WITH the conclusion of this week’s Round of 16 second leg matches in the Champions League, several familiar names complete the roster for the Quarterfinals that begins in late April.
England will send the most representatives with three clubs advancing: Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
Germany will send two: defending champions Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
France, Spain and Portugal will send a club each: runners-up Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, and Porto.
Conspicuously missing are two big clubs with the two biggest names in football: Lionel Messi’s FC Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus.
While millions of their fans will lament the absence of both players and their clubs, another team that had high hopes of advancing failed to make it.
That club is La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid.
Atletico lost 2-0 Thursday, March 18, to Chelsea, which advanced to the quarterfinals 3-0 on aggregate.
Ironically, it was Chelsea that was struggling in the late half of last year.
That was until German manager Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard, and as quickly as he arrived, Chelsea’s fortunes changed dramatically.
Apart from advancing to the quarterfinals, the Blues climbed several notches to fourth place in the Prem and are cruising on a 13-match undefeated streak in all competitions.
Tuchel’s latest feat of blanking a dangerous Atletico Madrid side and outwitting its giant-killing manager Diego Simeone speaks volumes of what the German is capable of at the highest level.
This was despite having four key players unavailable for Thursday’s home match at Stamford Bridge: Thiago Silva and Tammy Abraham to injuries, and Mason Mount and Jorginho to suspension.
But showing tactical brilliance, Tuchel dug deep in his squad to neutralize the attacking duo of Joao Felix and Luis Suarez.
And as goal scorer Hakim Ziyech shone in the Thursday match, no less than Tuchel himself expressed confidence that Chelsea are now serious contenders for the Champions League title.
So, would you bet against Chelsea and Tuchel?