The most decorated and prestigious club-football tournament has reached the quarterfinal stage. What does this mean? Rather simple: Being in an elite group, and just five games away from almost life-long glory. Thousands of players are just dreaming of standing on the pitch while listening to the legendary anthem. The quarterfinalists are now determined to grab the Champion Clubs’ Cup.
Just as a refresher, here are the fixtures for the 1st leg:
Tuesday 3rd April, 2018
Wednesday 4th April, 2018
Pretty solid company, right? You can’t predict the end result in any pair, you can only make a guess and hope. With this in mind, here are my observations for each of the pairs:
Juventus v. Real Madrid
They say that the 2nd leg home game is an advantage. I can’t disagree, thinking this may play the crucial role this year. Madrid’s home form is frightening, with Paris Saint-Germain the latest casualties. Madrid can score brilliant goals, but they can concede rather lame scores too. There are no major injuries in the Madrid camp (besides Nacho, who wasn’t expected to start anyway), so I would say it is all in Real Madrid’s hands, or rather legs.
Juventus has been hot and cold this season. The Old Lady has an extremely talented and deep squad, but it has a tendency of not showing its true potential, even while continuing to win domestic Seria A games with 1:0 scorelines. Juve taught Tottenham a masterful and painful lesson in the previous round, but was vulnerable in both games. Can they repeat the trick? My bet is no, but Madrid would greatly appreciate an away goal to help settle nerves in the 2nd leg.
Sevilla v. Bayern Munich
This looks easy on paper; Bayern are the obvious favorites, but is that really so? Sevilla knocked out Manchester United, showing solid defensive displays in both games, plus a lightning counter-attacking style at Old Trafford. They almost defeated Barcelona in La Liga over the weekend, with only Lionel Messi’s introduction turning things around and ending in a draw. Sevilla are capable of a surprise.
Bayern are cruising to the next Bundesliga title, humiliating Borussia Dortmund over the weekend (check the highlights, if you haven’t yet). They also humbled Besiktas in the previous round of Champions League (8:1 on aggregate). I can’t see them slipping in this pair, but I expect Sevilla to at least bring a competitive result back to Germany in eight days.
Liverpool v. Manchester City
Two most entertaining English teams will unfortunately face each other. There are many fascinating duels to expect, but I see the most crucial one happening in defense. Both teams are literally scoring for fun, but clean sheets don’t come easily for either of them. City’s backline holds more experience and carries the heavier price tag. It is protected in deep-midfield by the versatile, hard-working Fernandinho, while Premier League’s second best (at least in my view) keeper Ederson covers the goal as a “sweeper”.
Liverpool, at the other end, have a shaky Loris Karius and the fun-maker Dejan Lovren. They also just lost Joel Matip until next season. If the midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum can do their best to patrol the center of the pitch in both legs of this round, Liverpool will stand a chance. Yes, they will score, but Manchester City will score more. I won’t rely on the only meeting these two had this season (5:0 at the Etihad after Sadio Mane horror tackle on Ederson), but it obviously sends a message. Otherwise, it’s all Manchester City and their psychology for me.
Barcelona v. Roma
On paper, this looks as straight-forward as a Champions League quarter-final pair possibly could. But the game sometimes surprises, and that is the only possible chance that Roma has. If they overwhelm Barcelona with their high pressing, and if Radja Nainggolan can keep Lionel Messi at bay at Camp Nou, we may see a surprise semifinalist emerge on April 10, when these two meet in the eternal city of Rome. Roma have already sensed blood against big boys this season, in group stages versus Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, and in the previous knock-out round versus a stubborn Shakhtar Donetsk.
Alternatively, Barca will hit three or four goals in the first half tomorrow and bench Messi while in Rome. What’s your guess?
Those were my thoughts on the upcoming games. Now it is time to get your cold beer opened, enjoy the games and chat with us and other fans of the beautiful game of football below about these questions:
Do Roma and Sevilla hold a chance of surprising the mighty favorites Barcelona and Bayern? Will Juventus keep Buffon’s dream of winning the Champions League alive after the 1st leg? Who will rule the game in England: Kevin de Bruyne or Mo Salah?
Enjoy and thanks for reading us!