Had Daniel Levy given Andre Villas-Boas the striker and midfielder he needed last summer, then Spurs would surely have finished above Arsenal. This was a predictable collapse...
The events of the past week have set up an exciting summer in the Premier League, but first, will Spurs leave it late on the final day? And Benitez deserves lots of credit...
Sir Alex Ferguson's game plan almost earned Manchester United an unlikely away victory against Real Madrid but the Reds, and Robin van Persie in particular, squandered several chances to regain the lead in the second half.
While it would have taken an extraordinary result to kill the tie and prevent any possibility of a Real comeback in the second leg, United may be left to rue their failure to snatch a second away goal. A hard-earned 1-1 draw is undoubtedly an excellent result, but Real were not at their best in the Santiago Bernabeu and there was a feeling at the end of the night that United should have punished their opponents with the opportunities they created on the break.
But United may also reflect that they were fortunate to hold on in a first 45 minutes that became increasingly difficult as Real turned up the pressure following Cristiano Ronaldo's equaliser. "The disappointing thing for me was that in the first half we sat off them," said Ferguson. "They got a lot of play on the edge of our box. It's not healthy that. It's not good to watch and it was unlike us."
I wrote about the manager's need to re-think his plan for Ronaldo here, and the Portuguese was a constant menace before his permanent switch to the right in the second half. Rafael in particular struggled to cope with Ronaldo's presence and the defence were beaten by the forward's skill and movement on several occasions as Real threatened to score again as the first half wore on.
Along with Rafael, Wayne Rooney also struggled to stand up to the challenge of United's 'acid test' in a rather unfamiliar role on the right. The England international was often caught in a middle ground between supporting Rafael against the threats of Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria and Fabio Coentrao, and joining in the attack when United broke at speed. It seemed Rooney's main responsibility was to look for long diagonal balls to release Danny Welbeck or Robin van Persie, but this quarter-back role was a somewhat limited use of his skills.
There were other United players who excelled, however, with David De Gea (more on him later) chief among them. The goalkeeper made several crucial saves to deny the hosts in a frantic second half, while Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans all gave excellent performances to highlight the backbone that has seen the Reds pick up more points than ever before at this stage of the season in Premier League.
Evans has come a long way from United's 3-2 victory over AC Milan at the San Siro in February 2010, when Ferguson tore a strip off the centre-back for his lack of focus. On Wednesday the 25-year-old was arguably United's most reliable player and in the second half both he and Rio Ferdinand were responsible for suffocating the space in the penalty area to limit Real's clear-cut chances.
In front of the defence the partnership of Jones and Carrick continued to blossom. The former wasn't quite assigned a man-marking task on Ronaldo - perhaps simply because such a duty is almost impossible - but he was crucial in tracking the forward's runs between the lines. It was notable that Jones' presence to the left of Rafael prevented Ronaldo from cutting inside and shooting on his stronger foot in the first half and the Portuguese was forced to run directly at the full-back, from which he still gained several good positions for Real.
I wrote here that Ferguson may focus on limiting the supply to Ronaldo in the second leg - a tactic advocated by Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp - and the manager revealed that was his intention as he tweaked United's shape in the second half. "We changed it around after the break and put Danny Welbeck up top on (Xabi) Alonso and that made a great difference," said Ferguson.
Indeed, the manager seemed to enjoy his tactical game of chess with Jose Mourinho and his team were far better prepared and had a much more convincing game plan than in United's last two fixtures of similar importance against Manchester City at the Etihad last season and Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League final. While Ferguson's approach against City was characterised by caution and negativity, at the Bernabeu United were set up find Real's jugular on the counter, which they did to great effect as the game progressed.
Not only did United secure an excellent result through a largely solid performance, but Ferguson will also have benefited from his 90-minute lesson in Real's style and approach. Of course, United will have carried out detailed scouting missions before the tie, but nothing can substitute for the actual experience of facing an opponent and on Wednesday the manager both learned on the job and succeeded.
"It's very open. I think we'll score at Old Trafford but we know they are going to be a tremendous counter-attacking team so we've got a big job on our hands," said Ferguson in his post-match interview. "But it's definitely within our grasp."
Similar to United's exit to Bayern Munich in 2010 - when they lost the first leg 2-1 but surged into a 3-0 lead at Old Trafford before allowing their opponents to score twice - this tie will go right to the wire. It's impossible to be comfortable against a team as talented as Real Madrid, but United have given themselves a good chance of progression and they must be prepared to assert their advantage when the two teams reconvene on March 5.
David De Gea
It was an excellent night for De Gea on the sort of occasion in which he often excels. Rather than launching high balls into the box - a tactic the keeper often struggles against - Real's intention was to cut the ball back along the ground or create space to shoot around the edge of the box. This approach was perfectly suited to getting the best out of De Gea, who made a string of fantastic saves to deny the hosts and maintain United's advantage in the tie.
"De Gea was excellent," said Ferguson. "He made three or four top saves. He has been improving all season.
"There was one save in the first half which he touched onto the post (from Coentrao) which was superb."
Gary Neville claimed De Gea had "no right" to save Coentrao's curling shot that was destined for the far corner and the keeper answered his recent critics with an inspired display. Obviously there are still areas in which De Gea must improve, but after his brilliant performance it's easy to see why Ferguson has retained his faith in the keeper.
The Italian champions benefited from some particularly poor Celtic defending to effectively secure their place in the quarter-finals and remain one of only four unbeaten teams in this year's competition.
Although the second leg is now a mere formality, Juventus worked hard for their convincing victory at Celtic Park against a team that had already beaten Barcelona at home earlier in the competition. Gianluigi Buffon made seven saves to maintain the advantage gained through Alessandro Matri's early strike and Juve remained patient and disciplined before two swift counter-attacks killed the tie in the final 15 minutes.
The return match is unlikely to provide any problems for Juventus and they may even choose to rest players in order to focus on increasing their five-point lead at the top of Serie A. It isn't often that teams find themselves in such a position of luxury in the Champions League.
PSG's 2-1 victory away to Valencia was bittersweet for Carlo Ancelotti considering his team should have been out of sight before Adil Rami's goal and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's red card gave Los Che hope ahead of the second leg.
Despite ceding the vast majority of possession to Valencia, PSG were a constant danger on the counter-attack, with Ezequiel 'El Pocho' Lavezzi and Lucas Moura providing a convincing threat on the right of a narrow 4-2-2-2 formation.
PSG's heavy investment in their squad is starting to show and they had won 12 and drawn one of their previous 13 fixtures before the first leg match against Valencia. The team's confidence and organisation was evident, as the front four of Lavezzi, Ibrahimovic, Moura and Javier Pastore repeatedly stretched the hosts, with Marco Verratti linking defence and attack and the ever-impressive Blaise Matuidi imposing his authority in midfield.
There was an element of complacency to the performance, however, and Ancelotti will be worried with the way his team increasingly sat back and encouraged Valencia to attack as the second half progressed. Nelson Valdez wasted an excellent chance to halve the deficit with 15 minutes remaining before PSG imploded in injury time. First, Rami was allowed a free header to pull a goal back, and then Ibrahimovic's reckless challenge earned the striker a red card which ensures he misses the return match at the Parc des Princes.
It was perhaps a harsh decision to dismiss Ibrahimovic, but there was certainly a hint of malice in his tackle and the forward winced in anticipation of the red card after realising his misjudgment.
Considering PSG have kept eight clean sheets in their last 13 matches, with keeper Salvatore Sirigu gaining the record for the most minutes without conceding a goal in Ligue 1, PSG should be capable of maintaining their advantage in the second leg. But Ancelotti will hope his team's late lapses don't prove costly.
Despite having a quiet evening for Brazil in their defeat to England last week, Moura starred in his first Champions League appearance and provided a superb assist for Pastore's crucial second goal.
There was a stark contrast between Moura's display and Antonio Valencia's poor substitute appearance for Manchester United on Wednesday and Sir Alex Ferguson may still regret his failed pursuit of the winger last year. Although Moura was replaced in the second half, he dazzled in his 53 minutes on the pitch and completed more successful dribbles than any other player throughout the game.
After reportedly offering £25million for the 20-year-old in the summer, United may be left to rue the one that got away.
There are few things in football more satisfying than a late equaliser in a huge Champions League tie and Mats Hummels 87th-minute header earned Dortmund a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Shakhtar before a mouth-watering return match on March 5.
Dortmund are among the favourites in this year's competition and the resilience they displayed at the Donbass Arena underlined their belief as they fought back twice to snatch a draw. The Bundesliga champions were unable to play with the fluency they normally exhibit, but they will surely be confident of beating Shakhtar at home to progress to the quarter-finals.
Although Dortmund are a formidable attacking force, they have kept only two clean sheets away from home in the league and Champions League all season. This may give some confidence to their opponents should they reach the next round.
A superb "Michael Jordan-esque" header (according to Gary Neville).
After 70 days since their last competitive match (a 1-0 defeat to Juventus on December 5) and with influential playmaker Willian sold to Anzhi Makhachkala, it was always going to be difficult for Shakhtar to raise their game against Dortmund. But after twice taking the lead at home, coach Mircea Lucescu will be disappointed that his team failed to hold onto their advantage.
A foolish error of judgement that could prove costly if PSG need to score in the second leg against Valencia.
An insipid first hour should have rubber-stamped their exit from the competition, but PSG's meltdown has given them hope of an unlikely turnaround in the second leg.
Although Mourinho is confident Real Madrid can still reach the quarter-finals, the team's failure to beat United at home is another nail in the manager's coffin at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Champions League is Mourinho's last hope of a worthy achievement this season before what seems an inevitable departure in the summer. And if Real end up potless, it would blemish the manager's CV and also leave him with a nagging frustration over his own failure.
"It was not a surprise the match or the result," said Mourinho on Wednesday. "I think it was basically what I was waiting for which was everything open, very open for the second leg. I think this will go to the last minute."
If Real Madrid fail to recover the tie on March 5, it will surely spell an immediate end to Mourinho's tenure.
There is no shame in not being as good as a Juventus team that have lost only four of their 36 matches this season, but the patronising acclaim for another 'brave' Celtic performance is growing rather tiresome. Celtic weren't brave or gutsy against Juventus, they were simply a mediocre team that were eventually and predictably outclassed.
That is not to dismiss their achievements up to this point, and if anything the faint praise given to the Glasgow Braves serves only to undermine their accomplishments. To progress from a group that featured Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow was beyond all expectations and not only do Celtic have the famous win over Barcelona to savour, but the club's coffers have also been boosted by the unexpected extra Champions League prize money.
The Juventus tie was plainly a step too far for Celtic and despite creating the better chances, they couldn't find a way past Buffon while leaving themselves criminally exposed at the back to allow the visitors to put the tie to bed.
As I've said before in Champions League Winners and Losers, Neil Lennon has made several astute tactical decisions in the competition to oversee Celtic's progression to the last 16. However, it was mistake to recall Efe Ambrose when the defender had so little time to recover from his Africa Cup of Nations exploits with Nigeria. As well as making a number of crucial errors in defence, Ambrose missed Celtic's best chance of the night and his weak header that bounced safely into Buffon's hands summed up the hosts' impotent attacking threat.
Celtic may also regret their decision to reject Norwich's £7million offer for Gary Hooper - who failed to have a single shot against Juventus - and it's unlikely they'll receive a similar bid for the forward in the summer. It may not interest the club to sell Hooper, but it was still a gamble to hold onto him despite an offer that already exceeded his true value.
"Look, the manager picked him (Efe Ambrose). The manager pulled him to one side and asked him if he was feeling okay. He said he was feeling brilliant.
"If he wasn't feeling okay then he should have said so. If he felt good then he should have put in a better performance."
It's always good to see teammates stick up for each other.
Two errors for PSG's two goals and several other hairy moments on a night to forget for Valencia's keeper.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.