Real Madrid, Serie A and the 10 biggest disappointments of the Champions League this season

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The holders weren't the only ones to underwhelm in what has been a continental campaign full of surprises

This season's edition of the Champions League may have been one of the best in recent memory, but it has certainly come with its fair share of disappointments.

Managerial casualties, players wanting out and the absence of many big names in the latter stages have all come as a result of this campaign's unpredictability, with the fall-out only continuing as the end of the season and the transfer window approach.

Including leagues, teams and much more, here are the 10 biggest disappointments of the 2018-19 Champions League season.

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    Massimiliano Allegri

    When Juventus, Champions League finalists twice in four years, completed the summer signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, it looked like they had found the missing piece of their European glory puzzle.

    But Massimiliano Allegri’s defensive approach to European football ensured otherwise, with him unable to get the best out of a plethora of attacking options – including Mr Champions League himself, whose six-goal return was his worst since 2010-11.

    Juventus were eliminated by Ajax in the quarter-finals - resulting in Allegri eventually losing his job - with the Bianconeri needing a more expansive coach if they are to end their 23-year wait for another European triumph.

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    Real Madrid

    Real Madrid’s bid for a fourth successive Champions League triumph ended in the most embarrassing fashion.

    They just about kept their dignity coming out of the groups, where they lost twice to CSKA Moscow, before Sergio Ramos’ arrogance set up a last 16 exit.

    His deliberate booking and suspension was felt significantly as, after VAR had rescued Los Blancos in Amsterdam, a Dusan Tadic-inspired Ajax ripped the champions to shreds in Spain.

    The consequences? Madrid’s biggest ever home defeat (1-4) in the knockouts of European competition, their second managerial sacking of the season and the return of Zinedine Zidane; some impact.

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    Serie A

    After Roma’s incredible semi-final run last season, just two Italian teams escaped the group stages this term – and both were eliminated in disappointing fashion.

    Juventus’ quarter-final defeat to underdogs Ajax resulted in Allegri’s departure, while Roma were unable to navigate a very kind last 16 tie against Porto.

    Still, both performed better than Inter and Napoli – the former failing to beat winless PSV to progress and the latter letting a firm control of Group C slip.

    This season once again demonstrated the huge gulf in quality between Juve (who romped to their eighth successive Scudetto) and the rest of Serie A, as well as the league’s general low quality.

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    Defensive football

    The shortcomings of conservative football were exposed this season, as protecting a lead in this season’s Champions League just didn’t work.

    Ajax's comeback against Real Madrid, Juventus' against Atletico Madrid, Manchester United's against PSG, Tottenham's against Ajax and, of course, Liverpool's against Barcelona, made this the campaign for attacking football and nothing else.

    With an average of over three goals per knockout game, the failures of more defensive coaches, such as Massimiliano Allegri and Diego Simeone, were damning.

    The value of the away goal only encouraged attacking coaches more and helped produce one of the greatest Champions League seasons yet.

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    European Super League plans

    In the background of this season’s Champions League has been the developing idea for a European Super League.

    But the success and excitement generated by smaller clubs on the continent will only have weakened the Super League’s argument.

    PSG and Manchester City, who had disappointing European campaigns, would no doubt be involved in the money-driven project. Meanwhile, teams such as Ajax and Tottenham - responsible for a large portion of this season’s highlights - would not.

    The majority of fans are vehemently against the creation of the Super League - and that resistance has only grown this season.

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    VAR

    While VAR ruffled few feathers at last summer's World Cup, the Champions League has been a different story, as the technology resulted in several controversial decisions.

    Presnel Kimpembe was dubiously punished for handball as Marcus Rashford’s 94th minute penalty eliminated PSG; Roma’s Nicolo Zaniolo was denied a penalty in extra time, moments after Porto were given what would be a tie-winning spot-kick; and Real Madrid’s blushes were spared in Amsterdam as an Ajax goal was ruled out for a debatable foul on Thibaut Courtois.

    With new handball rules coming into play next season, the controversy promises only to grow.

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    PSG

    Thomas Tuchel regularly called out the powers above him for PSG’s lack of depth in midfield, and their failure to listen was damning, with their options so thin centre-back Marquinhos featured in the engine room for the majority of their European outings.

    Neymar’s injury and Adrien Rabiot’s exile only exposed this further, eventually leading to yet another last 16 humiliation at the hands of the sixth best team in England, Manchester United.

    With Kylian Mbappe now hinting he wants to leave, fingers will point largely at sporting director Antero Henrique after the unsurprising collapse of a team so ill-prepared.

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    Sentiment

    There were a number of narratives this season that promised football romantics the success stories they love.

    Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid finally getting their hands on the trophy on home soil before disbanding this summer; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer leading Manchester United to glory on the 20th anniversary of him doing so as a player; or Gianluigi Buffon winning the one thing that has eluded him during his illustrious career.

    In the end, the competition had no room for sentiment. Atletico were torn apart by arch-nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo, Solskjaer’s side were brushed aside by Barcelona and Buffon would make a costly error against Man Utd.

    It’s been an entertaining but ruthless ride.

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    Bundesliga

    This season is the first since 2005-06 that a German team didn’t reach the Champions League quarter-finals.

    It’s a damning statistic, but the manner in which it came about is even more disappointing.

    Borussia Dortmund never turned up for their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Tottenham, Bayern Munich secured a brilliant goalless draw at Anfield only to lose 3-1 at home, and Domenico Tedesco was relieved of his duties after Schalke lost 10-2 to Manchester City.

    Perhaps this season’s exciting Bundesliga title race shows Bayern Munich’s flaws rather than the division’s improvements. 

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    UEFA scheduling

    As many as 10 players who will participate in Saturday’s Champions League final have been called up to the Nations League finals just four days later.

    The Nations League has been a success so far, making international football more entertaining and meaningful.

    But if UEFA want it to continue to be a success, they must avoid another instance of poor scheduling.

    The Netherlands’ clash with England is at risk of missing some big names - with nine of the 10 players representing one of those nations. Given the farce surrounding the Europa League final in Baku, this has not been a good year for UEFA administrators.