By Will Caraccio
With glorious victories and tragic defeats, heated battles and fantastic upsets, the UEFA 2019/2020 Champions League is one to remember. While the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the way in which the tournament was played–with all games taking place over one leg rather than two–the league remained entertaining as ever.
The group stages at the beginning of the tournament ensued as expected; the usual suspects–Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Bayern Munchen and Juventus–all qualified to the round of 16 without difficulty. However, among the biggest clubs in Europe, a number of unexpected teams also made an appearance in the round of 16: Atalanta, RB Leipzig, and Valencia all drew attention by achieving great success in the group stage of the tournament. From the first elimination round of the tournament, the action had already begun. A mediocre Atletico Madrid side, which had finished third in Spain’s La Liga that season, completed a shocking upset over the defending champions Liverpool, who had just completed a Premier League winning season. The startling upsets continued, with a fired up Olympique Lyonnais, a side that had just completed one of their worst seasons in recent memory, beating an unconvincing Juventus side on away goals. However, the true excitement of the round of 16 came in the form of the clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid, two European football giants. While Zinedine Zidane’s Madrid had recently won the La Liga title, ending Barcelona’s long period of Spanish dominance, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City were in better form and beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate.
The quarter-final proved no less exciting than the round of 16, with FC Barcelona facing off against German giants Bayern Munchen in an exciting elimination match. Able to exploit Barcelona’s defensive issues, Bayern convincingly dispatched the Catalan side, scoring eight goals in the span of 90 minutes. The upsets continued in the Quarter Finals, with Olympique Lyonnais defeating Champions League favorites Manchester City in 3-1 victory, and RB Leipzig easily beating a lethargic Atletico Madrid side. With two late game goals from Marquinhos and Choupo-Moting, PSG stole victory from the jaws of defeat from Atalanta, and moved on to the semi-finals.
The semi-finals went according to predictions, with both PSG and Bayern defeating their opponents–RB Leipzig and Olympique Lyonnais, respectively–by three goals to nil.
And so, the final was set: Paris-Saint Germain would face off against Bayern Munchen. Both teams had just completed fantastic seasons, winning both their national leagues and domestic cups, and looking to make the Champions League trophy their third of the year. While Bayern were the favorites in the match, many suspected that Neymar Jr. and Mbappe would be able to take advantage of Bayern’s high defensive line and score a few goals. These predictions were incorrect, with Bayern dominating the game and defeating PSG 1-0. Bayern Munchen’s victory earned them their sixth Champions League title and their second ever Continental Treble.