Written by Will Parchman
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In ways that remain more sadly innumerable than Game of Thrones’ sharp decline from its Season 2/3 heyday, Juventus was the sensible People’s Pick for Champions League title of the final four. This was galling to most, in the sense that Juve’s roster is, according to Transfermarkt, worth about €318 million.

That, it should be said, is less than half of Real Madrid’s market value, which at €710 million is roughly akin to a room full of billionaires shutting their eyes and pointing randomly to a grouping of high priced players. How else to explain Gareth Bale.

So when Juve dropped Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday, it felt like something had happened, something real, visceral, almost unobtainable. A day earlier, Barcelona (market value €590 million) had dropped Bayern Munich (market value €551 million) in a matchup between teams evenly matched in checkbooks but not in Messis. That match had not felt as much a battle between rebellion and imperialism as it had the feel of a meeting between varying imperial factions. One of the Emperor’s minions would win his favor. It was merely a matter of which one.

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Written by Will Parchman

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There’s such a thing as ladling on hyperbole too thickly. At least as far as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are concerned, those shouts are not valid. There is no hyperbole too viscous for these three. Take a trip over to Thesaurus.com and unleash the beast. Any combination of words you unchain from their moorings will still fall short of the brilliance displayed between Barcelona’s stupid-good trio.

Barca coasted past Bayern Munich on Tuesday for a second time in as many games to book passage to the Champions League finale. The game further proved the MSN trio is unquestionably the world’s best 4-3-3 front line. Whether it’s the best in history is now in question.

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Written by Will Parchman

cheech

For about 87 minutes, the Champions League quarterfinal second leg between old rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid went predictably. Plenty of kicking, not much in the way of coherent interchange. Real Madrid tried some things – Ronaldo stepovers, James runs, Pepe frogstomps – and Atleti tried a couple quick-hitters, but it was no use. Much like the first leg, the game was fun but hopelessly disjointed.

And then Chicharito scored with minutes left and Madrid exploded.

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Written by Will Parchman

Barcelona walked over PSG again on Tuesday en route to a shockingly easy pathway to the Champions league semifinals. Despite everything Real Madrid did last year and then Bayern Munich’s unholy fleecing of Porto in the return leg this week, Barca looks a hell of a lot like the team to beat in this competition. They utterly de-pantsed PSG. By the end of these two legs, PSG was without pants.

The game’s seminal moment – nay, life’s seminal moment – came when Iniesta destroyed the lives of three PSG players before easily setting up Neymar to do a Neymar thing in the box and score.

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Written by Will Parchman

lionel-messi-big-screen

Leo Messi’s 2011-12 season still haunts him. Stalks him, really, like an overgrown shadow. Messi set a European record with 73 goals that season, including 50 in La Liga. He scored five goals in a Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen. He became the first player to ever register a goal and an assist in six competitions in one season. He won a Copa del Rey.

In all likelihood, he’ll never do that again. In lieu of heavy rule changes that tilt the game even further in favor of attackers, we may not see a year like that repeated in our lifetimes. By anyone. And yet Messi is continually measured against it, and the sum of each of his seasons since has come up short. Naturally. Of course they have.

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Written by Will Parchman

Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho

During Tuesday’s 2015 Champions League knockout debut, Chelsea somehow managed to pick a draw out of the mud kicked up by a Paris Saint Germain monsoon in Paris. PSG owned 54 percent of possession, out-shot Chelsea 14-2 and earned seven corners to Chelsea’s one. Additionally, PSG was playing at home, with the holy triumvirate of Ibrahimovic-Lavezzi-Cavani all healthy. And Chelsea still managed to score an early, vital away goal to leave Paris with a 1-1 draw.

This goal was so emblematic of Chelsea’s European experience over the past few seasons. Simply grunt and get it done. Against the run of play, this was a cross from John Terry (defender), flicked on by Gary Cahill (defender) and scored by Branislav Ivanovic (defender). And every leg of it was exemplary, worthy of any attacker in the world.

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Written by Will Parchman

The most fascinating soccer game of this Champions League season so far went down this week between Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Bayern went down to 10 men early in the second half when Benatia cut down Sergio Aguero, who promptly hit the penalty for a 1-0 lead. What happened next was unpredictably incredible.

Why? Because Bayern didn’t change a thing about its game plan, to say nothing of the specific tactics at hand. Even on 10 men, they forced City to cope with aggressive numbers in the attacking third and a possessive approach that didn’t even look shellshocked by the loss of a defender and an early goal. This is the heat map for the first half, at which point Bayern led 2-1 with both goals coming after they were reduced a man.

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Written by Will Parchman

Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp is probably the best manager in world soccer. He may not be the greatest manager, but he’s the best. Allow this video, a pregame conference in advance of BVB’s match against Arsenal on Nov. 26, to elucidate my point.

The money moment of the clip is Klopp responding to a recent report that England is the “only other country” he’d coach in aside from Germany. After hilariously dropping his head once hearing the meat of the question (this happens at around the 2:22 mark), here’s what he had to say to the question of whether he wants to coach in England.

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Written by Will Parchman

The Champions League enjoyed its most prolific single day of scoring in history on Wednesday. That’s pretty neat. What’s even neater was this ridiculous finish from Marco Reus, whose belter helped Borussia Dortmund smash woeful Galatasaray 4-0.

Hey, remember when Reus got injured just before the World Cup and Germany dashed and blasted its way to the championship anyway? I remember that too. That was pretty weird.

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Written by Will Parchman

guardiola

You knew Pep Guardiola was a perfectionist. But did you know he beats himself up when his innocuous 10-yard passes back into the field of play – as a coach – go awry? Because he does. During Bayern’s Champions League opener against Manchester City, Pep tried pushing this pass back to his players after it dribbled out of bounds to his feet, and he sprayed it wide. He wasn’t happy. This is undoubtedly the sole reason he’s the greatest coach in world history.

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