The quarterfinals are set and the remaining eight teams can begin to dream of Champions League glory. The first legs will be played on April 3/4 with the decisive reverse fixtures coming on April 10/11. The top clubs continue to dominate the tournament as there were few surprise results in the Round of 16. But the real drama will unfold in the coming weeks as the European giants clash.
Round of 16 Recap
Established Clubs Advance to Quarterfinals
The past decade of the Champions League has been dominated by the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus. Quarterfinal appearances for these clubs seem to be as certain as death and taxes. These established heavyweights have won seven titles in the past 10 years. While Juventus has not lifted a trophy, they have advanced to two recent finals. A case can be made for Chelsea and Man United to be in the conversation, as Chelsea lifted the trophy in the 2011/12 campaign and Manchester United beat Chelsea in the 2007/08 finals, but an inconsistent Chelsea side was not expected to get past Barcelona and this is certainly not Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
PSG and Tottenham both came into their respective ties expecting to advance but found that Real Madrid and Juventus possess certain intangibles that enable them to continue their dominance. PSG failed on the coveted big stage with Real Madrid ruthlessly brushing them aside. Neymar’s absence in the second leg proved to be a critical blow to the French side.
While PSG have compiled their squad through various record-breaking signings, Spurs have put their team together methodically, striking a balance between homegrown talent and value signings. While Spurs continue to impress on the European stage, they could not take the next step and will be gutted not to advance after being in complete control of their destiny.
Manchester United grabbed headlines for their uninspiring performance against Sevilla over two-legs. Yet again, the tactics of Jose Mourinho came into question, as his team was extremely defensive and predictable in attack.
Mourinho’s quote from 2009 when he managed Porto to victory over United has not aged well; “I understand why Ferguson is a bit emotional. He has some top players in the world and they should be doing a lot better than that...You would be really sad if your team gets as clearly dominated as that by an opponent who has been built on maybe ten per cent of the budget.”
But Sevilla deserve credit. If it weren’t for the heroics of David de Gea in the first match, this tie might have been over in Spain. Super-sub Wissam Ben Yedder came on to score two decisive away goals. While they’ve proved that they deserve Champions League respect, most of the remaining clubs would welcome Sevilla as a quarterfinal opponent; they currently sit 6th in La Liga with a minus seven goal differential and they conceded the most goals in the Champions League group stage. Sevilla will test Bayern Munich’s ability to grind out a result over 180 minutes (or more), but Bayern supporters will have confidence in their team’s ability to score goals when they feel like it.
The tie between Tottenham and Juventus was the most entertaining matchup of the Round of 16. After a dominating Juventus 2-0 lead had Tottenham on the ropes, Spurs battled back to an impressive 2-2 away draw. The away goal advantage had Spurs believing they could advance to their first quarterfinal since 2011 as they hosted the Old Lady at Wembley.
But the Italians simply know how to win in this tournament. While Spurs were largely the better team for 160 minutes, Juventus relied on defensive experience - anchored by the immortal 40-year-old goalkeeper - and moments of magic from their star players, Higuain and Dybala. Only a goal line clearance from a Harry Kane header in stoppage time prevented this tie from going to extra time.
Premier League Giants Collide and a Rematch of Last Year's Final
The Premier-League clash between Manchester City and Liverpool will receive the most attention. While three English teams crashed out in the Round of 16, Man City and Liverpool cruised to the quarterfinals. Man City will continue to be favorites, but Liverpool is the only team to beat City in the Premier League this season. This tie will showcase two of the best attacking clubs and two of the most respected managers in Europe as Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp go head-to-head.
Familiar foes, Real Madrid and Juventus, will once again face off in the Champions League knockout rounds. Both teams have had somewhat mixed results this season by their sky-high standards. But they’ve both turned it around of late with Juventus now sitting top of Serie A and Madrid hitting their stride at the right time, most recently with their dominance over PSG in the Champions League, and the six goals they put up against a Girona side that beat them last fall. Massimiliano Allegri and Zinedine Zidane have their players firing on all cylinders right now, which will make for two must-watch quarterfinal matches.
Barcelona will continue on their journey for a treble as they welcome Roma to the Nou Camp in the first leg while Bayern Munich will travel to Sevilla. Roma and Sevilla have earned their place in the Champions League quarterfinals, but nothing so far has indicated that either side will give too much trouble to their respective Spanish and German opponents. This is the Champions League after all, where the super clubs dictate the storylines. Right?
Fixtures and Predictions:
Juventus v. Real Madrid
Prediction: Juventus (3-3 aggregate)
Leg 1: April 3rd, Juventus Stadium
Leg 2: April 11th, Santiago Bernabeu
Sevilla FC v. Bayern Munich
Prediction: Bayern Munich (5-1 agg.)
Leg 1: April 3rd, Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium
Leg 2: April 11th, Allianz Arena
Liverpool v. Manchester City
Prediction: Manchester City (4-3 agg.)
Leg 1: April 4th, Anfield
Leg 2: April 10th, Etihad Stadium
Barcelona v. Roma
Prediction: Barcelona (7-2 agg.)
Leg 1: April 4th, Camp Nou
Leg 2: April 10th, Stadio Olimpico
Author: Mike Daly