Fantasy Football - Picturing scenarios where Manchester City, Roma and Juventus overturn their fixtu
The Champions League returns this evening and three of the four fixtures seem like they are already decided. Those are Manchester City-Liverpool, Real Madrid-Juventus and Roma-Barcelona. The fourth fixture, Bayern Munich-Sevilla, is a bit more competitive after the first leg, however, the Spaniards are still heavy underdogs and it will also be difficult for them to pass through in Bavaria. Going back to the first three fixtures, we've taken a look at how the games could go in the favor of each underdog. Let's just dream for a moment...
Manchester City v. Liverpool (0-3)
The Etihad is roaring before kickoff, thanks in large part to Benjamin Mendy's plea on Twitter to "Bring the f**** noise !!!!!" Manchester City, with the support of their home crowd, start the game on the front foot. They dominate possession as usual with short quick passes and take an early breakthrough after a quick exchange between De Bruyne and David Silva frees Silva in the box to slot home low and to the left. The 9th minute goal starts putting doubt into Liverpool. They slowly regain their composure and fight off a 10 minute flurry from City, but Salah misses a golden opportunity to level the game on the counter attack as you can clearly see he is hindered by his injury from the first leg. Things calm down until the 43rd minute when Kyle Walker switches the play to the left for Sane. The German then enters the box where he sends a low pass across goal and it is met by Aguero who puts City right back into the tie before halftime. Manchester City leads the match 2-0 and is down 3-2 on aggregate going into the half.
In the second half Manchester City once again start on the front foot. They are determined to get that third goal in order to tie things up, however, they can't break down Liverpool's last line of defense in the final third. The Merseyside squad tries to counter over and over again, but the citizens are a step too quick and are able to press and keep Liverpool in their own defending half. The attacks keep coming all second half and in the 86th minute Manchester City is awarded a corner. The ball is crossed into the area where Virgil van Dijk tries to clear the ball but it only gets to the edge of the area where Silva settles it and fires towards the net. The ball is met with a deflection off of James Milner's hand, and the referee immediately calls for handball and a penalty kick. In a tense moment, Aguero steps up and makes no mistake as he fires into the top left corner, tying the score on aggregate 3-3. After the 94th minute the referee blows the whistle. We are headed for exra time.
City are awarded a corner in the 95th minute of extra time. Silva takes it and finds Vincent Kompany who jumps higher than van Dijk and hammers it home right above Loris Karius. The Manchester club now lead 4-3 on aggregate thanks to the captain. Liverpool try to compose themselves and attack for the rest of the extra time period, however, they are too tired and dejected from all that has occurred and are a bit too sloppy. Manchester City, due to their great ability to hold possession, use the last 10 minutes of the second extra time to play keep away, all but ending any chance Liverpool has. The final whistle blows three times and Manchester City has overcome a 3-0 deficit to send Pep Guardiola to the Champions League semifinals.
Final: Manchester City 4-3 Liverpool
Roma v. Barcelona (1-4)
While many people think this fixture is over, Roma realize they have a chance during warmups. Lionel Messi looks slow and lethargic while you can visibly see his belly hanging over his shorts. It is later reported that Messi had told teammates he was "eating pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner while in Rome because how often do I get to play in Southern Italy?" The Stadio Olimpico is rocking at kickoff thanks to their fans, some of the most passionate in the world. The referee blows the whistle and we're off. Roma, repeating their efforts in the first leg, refuse to sit back against Barcelona. In the 4th minute Alessandro Florenzi drives down the right wing and cuts onto his left foot where he slots a through ball in for Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian is clearly brought down, however, the referee waves play on. The Roma players and fans are begging for VAR to be used, only to realize there is no VAR in the Champions League. The no-call fires up the Roma players even more. Both teams trade opportunities in the first half, but in the 33rd minute Radja Nainggolan is left unmarked in the middle of the pitch and fires a shot into the top right corner that beats Ter Stegan. The Olimpico goes wild. The score remains 1-0 Roma headed into halftime.
The second half begins with a great opportunity for Barcelona. Dembele blazes past Kolarov down the right side and sends the ball across the area to try and find Messi. The Argentine gets a touch on the ball but is denied by a superb save from Alisson. This gives the Blaugrana confidence and they start to control the match and hold possession. In the 73rd minute Roma is given a lifeline as a Paulinho error in the middle of the pitch allows De Rossi to retain the ball in a positive area and begin a counter attack. The Italian quickly passes the ball up the right side to Florenzi who quickly switches play to the left where Stephen El Sharaawy is sprinting down the sideline. El Sharaawy receives the ball and quickly crosses it into the middle where Edin Dzeko is left unmarked and heads the ball home. It is now 2-0 Roma, who are still down 3-4 on aggregate, with 16 minutes left to play. Barcelona do their best to play keep away and try to close out the fixture. In the 89th minute, Barcelona's ambition costs them dearly. Instead of just knocking the ball around and wasting time, they decide to go for goal one more time to put any chance of Roma qualifying to rest. Messi goes on a "magisterial" (see Ray Hudson) run and slots a beautiful through ball home for Suarez who fires it right at Alisson. The Brazilian goalie quickly restarts play and sends the ball up to Cengiz Under, who came on as a substitute. The young Turkish player has a moment of individual brilliance as he crosses over onto his favored left foot and passes by Umtiti and shoots a powerful shot into the bottom corner. Roma have now taken a 3-0 lead and tied up the aggregate at 4-4, however, they are in the lead as they have a valuable away goal. The Giallorossi are under siege for the 5 extra minutes that were added, but Alisson acts as superman and keeps them out of the net. The final whistle blows, and Roma are into the semis. Afterwards, Under says to the media "'Turkish Dybala'? Try 'Turkish Messi'..."
Final: Roma 3-0 Barcelona
Real Madrid v. Juventus (3-0) - This match takes place on Wednesday
On Tuesday evening, Gianluigi Buffon calls everyone to his room in the hotel to watch the Netflix documentary on Juventus that premiered earlier this year. The players begin to realize that overcoming a 3-0 deficit to Real Madrid would make a much better story for the next episode of the documentary than if they were to crash out of the competition. The determination begins to grow among the Bianconeri players. On Wednesday before the match, Giorgio Chiellini overhears Cristiano Ronaldo say "I want to end that old man Buffon's career today." This fires up Chiellini and the rest of the group as he goes back and tells them. The game begins just like the first leg, as a ball is crossed into the box for Ronaldo who is running to the near post, only this time Benatia is in for Barzagli and is able to get there first and clear the ball. This sets the tone for Juventus' confidence for the rest of the match. Juventus is dominating possession in search of a goal for the whole first half while Madrid is trying to hit on the counter. Both goalies make a few incredible saves and the score is 0-0 headed into halftime. Juve's hopes are diminishing as they are running out of time.
Juventus is given a lifeline to start the second half. After a play took place in the Bianconeri's defensive area, you can see Chiellini and Ronaldo chatting. All of a sudden, just as his manager Zidane did to Materazzi 12 years ago, Ronaldo inexplicably headbutts Giorgio Chiellini in the chest. The referee has no choice but to give Ronaldo a red card. Real now has to play with 10 men for the last 40 minutes of the match. Juventus start to dominate the match. The combination of playing against one less man and the removal of Ronaldo's speed and finishing ability allows Juventus' confidence to grow. In the 64th minute a give and go between Pjanic and Higuain right on the edge of the area see the Argentine brought down by Varane. Pjanic is able to bend the ensuing free kick into the top right corner, giving the Bianconeri a sigh of relief. They continue to control the match and dominate possession. In the 73rd minute they are giving an absolute gift. Khedira shoots the ball from outside the area but directly at Navas. The Costa Rican makes a mess of it, however, as he fumbles the ball right into the path of Douglas Costa. The Brazilian makes no mistake and hits the open net, 2-0 Juventus and 3-2 Madrid on aggregate. After the second goal Real push for their own goal to end the tie, even though they have 10 men. In the 77th minute, they push into their attacking half but an uncharacteristic misplayed pass by Modric finds Higuain instead. Pipita picks the ball up the the center circle, and quickly passes it down the left to Douglas Costa and continues his run down the middle of the pitch. The Brazilian finds Higuain again near the penalty spot and he rockets it past Navas to tie the fixture. The last 10 minutes are quiet as Madrid don't want to risk giving up another goal playing with a man less, and Juventus seems to be content sending this into extra time.
Extra time sees half chances from both sides, but they are both too tired to really go for a win and didn't want to risk giving up a goal. Onto penalties we go...
Juventus to shoot first,
Marchisio - Goal (1-0)
Marcelo - Goal (1-1)
Khedira - Miss (1-1)
Kroos - Goal (1-2)
Pjanic - Goal (2-2)
Modric - Miss (2-2)
Higuain - Goal (3-2)
Isco - Goal (3-3)
Costa - Goal (4-3)
Bale - Miss (4-3)
Juventus wins 4-3 on penalties, and Gigi Buffon lives to fight another day in the Champions League...
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