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Two more teams advanced on Wednesday to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, with trophy holders Manchester City and 14-time European titlist Real Madrid joining Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain in the last eight. 

Here are three quick thoughts on Wednesday’s pair of decisive round of 16 games.

Man City is finding its feet at the perfect time

As coldly effective as Pep Guardiola’s team has been this season, it’s not unfair to point out that City has mostly performed below its devastating best from a year ago, when the Sky Blues produced a stunning clean sweep of the European, Premier League and FA Cup titles.

The last few weeks have been different. City finished off Danish side FC Copenhagen on Wednesday with a 3-1 home win (6-2 on aggregate over the two games) on goals by Manuel Akanji, Julián Álvarez and (of course) Erling Haaland:

It’s the third one-sided result in a row for Haaland & Co., which came into Wednesday’s contest on the back of two other laughers: a 3-1 drubbing of crosstown rival Manchester United on Sunday that followed a 6-2 midweek pasting of Luton Town in FA Cup action.

Simply put, City is getting hot when it matters the most. The scary part is that Guardiola’s team still has room for improvement, as the goal the visitors scored on Wednesday showed. But while they still have work to do — especially in the Prem, where they trail Liverpool by a point with 11 games to go — it would surprise nobody if they claimed all three trophies this spring, too.

Unconvincing Real Madrid stumbles into the quarters

No disrespect to RB Leipzig, but after Real Madrid beat the Germans 1-0 on their own turf last month, most observers believed Los Blancos would run away with the second leg at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.

Someone forgot to tell the visitors. Leipzig gave the continent’s most successful-ever club fits all night in the Spanish capital, losing the series but not the match, which finished 1-1.

The Bundesliga side had the hosts on their heels from the outset on Wednesday, but the threat seemed to be over when Jude Bellingham set up Vinícius Júnior for the opening goal following a devastating counterattack. 

But Willi Orbán canceled out the strike less than three minutes later, and Real was probably lucky to escape even with an unsatisfying 2-1 aggregate victory after Dani Olmo’s stoppage time chip beat keeper Andriy Lunin but not the crossbar.

Advancing is what counts, obviously. But Real’s supporters have come to expect more than being out-shot by an almost 2-1 margin (18-10) in such a critical match. They know as well as anyone that Carlo Ancelotti’s team will have to deliver more, much more, if Real is to add a 15th European title this season.

A hat tip for FC Copenhagen

Given the reaction by the traveling fans, nobody would’ve guessed that the Danes were still trailing 5-2 on aggregate after Mohamed Elyounoussi pulled one back for the guests at the Emirates Stadium.

For Copenhagen backers, just getting to this stage of the world’s top club competition represented a triumph. And while the humble club’s Cinderella run to the knockout stage was finally turned into a pumpkin on Wednesday, what a season it was. Copenhagen earned its way here with a famous home win over Manchester United. It held mighty Bayern Munich to a scoreless tie — in Germany.

And while the club was a little unlucky to draw the defending champs and 2024 favorites in the round of 16, they exit the competition with their heads held high.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid

UEFA Champions League


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