The UCL Champions League Quarterfinals kick off today, with four top-class matches on the menu this week.
“When you get to the Quarterfinal stage, you can begin to dream of winning it all!” It’s an often repeated mantra, but it holds true. We can have a look at the form book, the injuries, and the squads — but the truth is that at this stage, it’s anyone’s guess who will win it all.
Tuesday 9 April
Liverpool are at home against Porto in a repeat of last season’s round of 16 tie. Kop fans will have fond memories of the last match-up between the two teams, with Pool closing out the tie easily in the first leg with a 5-0 victory. However, Porto are a plucky outfit and boast star quality within their ranks. They have more than enough to trouble the odds-on favorites in this tie.
Porto arrive at this stage unbeaten in their last six games. Live wire Mexican midfielder Hector Herrera and Pepe are suspended, and Alex Telles is doubtful with a hip injury. Nevertheless, they possess strong attacking threat with the in-form Federico “Tiquinho” Soares set to partner Moussa Marega in front. Yacine Brahimi, Otavio and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona are all capable of scoring.
Liverpool also arrive here in a strong run of domestic form with an EPL title run pegged on a run of consecutive wins. They have a huge hole to fill in defense, with the superb Andy Robertson out through suspension. It’s left to be seen whether Jurgen Klopp will trust the unfancied Alberto Moreno, or turns to a utility player like James Milner to deputize at left back. As always, the attack will be led by the front trio — Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah.
Elsewhere, Tottenham welcome Manchester City to their spanking new stadium. Pep Guardiola’s men have enjoyed dominance over their EPL rivals for as far back as I can remember, but this game could buck that trend. City have to contend with the effects of fatigue as they are still in four competitions, so their squad is stretched to the limit. Spurs on the other hand have had six days of rest since their last match (as opposed to three for City), and may be bolstered by their new home ground.
Spurs should sport a full strength lineup for this match. Much of the burden falls on the shoulders of Harry Kane who has been involved in 17 goals in 17 Champions League appearances (14 goals, three assists). Otherwise, Heung-Min Son, Delle Alli and Christian Eriksen will all be pumped up for this one. The UCL is Spurs’ last chance for silverware this season.
The Citizens have injury doubts over Sergio “Kun” Aguero and Kyle Walker. It’s also left to be seen if Benjamin Mendy will make a surprise return to the lineup. Pep Guardiola will face the unenviable task of rotating his squad over the 2 legs, around a white hot EPL title race.
Wednesday 10 April
Ajax vs Juventus
Everybody will be tuned into this one to see if the young guns of Ajax can repeat the trick against a battle hardened Juventus team. An impressive victory over Real Madrid in the Round of 16 left tongues wagging, but the Old Lady is a different kettle of fish altogether.
Ajax are at full strength with only the suspended right-back Noussair Mazraoui out of this one. Dusan Tadic will spearhead the attack ahead of a technically proficient midfield featuring Frenkie De Jong, Hachim Ziyech and Lasse Schone. Argentine full back Nicolas Tagliafico, Dutch hardman Matthias De Ligt and veteran defender Daley Blind are the ones to watch in defense.
Cristiano Ronaldo dragged Juve back from the brink of elimination with a match-winning hattrick against Atletico Madrid in the last round. However, he is doubtful for this one with a thigh injury, even though manager Max Allegri has been positive about his participation. Giorgio Chiellini is also out with a calf injury clearing the way for Daniel Rugani to deputize.
If CR7 doesn’t make it, expect target man Mario Mandzukic to deputize up top in front of a solid and organized Juventus team.
Barcelona vs Manchester United has given us so many memorable matches over the last two decades, and this could be another classic in the making.
The Manchester United joyride arrives at its biggest roadblock since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment. Barcelona are rounding into top form, with Luis Suarez in good nick and Lionel Messi looking like a man possessed over the last few weeks. On paper, this tie looks in favor of Barcelona, but anything can happen.
United have a number of injury doubts ahead of this match, with Marcus Rashford, Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera all struggling with injuries. Paul Pogba will be heavily relied on to impose his quality on this contest, and Solskjaer will likely rely on organization and a strong counterattack to support Romelu Lukaku up front.
Barcelona have only Ousmane Dembele as an injury doubt; otherwise they are at full strength. They are expected to have most of the ball (as they usually do), with Suarez and Messi the main focal points in attack. Ernesto Valverde’s men will be keen to get a positive result to take back to the Camp Nou.
Which match(es) will you watch? Have you revamped your team? Who’s your captain? Whom do you think will advance to the next round? Please join us in the comments as all of the exciting action unfolds!