It’s been yet another busy week in the world of football. While continental action gripped Europe, some huge domestic results were the main talking points in South America.
We will round up all of that in this week’s edition of This Week In Football.
🏆 UEFA Champions League: Manchester City 3-0 Bayern Munich
The first legs of the Champions League quarter-finals were played this Tuesday and Wednesday.
The best game in terms of the quality of the contestants was Manchester City vs Bayern Munich, but it also happened to be the one with the biggest scoreline.
The first half was fairly even, with Bayern lacking penetration in the final third while Man City created a couple of decent chances. The hosts took the lead thanks to Rodri, who picked out the top corner with a left-footed strike from outside the box.
The decisive development in the match came in the second half when Pep Guardiola tweaked City’s pressing structure.
He switched from a 4-4-2 to more of a 4-2-4 with the wingers leading the press with out-to-in runs. This caused real problems to Bayern’s build-up, leading them to lose possession in dangerous positions on several occasions.
Inevitably, Erling Braut Haaland got himself on the scoresheet. He assisted Bernardo Silva’s goal with a lovely cross, before scoring from close range after a corner.
Those goals put Man City in a commanding position going into the second leg. Bayern’s chances of a comeback will certainly not be helped by the in-fighting that followed this result, as Sadio Mané punched Leroy Sané after the German international reportedly said some unsavoury things after full-time.
🏆 UEFA Europa League: Manchester United 2-2 Sevilla
We stay in Manchester for our Europa League fixture from the week, as United hosted Sevilla.
The Red Devils had faced these opponents three times in the last five years in European knockout football, losing both in the 2017/18 Champions League’s round of 16 and the 2020 Europa League final.
They were the heavy favourites for this game. Man United look better than they ever have in the last few years, while Sevilla have slumped to new lows in La Liga.
They are embroiled in a relegation battle, where even success would not help them avoid their first finish in the bottom half of the table since the turn of the century.
Safety is far from guaranteed at the moment, and with some huge relegation six-pointers coming up, recently-appointed manager José Luis Mendilibar decided to prioritise things.
He left a few key players on the bench and named a rotated starting XI, realising that survival in the league superseded advancing in the Europa League.
With that in mind, he should not have been too surprised by his side’s start to the game. Although the goal they conceded just seconds after kick-off was ruled out, they found themselves two down well before half an hour. Both goals came from Marcel Sabitzer, who looked great in a more advanced role than what everyone expected.
Man United would have expected to comfortably see out the win then and probably even add to their lead, but that was not to be.
The second half proved to be a horror show for them as they lost both starting centre-backs through injury and conceded two late own goals to completely wipe out their advantage.
🏆 UEFA Europa Conference League: Anderlecht 2-0 AZ
The story of Anderlecht’s season is fairly similar to Sevilla’s. They have gone from at least qualifying for the Championship play-offs in the Belgian Pro League to fighting to stay in the top half of the table.
However, they found themselves playing a continental quarter-final for just the second time since the turn of the millennium.
Their opponents, AZ, are having a pretty good domestic campaign. They are just about hanging on to the coattails of Ajax and PSV Eindhoven in the table, which is quite impressive given those sides’ ambitions and budgets far exceed theirs.
Their European campaign had been quite good, as they won five of their six group matches and beat Lazio in the previous round.
The visitors would have been the obvious pick as the side that would advance from this tie. That no longer seems likely after the first leg, as Anderlecht have taken a two-goal lead.
To call it deserved on the balance of play would be disfiguring the truth, but Michael Murillo and Majeed Ashimeru struck in the crucial moments to put Brian Riemer’s side in a commanding position.
🇦🇷 Argentina: San Lorenzo 1-0 Boca Juniors
Over in Argentina, defending league champions Boca Juniors have had a fairly shocking start to the 2023 season.
Consequently, title-winning coach Hugo Ibarra, who was only hired halfway through last year, was sacked in March. His (hopefully) long-term successor, Jorge Almirón, made his debut this week.
They visited high-flyers San Lorenzo, who found themselves all the way up in second spot — only behind Boca’s historic rivals River Plate.
The Estadio Pedro Bidegain in Buenos Aires was the venue for their clash, so the visiting fans did not have to make a very long journey.
They might still have ended up regretting it as they watched their side suffer yet another defeat. An early own goal from Pol Fernández proved to be the difference between the two sides, as a senseless second yellow card picked up by Jorge Figal killed Boca’s chances of staging a late turnaround or even comeback.
This result leaves Boca Juniors in 18th place in the table with more losses than victories after 11 matches. Their gap to the bottom is half as big as their deficit to the league leaders, so their chances of a title defence may already be considered done.
🇧🇷 Brazil: Maringá FC 2-0 Flamengo
Over in Brazil, Flamengo are not having a much better time than Boca Juniors. Their national league has not started yet, but they have already experienced trouble in cup competitions.
After losing to local rivals Fluminense in the Campeonato Carioca final, manager Vitor Pereira was made to pay with his job.
That meant that Flamengo began their Copa do Brasil campaign without a full-time head coach around, but they would not have expected to face any problems facing fourth-tier side Maringá FC.
They were in for a big surprise. Their hosts showed them little kindness at the Estádio Willie Davids, matching them stride-for-stride in terms of attacking threat and chances created.
Maringá FC scored first as David Luiz diverted a cross-goal header into the net a few minutes before half-time. On the other side of the break, Flamengo showed few signs of equalising before their deficit was doubled.
A quick break resulted in Serginho getting on the end of a low cross, which he converted to put his side two goals to the good. They preserved that lead, giving themselves a great chance of securing a monumental result at the Maracanã Stadium.
👀 What To Watch Next:
The stakes are getting higher and higher as we approach the end of the season in most parts of Europe, so here are some big games to watch over the next few days:
🇩🇪 Germany: Schalke 04 vs Hertha Berlin (Friday, 18:30 UTC)
A pivotal clash in the Bundesliga relegation battle sees the bottom two square off on Friday. The winner won’t jump to safety but should expect to move into the play-off spot.
🇧🇪 Belgium: Westerlo vs Club Brugge (Saturday, 18:45 UTC)
Club Brugge’s title defence is effectively long over, but it could be officially done in a week or so. They must win to stay in with a real chance of qualifying for the championship play-offs, but newly-promoted Westerlo won’t want to give anything away as they need a point at least to ensure they stay in the European play-off positions.
🇫🇷 France: Strasbourg vs AC Ajaccio (Sunday, 13:00 UTC)
Two relegation battlers also face off in France this weekend. With four teams set to go down as the league is trimmed to an 18-team competition, 17th-place Strasbourg are in real trouble at the moment. A win might pull them out of the drop zone, but 19th-placed Ajaccio really need a result here as five straight defeats have seen them stray far from safety.
🇪🇸 Spain: Valencia vs Sevilla (Sunday, 19:00 UTC)
Sticking to the theme of scraps at the bottom of the table, we’ve got Valencia-Sevilla in Spain. Having picked up four points in José Luis Mendilibar’s first two league matches, the visitors have pulled away from the relegation zone ever so slightly. However, they still could get sucked in very close if they lose to 18th-placed Valencia.
🇺🇸 Major League Soccer: LA Galaxy vs LAFC (Sunday, 20:30 UTC)
Finally, we also have a game from Major League Soccer. El Tráfico was supposed to be the season-opener but had to be postponed due to weather conditions. That specific fixture has been rescheduled to July, but this weekend will see the first meeting between the two Los Angeles clubs who seem to be heading in opposite directions.
Stats courtesy Transfermarkt, FotMob and Opta Analyst.
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