Champions League talking points: Man City or PSG’s year? Madrid peaking? U.S. stars and cult heroes!

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The Champions League has reached the quarterfinal stage after a round of 16 that saw, among other things, PSG oust Barcelona and Porto stun Juventus, while Bayern Munich and Manchester City cruised through. There is plenty to discuss, so we asked Gab Marcotti, Julien Laurens and James Olley for responses to some big questions.

Which team is more likely to finally win the Champions League this season: Man City or PSG?

Marcotti: Manchester City. PSG right now have a dogfight on their hands in Ligue 1. There’s a reason they changed managers in mid-season (as much as I love Thomas Tuchel). City can sit back, rotate, experiment and keep everybody fresh between now and the end of the season. That’s a huge luxury. And, top to bottom, they’re a better side. (If you don’t believe me, give me your combined XI and if you convince me there should be more than three PSG guys in there, I’ll buy you a steak dinner).

Laurens: Right now, there isn’t even a debate. City are ahead of PSG in pretty much every department. They are flying with 24 wins in their last 25 games in all competitions while PSG are stuttering at home in Ligue 1 with two defeats in their last two matches. Collectively, City are a machine with great movement, intensity, pressing and flexibility in where and how some key players play (Joao Cancelo, Ilkay GundoganKevin De Bruyne). The Parisians have none of that at the moment. Since joining the club in January, manager Mauricio Pochettino has not been able to implement any of that yet. But in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG have two very special players who can win any game. So…

Olley: City are the more complete team and will have the luxury of domestic rotation given their Premier League dominance. Pep Guardiola has had a propensity to overcomplicate City’s approach but he has masterfully restored their pre-eminence in England, chiefly through a more robust defence which bodes well for Europe. They have not even conceded a goal in the Champions League for more than 700 minutes. Manchester United‘s counter-attacking victory at the Etihad earlier this month offers evidence they are still vulnerable to a well-executed sucker-punch but perhaps the biggest doubt is a psychological one after three successive quarterfinals exits

Of the Americans in this season’s UCL, who impressed you the most?

Marcotti: I know there are eight and folks made a big deal out of that, but two stand out for me; Juventus’ Weston McKennie and Dortmund’s Gio Reyna. I’d probably lean towards McKennie, even though he only started four games (Reyna started six) for that goal in Camp Nou which was special. I think Reyna has the brightest future though. That stat looks impressive but a decade ago, by minutes played, U.S. players got more game time. Ethan Horvath has started one game, Konrad de la Fuente none, Christian Pulisic two, Sergino Dest six (but Barca lost three of them), Tyler Adams two, Chris Richards one. They’re all young, they’re all at big clubs and that’s really important for their development, but let’s chill and let them grow.

– When is the Champions League draw?

Laurens: McKennie is the outstanding candidate because he has made the biggest impact in the Champions League this season and seems the most mature too. But I like what I saw from Dest in the round-of-16 second leg against PSG. There is no doubt that Barcelona’s 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formations suit him well, much better than any other tactical systems previously used, and in Paris, he was outstanding on the right side, especially going forward. I think he is improving and is learning from the difficult moments that he has had earlier in the season, like in the first leg against PSG.

Olley: The only one I’ve seen live with any regularity this season is Pulisic, but it is difficult to make a case for him given the poor season he is enduring at Chelsea. From afar, McKennie looks the most exciting prospect. COVID-19 is obviously a factor but it is a sign of his importance to Juventus that he has been withdrawn from the latest USMNT squad to give him a much-needed break.

– When is the Champions League draw?

Laurens: McKennie is the outstanding candidate because he has made the biggest impact in the Champions League this season and seems the most mature too. But I like what I saw from Dest in the round-of-16 second leg against PSG. There is no doubt that Barcelona’s 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formations suit him well, much better than any other tactical systems previously used, and in Paris, he was outstanding on the right side, especially going forward. I think he is improving and is learning from the difficult moments that he has had earlier in the season, like in the first leg against PSG.

Olley: The only one I’ve seen live with any regularity this season is Pulisic, but it is difficult to make a case for him given the poor season he is enduring at Chelsea. From afar, McKennie looks the most exciting prospect. COVID-19 is obviously a factor but it is a sign of his importance to Juventus that he has been withdrawn from the latest USMNT squad to give him a much-needed break.