Birthday boys shine in Paris as Road to Cardiff returns with goals aplenty
Cardiff 2017
16 February 2017

Birthday boys shine in Paris as Road to Cardiff returns with goals aplenty

It was a proud day in the countdown to the 2017 Final, as the official adidas ‘Final Cardiff 2017’ match ball was used across Europe for the first time. 

There was no shortage of goals in the UEFA Champions League this week as Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich both moved a significant step closer to the #Cardiff2017 final.

A brace from Angel Di Maria on his 29th birthday on Tuesday night helped shape an incredible result at the Parc des Princes as Paris Saint-Germain stormed to a comprehensive 4-0 victory over 2015 winners Barcelona. Despite the presence of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, Luis Enrique's side were simply no match for the dominant hosts. Edinson Cavani celebrated his 30th birthday with a goal for Unai Emery's side while Julian Draxler also found himself on the scoresheet. Emery was manager of Sevilla when they played in Cardiff back in 2014 in the UEFA Super Cup, and would relish a return to the Welsh capital. Domestically,  Paris Saint-Germain sit behind Monaco at the top of the Ligue 1 table, and like Barcelona boast a wealth of attacking talent in their squad. Cavani and Di Maria were also on target for the French champions at the weekend as they claimed a comfortable 3-0 victory over Bordeaux.

Meanwhile, a solitary goal from Kostas Mitroglou was enough for Benfica to claim a memorable 1-0 win over 1997 winners and 2013 finalists Borussia Dortmund in Portugal on Tuesday. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw his penalty saved to deny the visitors taking anything from the match to make it a bad week for manager highly-rated coach Thomas Tuchel as his side suffered a surprise 2-1 defeat to bottom of the table Darmstadt 98 in the Bundesliga last weekend. Benfica currently lead the Portuguese Primeira Ligo by a single point ahead of rivals FC Porto as they look to retain their title, but could only finish in second place behind Napoli in their UEFA Champions League group.

The action continued on Wednesday as Arsene Wenger's Arsenal headed to Germany to take on 2013 winners Bayern Munich, but were comprehensively defeated 5-1 as Carlo Ancelotti's side stormed to victory. Thiago Alcantara helped himself to a brace in the rout with Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller all adding their names to the scoresheet. Alexis Sanchez replied for the visitors but the Gunners will have it all to do in the return match. Wales star Aaron Ramsey has found himself on the sidelines in recent weeks having suffered a calf strain, and as a result played no part in the match. Bayern currently sit at the top of the Bundesliga that they so regularly dominate, but left it late last weekend as they claimed a 2-0 win over FC Ingolstadt thanks to injury-time goals from Arturo Vidal and Robben.

The action was completed on Wednesday night as holders Real Madrid took another step towards beocming the first club to retain the trophy in its current guise. Goals from Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Casemiro proved too much for Napoli at the Santiago Bernabeu, although Lorenzo Insigne did give the visitors hope in the 3-1 victory. Wales star Gareth Bale remains on the Real Madrid injury list, but manager Zinedine Zidane believes he is just a couple of weeks away from returning to action, and could feature in the return match in Naples. The news will of course be a timely boost for Wales manager Chris Coleman ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin next month. Bale has been out of action since suffering ankle tendon damage in November against Sporting Lisbon in the UEFA Champions League. 

The UEFA Champions League final takes place in Cardiff on 3rd June #Cardiff2017