Previewing UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals
Champions League is back this week with another round of entertaining fixtures. The heavyweights now find themselves facing a much tougher competition to reach the next stage. Round of 16 showcased exciting football with some defiant underdog performances. Over the next couple of weeks, 8 teams will offer battle it out to move one step closer to the glory. It’s a star-studded lineup across the board and we can’t wait for the games to begin. Let’s look at the individual matchups and pick our probable winners.
Real Madrid vs Liverpool
A replay of the 2018 Champions League Final. These teams have a silverware collection to make any team envious, a total of 19 Champions League titles between them. Real Madrid and Liverpool had comfortable wins in the previous round but the stakes are much higher this time and it isn’t even the Final yet. Yet, one can argue that both the teams are missing their form and consistency at this point. To call this season a struggle for Liverpool would be an understatement. League winners might not qualify for Champions League next season. Real Madrid’s campaign has caught some momentum and Zidane can hope that the international break doesn’t disrupt that.
Both the teams are known for their attacking flair yet haven’t hit their strides this season. Owing to the long list of injuries, Liverpool’s defensive lineup has changed this season more frequently than Taylor Swift’s boyfriends. Madrid has been short in goal-scoring options with only Benzema taking over the reins in the post-Ronaldo era. Sergio Ramos’ injury doesn’t help their cause as well. More so Ramos has missed crucial matches in the last couple of campaigns leading to Madrid’s early departure. This fixture has been anything but mediocre in the past. I would still like to bet on Real Madrid as the defence takes over the attack during this stage of the tournament. They aren’t the usual titans and it will not be a goal-fest unlike the past but will still be a mouth-watering fixture.
Our Pick: Real Madrid
Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund
These two teams would have definitely wished to avoid locking heads at this stage. They have been fighting it so hard to win this tournament and it’s so unfortunate that one of them would need to head back home when the dust settles. Manchester City has turned around their season in some scintillating fashion. They have been utterly dominant, ruthless and inflicting misery on their opponents with just a single loss in the last 33 matches in all competitions. They might be the best team in Europe right now hands down and the league title is all but sealed for City. On the other hand, Dortmund has had another streaky season which has become their trademark in the Bundesliga. Entertaining football at the cost of results.
City has been firing on all cylinders without risking the injury to any star player. This gives them so much advantage heading into this fixture over Dortmund. Dortmund’s only chance- take an early lead. Once City takes control of the possession, they run the ball at their desired pace and choke the opponents. Historically, Pep’s team has struggled in the past while trailing with erratic tactics and defensive woes. Haaland has been a revelation this season setting new records for his age. He has caught the attention of teams and managers across Europe. It will become that much more difficult for Dortmund to hold on to him if he scores and takes his team through. Manchester City is the favourite to win this one based on the overall team strength.
Our Pick: Manchester City
FC Porto vs Chelsea
No one gave these teams a fighting chance but UCL reminds you every now and then of such stories. Porto and Chelsea knocked out heavy favourites in the previous round to book a place in the last 8. Chelsea’s campaign has turned around for the better since the appointment of Thomas Tuchel. Chelsea somehow has rediscovered their mojo by becoming a strong defensive team, their speciality during all their glorious years. The way they held Atletico goalless in both the legs was beyond a surprise to everyone. They have been the second-best team in terms of clean sheets and goals conceded per match in this competition so far.
Porto had their share of drama in the victory over Juventus. Their defence caused enough problems for Juventus and we can expect similar resilience in this fixture as well. With the least expectations heading into this match, they truly are playing with the house money. This is another fixture of like-minded teams. Champions League knockout stages are all about characters and Porto seems to a bit short in that department. This might be a blessing in disguise for both the teams as they would have looked to avoid the other teams on paper. Porto might have another surprise in their repository but for now, Chelsea seems favourite to move to the next round.
Our Pick: Chelsea
Bayern Munich vs Paris Saint Germain
A replay of last year’s final. Bayern Munich has completed The Sextuple since then and is still a formidable threat. They are a complete team and match up with City in terms of ideal players at every position. Bayern is a team that will open floodgates at the other end and simultaneously stronghold their own end. They have arguably the best goalkeeper of the present crop and the world’s deadliest striker on the other hand. PSG showed great signs in their victory against Barcelona. They look as prepared as they could this season and their superstar duo upfront will definitely have their say this time.
The success or failure of Bayern and PSG’s season cannot be determined by league titles. Simply because it’s redundant. More so, these leagues have become so predictable and non-competitive that the only way to check their team’s strength is Champions League success. This fixture is different from the Final as it will be played over two legs. PSG hasn’t shown yet if they can take care of the business against great teams over two matches. They usually lose sight of the goal after the first victory to lose the overall fixture. They have an added advantage with Lewandowski’s absence and Neymar’s return in the first leg. Bayern Munich remains the favourite for this matchup but PSG will surely have something to say about it.
Our Pick: Bayern Munich
Quarter-Finals start this Tuesday and as usual, you will not be disappointed!