Champion League

5 Players Who Disappointed In Champions League Quarter-Finals

Over the last two weeks, we were treated to eight breathtaking UEFA Champions League quarter-final matches. Last week, Bayern Munich and Manchester City held Arsenal and Real Madrid to 2-2 and 3-3 draws, respectively. After failing to win the first leg at home, Arsenal needed a positive result on their trip to Munich to proceed. Unfortunately for the English side, Bayern Munich were a tad better than them and beat them 1-0 at the Allianz Area. Manchester City, meanwhile, fancied their chances of progressing after drawing at the Santiago Bernabeu. But Real Madrid, with all their might, came through in the reverse leg at the Etihad Stadium, beating the reigning champions on penalties after holding them at 1-1 at the end of extra time.

While the aforementioned teams were on level ground after the first leg, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona came out on top in their first hurdle. Los Rojiblancos beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at home while Barca secured a 3-2 win over Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) away, positioning themselves as favorites to progress. Unluckily for the Spanish clubs, things did not go according to plan in the reverse leg. Dortmund bagged a brilliant 4-2 win over Atletico to progress to the semis while PSG picked up an even better 4-1 victory over 10-man Barcelona in Catalonia.

Over two parts, we have already paid homage to the standout performers from the first and second legs. Today, we will take a look at those who dropped the ball. Here are the top five players who could not live up to expectations in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

#5 Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid)

Alvaro Morata Was One Of The Worst Performers In Champions League Quarter-Finals
Alvaro Morata Only Had One Shot On Target Over 2 Legs

Atletico Madrid’s first-choice striker Alvaro Morata drew blanks in both UEFA Champions League quarter-final matches against Borussia Dortmund. In the first leg, he only completed 11 passes and had one shot on target. Due to his lack of fluidity, coach Diego Simeone hooked him in the 64th minute.

Morata got a place in the starting XI for the return leg at Dortmund, but his performance was arguably worse. Dortmund isolated him quite effectively, and without any service, the Spaniard failed to make a tangible impact. The former Real Madrid man failed to test the keeper even once and missed one big chance before being hooked at halftime.

#4 Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal)

Gabriel Martinelli Could Not Live Up To Expectations In Champions League Quarter-Finals
Gabriel Martinelli Was All Over The Place Against Bayern Munich

Premier League giants Arsenal played two mediocre games against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, drawing the first leg and losing the second. There were many forgettable performances over the two legs, but Gabriel Martinelli’s display was the most disappointing. The Brazilian winger lacked guile going forward and was easily brushed aside by Bayern attackers on the break. Martinelli was partially responsible for Joshua Kimmich’s winning goal in the second leg, as he did not put enough effort to keep Raphael Guerreiro from putting the cross into the box.

Across two legs, Martinelli only completed 29 passes, had just one shot on target, missed one big chance, and lost possession five times.

#3 Frenkie De Jong (Barcelona)

Frenkie De Jong
Frenkie De Jong Delivered Forgettable Performances In UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals

Barcelona manager Xavi has done everything in his power to help midfielder Frenkie de Jong. He has made quite a few tweaks to let the Dutchman play in his preferred position and surrounded him with players who can support him. However, despite receiving such aids, De Jong has been able to boss the midfield, not in games against high-quality opposition.

De Jong could not hold his own against PSG midfielders Vitinha, Fabian Ruiz, and Warren Zaire-Emery. They often overpowered him in duels or bypassed him altogether, rendering him ineffective. De Jong also lacked urgency during transitions. He often took a tad too long to pick out the right pass and did not charge the opposition aggressively enough when defending. Over two legs, De Jong failed to create any goalscoring chances, played just eight passes into the final third, and lost four ground duels.

Barcelona may consider shipping him off in the summer transfer window if he does not markedly improve his performance over the coming weeks.

#2 Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona)

Robert Lewandowski Was Disappointing In The Champions League Quarter-Finals
Robert Lewandowski Could Not Help Barcelona Against PSG

Barcelona expected Robert Lewandowski to become their messiah when they signed him from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2022. The Polish striker has indeed produced some top-tier displays since moving to Catalonia, but very few of them have come in tricky matches.

The former Bayern Munich talisman was well below expectations in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals against French powerhouse PSG, especially in the second leg. After meaningfully contributing to Barca’s cause in the 3-2 win in Paris, Lewandowski completely fell off the radar in the second leg. PSG marked him heavily and restricted his movements, and whenever he did break free, his finishing let him down.

In the decisive second leg, Lewandowski had four shots, but only two of those needed Gianluigi Donnarumma’s intervention. He was also dispossessed three times, lost 10 duels, and committed two fouls, one of which earned him a yellow card.

#1 Erling Haaland (Manchester City)

Manchester City's Erling Haaland Was One Of The Worst Performers Of Champions League Quarter-Finals
Manchester City Ace Erling Haaland Was Not At His Best Against Real Madrid

Arguably the best striker in the world, Manchester City ace Erling Haaland was shockingly poor in both legs against Real Madrid.

In the first leg, Antonio Rudiger took it upon himself to mark the formidable striker. The former Chelsea man stuck with him throughout the game, snatching the ball away from him whenever he tried to get into the game. In the first leg, which ended 3-3 in Madrid, Haaland only completed six passes, lodged only one shot, and lost five of 10 ground duels.

Haaland did not tussle with Rudiger in the return leg at the Etihad Stadium, with Nacho Fernandez accepting the task of handling him. Despite having a physical disadvantage, Nacho did a number on Haaland, restricting him to just one shot on target. The Norwegian did hit the woodwork once, but he did not look in control of the looping header he dispatched.

Haaland has now faced Real Madrid four times in the last couple of seasons, failing to score even once.

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