Napoli, Benfica look able to slay giants in Champions League quarterfinals

Real Madrid and Napoli on turned the ultimate two groups to qualify for the quarterfinals of the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

Madrid, which gained a report 14th European title final season, topped six-time champ Liverpool in Spain’s capital. Real superior 6-2 on mixture after final month’s 5-2 rout at Anfield. Karim Benzema sealed the Reds’ destiny with the lone purpose late in Wednesday’s rematch.  

In Italy, Napoli dispatched Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 on two objectives by Victor Osimhen and one other from Piotr Zieliński. The runaway Serie A pacesetter took the primary leg in Germany 2-0.  

Napoli and Real Madrid adopted Manchester City and Inter Milan, which booked its tickets to the final eight on Tuesday. AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Benfica and Chelsea claimed quarterfinal spots final week. Friday’s draw will decide the bracket for the subsequent set of video games, which might be performed on April 11-12 and 18-19.   

Here are three fast ideas on this week’s spherical of 16 slate.  

Erling Haaland steals the present  

Truth be instructed, the lopsided first spherical outcomes rendered each of Wednesday’s matches largely anticlimactic. Yet whereas Tuesday’s two video games held extra intrigue, Manchester City was nonetheless broadly anticipated to dispatch RB Leipzig at residence following a 1-1 draw within the opener.  

What no one anticipated — though no one needs to be shocked — was for Erling Haaland to make historical past by scoring 5 objectives, equaling the report Lionel Messi set in 2012.  

Haaland is unstoppable. He wasn’t within the prime three at FIFA’s latest Best awards, with Messi, Benzema and Kylian Mbappé ending forward of him. But with regards to the singular means to attain, which is in any case essentially the most invaluable talent anybody on this sport can possess, the Norwegian is peerless. Haaland is on a report setting tempo in his first season within the Premier League with 28 objectives in 26 appearances. His numbers in European play one way or the other are gaudier.

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[Erling Haaland’s record-breaking performance by the numbers]

With six Prem titles since 2012, Man City was England’s preeminent workforce lengthy earlier than Haaland arrived final summer season. But regardless of a couple of close to misses, together with being upset by Prem rival Chelsea within the 2021 finale, the Sky Blues have not but been in a position to seal the deal within the Champions League. From its state-backed possession to supervisor Pep Guardiola to its all-world gamers to its followers, everybody related to Man City is determined for the membership to win this competitors. Haaland provides it its finest likelihood but.  

Where does Liverpool go from right here?

Liverpool performed effectively sufficient on Wednesday regardless of figuring out that the collection’ end result was all however sealed. They dominated Real Madrid for lengthy stretches early within the first leg at residence whereas working out to a 2-0 lead earlier than imploding late within the first half and conceding 5 consecutive objectives to the defending champs.  

But all through this season’s keep within the Champions League, Jurgen Klopp’s workforce by no means appeared something just like the one which reached three finals between 2018 and 2022, successful as soon as. Maybe Sadio Mané, who left for Bayern final summer season, was way more essential than most on Merseyside and past realized. Maybe age is lastly catching up with veterans like Jordan Henderson and even Mo Salah, who in June will flip 33 and 31, respectively. Whatever the rationale, it positive appears to be like like Liverpool, which sits sixth in England and trails Tottenham Hotspur by six factors for the final spot within the 2023-24 Champions League, is firmly on the downward slope after briefly returning to the top of the European sport.  

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Don’t sleep on Benfica and Napoli  

Real Madrid appears to be like intent on retaining its crown, and solely a idiot would guess in opposition to them in a contest they’ve gained twice as many occasions because the continent’s subsequent most profitable membership aspect.  

Bayern are additionally proper there and, as famous earlier, Haaland might effectively be the lacking piece for Man City. AC Milan and Chelsea each have a number of Champions Leagues triumphs on this century. Inter Milan gained the membership sport’s most coveted prize in 2010.  

Which is to say that of the eight groups nonetheless standing, those that appear least prone to progress are simple to identify: Benfica and Napoli. Don’t be so positive. While Napoli has by no means progressed to this stage earlier than, the consistency of Luciano Spalletti’s workforce all yr in home play suggests they might be reliable contenders. Despite its storied European historical past, Benfica hasn’t reached the ultimate since 1990 (it gained the second of its two titles manner again in 1962). But it has additionally been quietly ruthless on this tourney up to now.   

Both stay longshots to win all of it. Whether they attain the final 4 hinges largely on the opponent they’re drawn in opposition to. Still, few would’ve predicted Benfica or Napoli to make it to this stage forward of rivals like Dortmund, Tottenham or Paris Saint-Germain.  

Neither will go quietly regardless of the foe.   

Doug McIntyre is a soccer author for FOX Sports. Before becoming a member of FOX Sports in 2021, he was a workers author with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has lined United States males’s and ladies’s nationwide groups at a number of FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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