Dante gifted Ricardo Quaresma his second goal in Porto’s 3-1 win.

Both players have contributed hugely to the precarious position their sides now find themselves in, and look more of a hindrance then a help.

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5)  Arsenal made Monaco look better than they are

Monaco’s defeat to Juventus on Tuesday night only added to the sense from the last-16 second leg against Arsenal that the Gunners’ ineptitude at the Emirates was a major reason for Leonardo Jardim’s team going through to the quarter-final.

That’s not to do down the well-organised French side, who against Juve looked compact and dangerous on the counter, but as the Italians showed (as Arsenal did in Monaco), with a bit of concentration and professionalism they are a limited outfit, whose weaknesses can be exploited.

Max Allegri and his players will now be feeling confident of reaching their first Champions League semi-final since 2003.

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6)  Pep Guardiola will worry he’s lost his magic touch

Let’s keep things in perspective: Bayern are poised to win their second domestic double in two seasons under Guardiola, so the Spaniard can hardly be said to be failing in Germany.

But this is Bayern, and this is Guardiola, and he knows as well as anyone that he’ll be judged on how the team performs in the Champions league.

Last year’s capitulation against Real Madrid could be dismissed as a freak, but the same defensive vulnerabilities were evident in Wednesday’s shambolic 3-1 defeat to Porto.

And for a perfectionist like Guardiola, the four years since his last Champions League win will seem like a lifetime.

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7)  Edinson Cavani is not the striker he promised to be

While at Napoli, the swashbuckling Cavani looked like becoming one of the most lethal strikers in Europe, and for a time he just about matched that description.

But his performance against Barcelona was typical of his recent decline – a yard off the pace, frequently offside, and hesitant when through on goal (the moment in the first half when he chose to pass instead of taking on Javier Mascherano was particularly frustrating).

Manchester United are reportedly linked with signing the striker, but on recent evidence he’d be more Radamel Falcao than Ruud van Nistelrooy.

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