The first phase of the knockout rounds have produced some scintillating games in the previous decade.
When it comes to club football competitions, it doesn’t get any bigger than the UEFA Champions League. The continental installment of European football is by far the most followed and the most prestigious competition in club football.
It is also the most revered trophy for any footballer in their club career. The quality and competition on the pitch between the best clubs across the different leagues of Europe has pitted some star-studded players and teams against each other and has meant fireworks on the pitch. Especially in the previous decade, there have been some seminal occasions in the competition right from Barcelona and Bayern’s treble-winning seasons to Real Madrid’s three consecutive title victories – the first of its kind in the competition after it got rebranded as the UEFA Champions League from the erstwhile European Cup.
With the knockouts stages of the 2020-21 season underway, here we will be looking at the five most enthralling Round of 16 games of the previous decade.
5. Bayern 4-2 Juventus (2015-16)
The Round of 16 second leg clash between Bayern Munich and Juventus provided a spectacular contest that ended in extra time. Going into the second leg having drawn the first leg 2-2 in Turin, both teams were contenders and going hard at it. Juventus had just went to the final the season before and got the best possible start at the Allianz Arena going 2-0 up at half-time with goals from Paul Pogba and Juan Cuadrado. They also had a goal from Alvaro Morata which was later ruled out for offside.
But Bayern Munich rallied back with goals from Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller in stoppage time to take the game into extra time. While Pep Guardiola was tactically outwitted by Max Allegri’s men, it was his substitutes Kingsley Coman and Thiago Alcantara who proved to be the winners with quick fire goals in the second half to put the game beyond Juve’s reach and dump them out of the competition. Both teams went absolutely hammer and tongs in what was a captivating contest from start to finish.
4. Monaco 3-1 Manchester City (2016-17)
The 2016-17 season saw Pep Guardiola move to Manchester City and expectations were certainly high in his first season in the Champions League having failed to lift the trophy with his previous club Bayern Munich.
The Citizens were drawn against AS Monaco in the Round of 16 in what seemed like a routine assignment. But the men from the Principality led by an 18-year old Kylian Mbappe stunned the footballing universe when they dumped out the tournament favourites from the competition.
The first leg was a scintillating spectacle as the Citizens won 5-3, the second leg needed them to only see the game through. But the Leonardo Jardim-led side trounced them 3-1 with goals from Kylian Mbappe, Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko. The French side went through on away goals and capped a fairytale season with a semifinal appearance with talents like Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Fabinho and many others who have since moved on to bigger clubs.
3. Juventus 3-0 Atletico (2018-19)
The 2018-19 Round of 16 clash between Juventus and Atletico Madrid showed the world why Cristiano Ronaldo is a bonafide Champions League legend. The Turin club went into the second leg having lost the first leg 2-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano and some hostility from the Atletico fans on the Portuguese who featured for their fierce rivals Real Madrid over the past nine seasons.
Ronaldo had moved that season from Madrid to Juventus in a seismic transfer and was expected to deliver in the competition he revels and relishes the most, and he did exactly the same. In 90 minutes, the 5-time Ballon d’ Or winner single-handedly turned the tide and the scoreline with a sensational hat-trick to dump the 2016 finalists out of the competition.
Juventus ended the night as 3-0 victors and moved on to the quarterfinals. Ronaldo once again delivered when it mattered the most and where it mattered the most for his side.
2. Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax (2018-19)
The same season also saw another seismic result as Ajax shocked the European landmass by dumping record holders and defending champions Real Madrid out of the competition in style. More than anything, it was the manner in which the young team from Amsterdam ousted the veterans that got everyone noticing.
Ajax led by a young Matthijs De Ligt lost the first leg at Amsterdam 2-1. While Real Madrid were going through their own problems with the exodus of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane. Not many expected them to lose at home and no one would’ve expected them to bow out in the manner that they did.
Ajax stunned the Merengues 4-1 at the Bernabeu to send themselves through to the quarterfinals and shock waves through the footballing universe. Goals from Ziyech, David Neres, Dusan Tadic and a stunning freekick from Lasse Schone saw the Amsterdam team humiliate the champions in their own den. They went on to upset Juventus in the quarterfinals before heartbreakingly missing out on a final after Tottenham ousted them in the semifinal.
1. Barcelona 6-1 PSG (2016-17)
Arguably the most iconic Champions League game of all time and by far the most iconic Round of 16 game, the “La Remontada” as it has been christened featured the historic comeback by FC Barcelona against Paris Saint Germain. After losing 4-0 in the first leg, Barcelona needed something special and they produced the same in front of a packed Camp Nou Stadium.
The Blaugrana blew the French champions away and the footballing universe with a 6-1 win on the night. Goals from Messi, Suarez and a brace from Neymar and an own goal from Kurzawa kept Barcelona in the contest and a goal from Edinson Cavani meant that PSG were still meant to go through on away goals. But a flick of a foot from Sergi Roberto in the last minute of the game sent Camp Nou into delirium and capped the perfect finish in the mesmerizing comeback story the Catalan club.