UEFA Champions League
Champions League: Barcelona comes back to top PSG, Atlético Madrid handles Dortmund
UEFA Champions League

Champions League: Barcelona comes back to top PSG, Atlético Madrid handles Dortmund

Published Apr. 10, 2024 7:31 p.m. ET

It was a good day for Spain in the UEFA Champions League. Wednesday's marquee quarterfinal first leg match, between five- time European titlist Barcelona and 2024 trophy hopeful Paris Saint-Germain, more than lived up to the hype, with Barcelona — which trailed 2-1 early in the second half — eventually prevailing 3-2 in France's glittering capital.

Back in Madrid, Atlético seemed in full control of its match versus German side Borussia Dortmund, with Diego Simeone's team taking a lead they'd never relinquish less than four minutes into the encounter. But BVB pulled one back late, making for a stressful final 10-plus minutes for the hosts. Dortmund nearly found the equalizer in stoppage time, when substitute Julian Brandt's header beat Atléti keeper Jan Oblak but not the crossbar.

The second legs of both home-and-home, aggregate goals-wins series are set for next Tuesday, in Barcelona and Dortmund. Should both Barça and Atléti advance, the Spanish rivals would meet with a spot in the June 1 European final on the line.

Here are three quick takeaways from Wednesday's games.


There's something special about Barcelona

The visitors had to be feeling pretty good about themselves at halftime at the Parc des Princes, ahead as they were on Raphinha's opener shortly before the break.

All of that changed immediately after the intermission, as PSG stunned the visitors with goals from forward Ousmane Dembélé and midfielder Vitinha less than two minutes apart.

Most teams — especially ones with a lame duck manager, as Barça has in Xavi Hernandez — would never have come back from that against such a star-studded foe. But Barcelona's new generation of young players has rallied around their boss in the months since Xavi announced he'd be leaving at season's end. On Wednesday, they did it on the biggest stage in the club game.

Raphinha started the comeback with a gorgeous finish that leveled the score just before the hour mark, setting the stage for Andreas Christensen's winner with less than 15 minutes to go.

It was a colossal result for Barça which, despite the Parisians' all-world firepower, must now like their chances of booking a spot in the final four for the first time since 2019.

The pressure is on Kylian Mbappé and PSG

For PSG, Wednesday's result was a disaster. Yet with the win-or-go-home rematch in Catalonia just six short days away, there's little time to dwell too long on how they managed to get nothing from a match they seemed sure to win after roaring back to take the lead after falling behind at home.

It's no secret that PSG is desperate to win the Champions League before superstar forward Kylian Mbappé (almost certainly?) leaves this summer. Now they head into a potential elimination game needing a one-goal victory in Barcelona just to send the series to extra time.

With Mbappé leading the line, that's not impossible. While Wednesday was a night to forget for PSG, it sets up a treat for neutral fans across the globe, all of whom will want to see if Mbappé can lead his side to an improbable comeback and keep his and his hometown club's dream of a first European title alive.

Which Atlético Madrid will show up next week?

Consider Wednesday's match a metaphor for Atléti's entire season. For the overwhelming majority of the evening, the hosts were in total control. But even the most optimistic supporters at Estadio Metropolitano must have feared the worst when Sébastien Haller cut the lead in half in the 81st minute. 

Their worries were well-founded: Dortmund came within a post of a second goal even before Brandt rattled the woodwork on the final play of the contest.

Atléti has been maddenly inconsistent all season. Lately, it's been even worse. Over an eight-day stretch last month, Simeone's side sandwiched its round of 16 win over Inter Milan between two lopsided losses in La Liga — including a 3-0 home defeat to the same Barcelona squad they could come up against in the semis.

They'll have to outlast Dortmund first, of course. Their slim aggregate lead can't hurt. How things actually play out next Tuesday at what promises to be a raucous Westfalenstadion nonetheless remains anyone's guess.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United Statesmen's and women's national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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