After a rip-roaring round of 16, the line-up for the Champions League quarterfinals was confirmed this morning.
Given the quality of the teams remaining in the competition, we always knew we were going to be in store for some more sensational ties in the last eight. But with the draw finalized, supporters can start gearing up for the big games whilst the managers and players can start plotting how they’re going to get their hands “Ol’ Big Ears” in Lisbon on Saturday, May 24.
Here we’ve taken a look at each of the quarterfinal ties and try to predict who’ll make it into the semifinal stage.
Disagree!? I’m sure you do, feel free to leave your comments below and let us know who you think will progress from each of the four double-headers…
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid
The first two names out the hat formed an all-Spanish tie of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and this clash certainly has the potential to be the tie of the round.
The blaugrana have been a little unconvincing as of late and resultantly, you’d think Atletico might fancy their chances in this one. Diego Simeone’s side are set up perfectly from a stylistic point of view to play against Barcelona. They’ll be aggressive and relentless in their pressing, hoping to give Tata Martino’s side as little time on the ball as possible and prevent Barca from establishing that dangerous passing carousel.
This all-action off the ball mantra worked well when these two met in La Liga earlier in the campaign, but whilst Atleti were able to nudge Barca out of their stride, they were unable to create all too many clear-cut opportunities for themselves, the game finishing in a 0-0 draw. They’ll need Diego Costa to continue his remarkable run of form in this competition—which has seen him net seven goals in five outings per Who Scored?—if they are to progress.
If Atletico can restrict passes coming into the feet of Lionel Messi, something that they should be able to do better than any other side in the competition, then they have a brilliant chance of knocking out the four time champions. Simeone must make sure his Colchoneros side are still in the tie after the first leg at the Nou Camp, then a raucous Vicente Calderon crowd can potentially roar them on to victory.
From a tactical perspective, Atleti are one of the worst teams Barcelona could have drawn in the last eight. Messi could weave his magic and drag Barca through, but I’m going for the Madrid side to progress into the last four.
Verdict: Atletico Madrid
Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund
After locking horns four times in last season’s competition, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund will do battle another two times in this season’s competition. Not that we’re sick of the two meeting, of course, for last season they produced some sensational contests, most notably Dortmund’s 4-1 win over Los Blancos in the first leg of the semifinal tie. But just shy of a year on, things are a fair bit different for both sides.
The man who scored the four goals for BVB in that remarkable aforementioned game was Robert Lewandowski, but he’ll miss the first leg at the Bernabeu due to suspension. As a whole, Dortmund have struggled for form and consistency this campaign, with a cacophony of injuries derailing their Bundesliga season pretty early on. Jurgen Klopp has been unable to field a settled XI for pretty much the entire campaign and that’s manifested into uncharacteristically lax performances from last season’s runners-up.
Things couldn’t be more different for the nine-time champions from Madrid, as they’ve moved through the gears in 2014 under Carlo Ancelotti. Their 9-2 aggregate dismantling of Dortmund’s Ruhr rivals FC Schalke 04 in the previous round was an empathic indicator of the Champions League credentials. They’re a thoroughly ruthless outfit and they’ll be looking to take advantage of a much weaker Dortmund team than the side they faced last season.
It’d take something special for Madrid to go out here. Dortmund do harbour an attacking threat through the likes of Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but in a straight shootout with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, there’s only going to be one winner over the two legs. Madrid will take another step towards the much coveted ‘decima’, their tenth European crown.
Verdict: Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Chelsea
After both sides made it through the group stages and the round of 16 with consummate ease, this will be the first big test for both in this season’s competition. On paper, this tie more than any looks to be the most evenly matched of the four.
And it’s easy to see why, with both teams bristling with quality in pretty much every position on the pitch. Chelsea will travel to Paris for the first leg where they’ll be tasked with halting the formidable attacking triumvirate of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi. But the Parisians aren’t all about their offensive prowess; Laurent Blanc has struck an excellent blend in midfield, they have a fine goalkeeper in Salvatore Sirigu and in Thiago Silva, they are in possession of arguably the best central defender on the planet.
But Jose Mourinho has been faced with attacking talent akin to Zlatan and Co. before, and on plenty of occasion, he’s found a way to ease his side through. Given the manner in which the Portuguese has set his side up away from home against the more illustrious Premier League sides this year, you suspect he’ll to Paris to be compact, to be diligent and to still be in the tie when the sides meet in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
PSG are a team that have looked assured, exciting and battle-hardened whenever I’ve watched them this season. They can match Chelsea’s solidity and that’s when the likes of Zlatan and Cavani can swing the this tie in the Parisians favour. Expect an exceptionally tight couple of games, though.
Verdict: Paris Saint-Germain (Just!)
Manchester United vs. Bayern Munich
Could things have gone any worse for United in the draw for the last eight? After marching into the quarterfinals following a sterling second leg turnaround against Olympiakos, they would have been hoping to avoid Europe’s very, very best sides. But they drew Bayern Munich, with the second-leg in Germany nonetheless. Not the ideal draw to say the very least.
The reigning European champions can win the Bundesliga title this weekend, and even if they don’t, they should have it sewn up before they make the trip to Old Trafford. That means Pep Guardiola and this crop of marvellous players can focus fully on the task in hand, and that certainly doesn’t bode well for David Moyes and his team.
United might take some heart from the performances of Arsenal and Manchester City in the Allianz Arena, where the two picked up a 1-1 draw and 3-2 win respectively. But you suspect that as the competition draws to a close, Bayern will not lose focus like they did in those aforementioned encounters. Anyway, could even the most ardent of Red Devils supporters claim their team have been as good as either City or Arsenal at any point during this season?
There’s only going to be one winner here. United would have to raise their game to unprecedented levels if they are to get close to this remarkable Bayern team. Even if David Moyes can extract this team’s two best performances of the season, Bayern’s class will show over the two legs.
Verdict: Bayern Munich
They’re my picks for the quarterfinals, but who do you think will progress into the last four? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter @MattJFootball