If asked to sum up the recent Champions League Round of 16 in just one word, I’d simply say — “Wow!”
We saw a youthful Ajax team dispatch the holders Real Madrid on their home turf with ruthless disdain.
It almost feels as if we’ve had enough excitement for the entire tournament already — yet Friday’s Quarter Finals Draw promised that we’d be in for more.
Here are the fixtures for the UCL Quarter Final Round:
Tuesday 9th April
Wednesday 10th April
- Ajax vs Juventus
- Manchester United vs Barcelona
Tuesday 16th April
- Barcelona vs Manchester United
- Juventus vs Ajax
Wednesday 17th April
- FC Porto vs Liverpool
- Manchester City vs Tottenham
Ajax vs Juventus
This fixture sees the best Ajax team since the generation of 1995 tangle with a fearsome Juventus outfit. Here are the Young Guns versus the Old Lady, a match-up that has football fans purring.
Juventus’ breathtaking 2nd leg win over Atletico Madrid, sparked by a Cristiano Ronaldo hattrick, announced them as contenders for the title. However, Ajax’s 2nd leg showing against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu showed us that they will fear no one as they look to continue their fairytale run in this competition.
Verdict: I’ll back experience over youthful enthusiasm in this one. Juventus to progress after a closely fought tie, by virtue of having the 2nd leg at home.
Fantasy Highlights: Ajax present us with some strong yet affordable options across the park that could return points at affordable prices. Goalkeeper Andre Onana (4.6) will get you save points at least. Nicolas Tagliafico is the game’s top-scoring defender and is a good shout alongside the imperious Matthias De Ligt. In midfield, Hakim Ziyech has oozed quality, with Lasse Schone a decent alternative. Up top, Dusan Tadic dissassembled the Real Madrid defense to bring himself to the forefront as an option.
Let’s start with the mandatory one — Cristiano Ronaldo is a must have for our teams, especially at this stage of the tourney where he can practically smell the trophy. Elsewhere in attack, Paolo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic could be alternatives, in the unlikely event that Ronaldo is suspended for his provocative celebration against Atletico Madrid.
Mirajlem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi are basic options in the midfield, but it’s the Harvard School of Defending that piques our interest. Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Joao Cancelo and Alex Sandro are all worthy mentions in front of Wojceich Szcesney’s goal.
Liverpool vs Porto
This fixture is a repeat of last year’s Round of 16 pairing that Liverpool won comfortably. That match-up saw Liverpool seal the tie in the first leg with a dominating 5-0 home win before playing to a stalemate in Portugal.
On paper, this tie promises more of the same, given Liverpool’s impressive domestic and continental form. However, this plucky Porto team cannot be underestimated. They have technical quality within their ranks and a powerhouse striker up top that could potentially trouble last year’s beaten finalists.
Verdict: I can’t see Porto’s defense withstanding the Pool attack over two legs so I’ll go for Liverpool to advance relatively comfortably.
Fantasy Highlights: Liverpool’s revered front three usually occupy the bulk of attention from UCL Fantasy managers. Sadio Mane is a man in amazing form with seven goals in his last five games, 11 in his last 11. On the flipside, Mo Salah has experienced a precipitous dip in form and looks short on confidence even if his underlying numbers are positive. Roberto Firmino may not be consistent, but he can deliver big game performances.
Elsewhere, James Milner (pk duty) is the standout midfield option. The Liverpool defense is rich in point potential with the marauding wing backs Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold flanking the towering Virgil Van Dijk. All three players boast attacking threat and are solid in defense in front of Allison’s goal.
Porto’s team possesses some great options in the mid-range price bracket — a key factor when we’re trying to balance the books in our UCL Fantasy teams. The experienced Iker Casillas in goal marshals a defense that features the penalty-taking, set piece hogging Alex Telles alongside Real Madrid’s latest defensive recruit Edgar Militao.
In midfield, Yacine Brahimi is probably the best attacking option with the Mexican duo of Hector Herrera and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona worthy of a look. On top, it is the Malian striker Moussa Marega that carries the biggest attacking threat, with Federico “Tiquinho” Soares able to play alongside him or deputise if necessary.
Tottenham vs Manchester City
With four English teams in the Quarter Final round, it was probable that two would meet immediately. Spurs and Manchester City lock horns in an all England clash for a spot in the semis.
Despite their recent domestic struggles, Mauricio Pochettino’s men have performed creditably in the Champions League. Their 4-0 aggregate victory over Borussia Dortmund made a mockery of predictions of a difficult, high scoring tie. Europe looks to be the last remote chance for Spurs to return silverware and guarantee a spot in next year’s tournament, plus Spurs could be buoyed by playing the first leg in their fancy new stadium.
Manchester City steamrolled their way into the Quarters with a merciless 2nd leg 7-0 trouncing of Schalke. Pep Guardiola should be quietly confident for this fixture given that he has enjoyed a consistent domestic success against his EPL rivals.
Verdict: With everything at stake, I expect Spurs to surprise us and make a battle of this. Nevertheless, I’m going for Manchester City to continue their dominance over Spurs across two hard fought ties.
Fantasy Highlights: Spurs prospects begin with the irrepressible Harry Kane on top, upon whose shoulders their chances almost solely rely. Kane carries the bulk of responsibility and has shown that he has the tools in his locker to hurt anyone. Christian Eriksen, Heung Min Son and Delle Alli in midfield possess attacking threat, while Kieran Trippier and Jan Vertonghen are the standout picks in defense in front of Hugo Lloris.
Manchester City are littered with options in attack, starting with the Argentinian hotshot striker Sergio Aguero up front. In the midfield, Raheem Sterling is the clinical option with any of Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne and the Silvas (David and Bernardo) capable of contributing points. Kyle Walker is the most nailed option in defense, but it’s left to be seen if Benjamin Mendy can return from injury to become an outside the box option.
Manchester United vs Barcelona
That Manchester United have arrived here is something of a miracle in itself. An injury plagued, unfancied, Solskjaer-led team knocked three goals past PSG to find themselves a place in the quarters.
Barca on the other hand almost have an automatic spot at this stage. After a goalless first leg, they made light work of Lyon and arrive at this stage in their best form of the season. Surely, another miracle is beyond this fairytale Manchester United team?
Verdict: The dream ends here as Barcelona, and the magical Messi, administer proceedings in this tie.
Fantasy Highlights: Manchester United give us some interesting options to consider. David De Gea is always a great shout for save points at least. Clean sheets might be at a premium here, but Ashley Young and Luke Shaw possess attacking intent. In midfield, Paul Pogba is a man for the occasion and has goals and assists in his locker. Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku are the forward options that will be relied on for goals.
On current form, Lionel Messi is a mandatory pick for our teams. He’s currently in his best moment, underlined by a stunning hattrick against Real Betis in La Liga. No doubt he’ll have an eye on the antics of one Mr. Cristiano Ronaldo in Juventus colors, so he will be inspired to prove himself as the best player in the game.
Luis Suarez has also rediscovered his form and is a strong alternative pick. Elsewhere in midfield, Ivan Rakitic seems the most consistent option with Coutinho out of favor. In defense, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Samuel Umtiti present strong options in front of a very solid goalkeeper in Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
What do you think of the UCL draw? Do you see any must-haves for your team? Which match will you be tuning into when the Quarter Finals get underway? Tell us what you think in the comments below.