UCL Roundup: Alphonso Davies crashes out of UCL; CanWNT trio set for UWCL semi-finals
It’s so far been a mixed week of UEFA Champions League prospects from a Canadian perspective.
On one side, the men’s quarter-finals came to an end this week, and with it came the confirmation that no Canadians would be playing in the semi-finals. That, of course, came as the lone remaining Canadian in the competition, Alphonso Davies, saw his Bayern Munich side fall 4-1 on aggregate to Manchester City.
Yet, on the flip side, there’s plenty to get excited about from a Canadian perspective in the women’s competition, as the semi-finals get set to kick off this weekend. There, three Canadians will feature, as Kadeisha Buchanan and Jessie Fleming’s Chelsea takes on Barcelona, while Sabrina D’Angelo’s Arsenal duels with Wolfsburg.
Plus, they’re not the only Canadians gearing up to play in the semi-finals of a European continental competition, as Canadian Men’s International Liam Millar saw his Basel side qualify for the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League this week.
Therefore, while Davies will be frustrated not to be adding a second Champions League crown to his trophy cabinet, Buchanan remains on the hunt for her sixth, while Fleming and D’Angelo remain eager to become first-time winners, which is a nice consolation from a Canadian perspective. Along with Millar’s qualification, that makes for an overall decent week from a Canadian perspective.
Here’s more on all of that in our latest UCL Roundup.
Alphonso Davies’s UCL adventure comes to an end
After a dream start through their first eight games of this Champions League campaign, it looked like Bayern were well on track for a seventh-ever European crown this spring.
Having swept the group stages with 18 points out of 18, before beating PSG 3-0 across two legs, they headed into their quarter-final filled with confidence, even as they got set to face a juggernaut of a Manchester City team in what had been a worst-case-scenario draw for them.
Instead of making those dreams come true, however, they quickly became nightmares, as they ended up getting eliminated in pretty unceremonious fashion at the hands of that City side, who soundly beat them 4-1 across aggregate.
As a result, it’s meant a third straight season of disappointment in this competition for Bayern, who after winning it all in 2020, has suffered three straight quarter-final defeats.
Plus, they’ve seemed to be the architect of their own downfall in each scenario, with this Manchester City tie being a prime example of that.
Of course, there’s normally no shame in losing to this City side, as not many teams are beating them these days, but Bayern will be frustrated that they got so easily swept aside as they did.
We're out of the Champions League. pic.twitter.com/VdqWC1Wsmd— FC Bayern Munich (@FCBayernEN) April 19, 2023
Yet, it can be argued that they did it to themselves.
First, they fired head coach Julian Nagelsmann in favour of Thomas Tuchel ahead of this tie, despite Nagelsmann’s influence in them winning their first eight Champions League matches, which is a decision that hasn’t aged well as Bayern’s form has dipped in all competitions since the hire.
Then, they scored just one goal in this tie, and it was a consolation marker in the 173rd minute of 180 in this tie, coming from the spot, to boot. Considering they entered this season having failed to really replace Robert Lewandowski up front, that just further showed why that was such a concern.
As for Davies personally, he’ll also be frustrated about how this tie went. After doing well to win a starting spot in the second leg of the PSG tie after starting the first leg on the bench, he was able to start in the first leg of this City tie.
There, however, he had a game to forget, putting in an uncharacteristic defensive performance as City ran riot down his side, taking advantage of a Bayern side that was shaky as a whole.
Because of that, he started the second leg on the bench, only playing in the last 30 minutes with the tie essentially sealed. He performed relatively well in those 30 minutes, but it was not the way that he would’ve wanted to end off this Champions League campaign, and certainly wasn’t enough to erase the sour taste of how the first leg went.
Therefore, one has to imagine that he’ll be hungry for revenge next year. With a big summer ahead, it’s still yet unsure if that revenge will be with Bayern or elsewhere, but no matter where it is, he’ll look to make some deeper runs in this competition than he has in recent years.
In what should be an exciting campaign for Canadian Men’s National Team players, with the likes of Alistair Johnston and Stephen Eustáquio likely to join him, with Jonathan David, Tajon Buchanan, Sam Adekugbe and more also possibilities either depending on transfer futures or the performances of their clubs (or both), Davies will look to lead that charge, erasing the pain of this recent Champions League heartbreak.
CanWNT players set for UWCL semi-finals
The race towards Eindhoven is set to resume this weekend, as the UEFA Women’s Champions League is back with the first leg of their semi-finals on Saturday and Sunday.
There, some tasty matchups await, as Chelsea takes on Barcelona in a rematch of the 2021 final (won by Barcelona), while Arsenal will battle Wolfsburg in a rematch of last year’s quarter-finals (won by Wolfsburg).
Safe to say, that’ll leave plenty of work for the Canadians to do, as both of their clubs look to seek revenge for their defeats, even if of the three, only Fleming was the only one who was actually there for those losses.
In the Chelsea tie, they’ll have their hands full with this Barcelona side, one who has won seven of eight games so far, scoring 35 goals and conceding just seven. Because of that, it’ll be a lot of work for Kadeisha Buchanan, who has been immense for Chelsea this Champions League campaign, playing 724 of 750 minutes.
Considering that they first had to top a group with PSG and Real Madrid, before beating the defending champions and record title holders Lyon in the quarter-finals, conceding just three goals across eight games, she’s certainly done her job, too.
Yet, that’s why Chelsea was eager to bring in the five-time Champions League winner when her contract expired at Lyon last summer, as they felt that she was what the club needed to bring their first Champions League title to the club.
Last season, Kadeisha Buchanan won her fifth champions league with Lyon. Today, she was part of the team that knocked out her old club. Crazy. pic.twitter.com/vOOyPZ6LqY— nicci 🏳️🌈 ♡ ⭐️⭐️ (@niccijane_cfc) March 30, 2023
As for Jessie Fleming, she’ll look to play any sort of role in this tie. Having featured for just 271 minutes of this campaign so far, she hasn’t been as involved as would’ve hoped, but she did play a key role off of the bench in the second leg of the Lyon tie.
Therefore, having picked up 90 minutes in Chelsea’s most recent league match and 20 minutes in their FA Cup semi-final last weekend, she’ll hope to use that as a boost towards potentially being involved in this tie, especially after she didn’t feature in that 2021 final at all.
Given that they’re going up against a robust Barcelona midfield, one that likes to dominate games and get forward, Chelsea will need all hands on deck there, which should give Fleming a good shot at playing in these games.
Lastly, that leaves D’Angelo, who is unlikely to feature for Arsenal, as Manuela Zinsberger has been the main option in the Champions League.
The good news for D’Angelo is that has allowed her to start some games in the FAWSL as Arsenal splits their focus on both competitions, so she should at least continue to get minutes there. Plus, should she be called upon in this tie, she should be sharp, too, which is an added bonus.
Because of that, now, look for the possibility of an all-London final, which of course would have the added permutation of a guaranteed Canadian champion, something that onlookers will now keep an eye on potentially happening, starting this weekend.
Liam Millar's Basel continue surprise UECL run
It’s been a bit of a mixed season for Liam Millar with Basel. After a breakout 21-22 season, where he burst onto the scene with his new club by scoring 10 goals and adding five assists, his second campaign has been a bit quieter on many fronts.
In terms of scoring output, he has just one goal and four assists, and is on track to play fewer games minutes than last year.
At the same time, he’s still a regular in the Basel squad, doing well to keep his place as Basel’s dealt with some coaching changes, which has contributed to Millar’s statistical dip, as he went from a scoring winger last season to more of a wing back this season.
And he’s getting used to the position, too. He showed the latest example of that this week, as he started in Basel’s crucial second leg quarter-final UEFA Conference League tie against Nice, who they tied 2-2 with at home in the first leg.
There, Millar had a solid outing, completing 21 out of 22 of his passes, and doing what he needed to defensively, as Basel won 2-1 in extra time to move on.
There's only 1 #CanMNT player left in European continental competition, and that's Liam Millar, as he started in a big Basel win today over Nice to get to the #UECL SFs— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) April 20, 2023
Good to see him get a good run today, as he's continued to play as a LWB as of late https://t.co/IuI0BN0h6a
As a result, they’ll now move on to play Serie A’s Fiorentina in the semi-finals, in what should be a solid tie for Basel.
From there, they’ll look to use this to boost their Swiss League season, as after finishing second last year, they currently sit sixth. The good news is that they’re just five points off of second, and play some teams ahead of them over the next few weeks, so they could push back up the standings.
Given that finishing in the top two would get them to Champions League qualifiers (last year it only sent them to Europa Conference League qualifiers), that’s a pretty good incentive to finish strong in the league, while pushing to win a trophy in Europe (and at least guarantee a Europa League spot by doing so).
As for Millar, he’ll look to keep getting minutes to finish the season strongly. Ideally, he’ll get in among the goals, but at the very least, this wing back experiment will give him a chance to improve his defensive game, which is never a bad asset for a wide player to have.