As the Champions League round-of-16 comes to a close, spectators and pundits will be bored until the April quarterfinals commence on April 14, 2015. Fortunately for us, the quarterfinal draw was revealed early Friday morning, so we can still speculate to pass by the time.
Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid
Real Madrid was pinpointed as a favourite early in the season, but lately they’ve been on a lowly streak that looked particularly alarming when Cristiano Ronaldo had to save the former champions against Schalke, currently 5th in Bundesliga. Meanwhile, Atletico scraped by Bayer Leverkusen in a heartbreaking shootout but they’ve been struggling to score goals in recent months. Last time they met in the Champions League just happened to be last year’s final, as Real equalized at the death to take it to overtime and put 3 past Atletico. Since that day, though, Real and Atletico have played six times in domestic competition, with Atletico winning 5 and drawing 1.
Players to Watch:
This really is a star-studded fixture, with Real Madrid’s Galacticos taking on the “gritty class” of Atletico. Obviously, 2015 Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to make a difference in the tie, escpecially considering he’s been in a recent slump. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos at the heart of Real’s midfield can control any game, and Gareth Bale‘s recent poor performances may motivate him to play at a level that warrants his stunning 85-million-pound price tag. As for Atletico, Diego Godin is perhaps the best centre-back in the world, while Spanish young midfielder Koke is really beginning to live up to his billing of “the next Xavi”. Antoine Griezmann will be looking to put his trademark on the match from up top, while Chelsea flop Fernando Torres looks to be hitting some form at his home club.
At the end of the day, Real Madrid, despite being favourites on paper, is one of the worst teams left on the pitch. That being said, I can’t shake the feeling that they’ve been given this tie for 1 last chance to show Atletico which side is boss in Madrid.
Real Madrid advances 3-1 on aggregate
PSG vs Barcelona
PSG drew Barcelona in the group stages, and they were victorious in the first tie, with a scoreline of 3-2. Despite the unfortunate loss, you can’t ignore the fact that Luis Enrique’s men have improved greatly since then, boasting a 3-1 win over the Paris based side in their 2nd matchup. PSG advanced over Chelsea despite not actually winning any tie, as they took over on away goals in overtime, which really is a ridiculous rule (see my other article). Meanwhile, Barcelona didn’t have to exit 1st gear to comfortably put 3 goals past Joe Hart of Manchester City (who had a spectacular game to deny them about 10 more goals). However, City controlled the 2nd half of the 2nd tie (the 4th quarter) and made Barcelona’s defence look a tad bit vulnerable.
Players to Watch:
Since the turn of the year, Lionel Messi has undoubtedly been the best player on the planet, and he showed it against Manchester City. Luis Suarez and Neymar join him in the best attack in the world. World Cup star Javier Mascherano looked at home in midfield with Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic controlled the entire game. As for PSG, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is suspended for the first game but he always has influence on results. Thiago Silva had an inspiring performance against Chelsea in both legs, and Blaise Matuidi‘s work rate makes it look like PSG has 12 men on the pitch at times.
Barcelona has been absolutely destroying teams left, right and centre, while PSG is struggling in Ligue 1, a league they should be winning every year. You can’t help but feel Barcelona is destined to reach the next stage. PSG got one on Barca in the Group Stages, but that won’t happen again.
Barcelona advances 4-2 on aggregate
Bayern Munich vs Porto
Bayern is currently the best team in the world on paper and on the pitch, and they displayed the class beating Shakhtar Donestsk 7-0 in the 2nd leg of their Round of 16 matchup. Porto dispatched Basel 4-0 in their 2nd leg, and both teams are going into this tie on great form.
Players to Watch:
Arjen Robben has proven to be the 3rd best player in the world behind Messi and Ronaldo, while Thomas Muller was robbed of the golden ball in the most recent world cup. Jerome Boateng and Bastian Schweinsteiger were dubbed the “men of the match” in the world cup final, and the latter pairs classy Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso in midfield. David Alaba, Philipp Lahm and Mehdi Benatia form the best defence in world football with Boateng. All that doesn’t even mention 2015’s 3rd place finisher in the Ballon D’Or, Manuel Neuer between the sticks. As for Porto, Yacine Brahimi has showcased himself as an excellent player, while Jackson Martinez scores goals for fun. Hector Herrera breaks up play from the midfield, and Danilo flanks the defence excellently alongside Alex Sandro.
Porto looks absolutely phenomenal. They’ve got fitness, technical ability, physicality and speed. The problem is, Bayern Munich is on another level. They’re technically immaculate play compliments the players in the squad and they look as good as the side that beat Barcelona 7-0 in 2013 (probably the best side of the century). They’ve got probably the deepest squad in football history, and Porto looks like another victim of their dominance.
Bayern Munich advances 6-0 on aggregate
Juventus vs Monaco
Juve showcased themselves as one of the best teams in the competition with a 3-0 away win against Borussia Dortmund, which seemed to be the best away performance from any team in a VERY long time. On the other side, Monaco showed tactical excellence and individual brilliance in their away goal triumph over Arsenal.
Players to Watch:
As far as this competition goes, scouts have had their eye on Geoffrey Kondogbia and Fabinho of Monaco, as they’ve quietly put in excellent performances. Aymen Abdennour looks impenetrable in defence, while Joao Moutinho can pull the strings in midfield. As for Juventus, they have the most stacked and balanced midfield in the world next to Bayern, and they boast a superb quad-squad of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio, though Pogba is out with a serious injury. Carlos Tevez is in the form of his life at the moment, while Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini are excellent defenders. To cap it off, no one can forget the 2006 world cup winning veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, a player loved across Italy.
Monaco looked formidable against Arsenal, as they found a tactical balance to beat a team that has been one of the best in Europe in recent times. That being said, it seemed more like a psychological barrier for Arsenal more than anything else, and with Juve’s new confidence, they shouldn’t have a problem.
Juventus advances 2-0 on aggregate