So we are now down to the last eight in the most prestigious club cup competition in the world. Eight teams are left battling it out to be crowned the champions of Europe. After a dramatic and sometimes controversial round of 16 (I bet Michel is pleased) – these are the teams who will be part of the quarter final and semi final draw that takes place on Friday 15th March in Nyon.
Nine times they have been the winners of this competition and if there is one team who covets this trophy more than any other it is the side from the Spain’s capital. Jose Mourinho is likely in his final season at the spanish giants and getting his hands on the ‘big eared cup’ would be the perfect send off.
The dark horses of the tournament. After finishing bottom of their group in last seasons competition the double german champions have learnt well and topped the group of death ahead of Real Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City. A routine first knockout phase victory over a fancied Shaktar Donetsk team has maintained their smooth progress and the fact that they are not challenging for their domestic title will mean they can concentrate solely on becoming ‘Champions of Europe’ for the first time in 16 years.
The influx of Qatari money has transformed this sleeping giant from a run of the mill team to contenders for the title. They have a manager in Carlo Ancelotti who has been there and done that as far as winning this competition goes – twice as a matter of fact. They have not looked overly convincing – only just getting sneaking past a dogged, but not necessarily a vintage Valencia, so improved performances are needed if the dream of a first European Cup is to be realised.
After a few years in the wilderness, The Old Lady of Italian football are back with a bang. Antonio Conte’s side won last seasons Serie A without losing a match and are well on their way to retaining it this year, with a current nine point lead. They are a team build on defensive strength and midfield power, they only lack consistent firepower otherwise I feel they would be favourites for the title. One thing is for sure they will be one team to be avoided in Friday’s draw.
After a lacklustre performance at the San Siro saw them lose 2-0 to AC Milan they faced an early exit after five successive semi finals appearances (which have spawned two victories of the competition). However an outstanding performance back at the Nou Camp saw them pull back the deficit with a 4-0 victory, with Messi on fire. However Niang hitting a post and a brilliant Jordi Alba block to stop a certain goal for AC at 3-0 were crucial in the final analysis. Bottom line is Barca are in the last eight and no one would want to face them before the final at Wembley especially after a comeback of historic proportions.
Gala started the tournament at Old Trafford and were unfortunate to lose 1-0. However they then proceeded to only pick up one point from their next two games. However they galvanised themselves, won their final three group games and progressed to a knockout match against Schalke. Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba joined in the hiatus to add to the in form Burak Yilmaz and confidence was high. A draw at home followed, but an excellent performance in Gelsenkirchen resulted in a 2-3 victory. So the outsiders are still in there and if they avoid the big guns again they will be confident of progression into the semis then who knows!!!!!!!
Currently the best side in Europe, they are twenty (yes twenty) points ahead at the top of the Bundesliga (Dortmund are their nearest challegers) and despite a major scare against Arsenal with a home defeat in the second leg – they still look the ones to beat. They are a team driven on by their failure to win the competition last season when they lost the final to Chelsea in their own backyard, so a win at Wembley will be seen as redemption.
The fairytale continues for Los Boquerones. They have have had a fantastic first ever season in the Champions League. They topped their group (ahead of seven times champions AC Milan) and have now beaten a very good Porto side over two legs – after a first leg defeat too. Manuel Pellegrini must take a lot of the credit for this as he has moulded a team out of a number of players who may have only come to Malaga for the money. He has form for this taking Villarreal to the semis in 2006. They are a complete unknown quantity and with a decent draw could shock Europe. Still pitching and they have a chance.
So who is going to win, now in an earlier blog at the start of the competition I predicted Barcelona, with Arsenal as my dark horses.
Even though my team have been knocked out (see title) – I do love a draw and again it is a crucial element. To win any knockout cup competition you need luck on and off the pitch. There are some big hitters left, but also some teams who at the start of the tournament may not have thought they’d get this far – so they have a great chance. Things will be clearer once the quarter final and semi final draws take place – lets hope its not a hot ball situation, but I do have a feeling that PSG may be the team that gets the ‘draw luck’.
My new prediction now – dark horses Dortmund, winners Barcelona or Juventus – but as said the draw is so so so important and I will update the blog once it has been made.
So what do you reckon then peeps, who is going to win it???????
ps One final question – who do you think will referee the final – lets just say if Galatasaray dont get there I’m sure Monsieur Platini has someone in mind 😉
Update – 17th March 2013
So here’s the draw for the quarter finals
Real Madrid v Galatasaray
Malaga v Dortmund
PSG v Barcelona
Bayern v Juventus
A couple of things, firstly I got it wrong – it was most definitely not PSG who got the draw luck – with a now resurgent Barcelona standing in their way, a match I would expect the Catalans to win over 2 legs.
Real were the ones who got the so called easiest match and will be pleased with the draw, and though Galatasaray will not be underestimated, I would expect the Spanish giants to prevail.
The other games are toss ups, especially Bayern vs Juventus. It will be like the irresistible force vs the immovable object. I expect a close match with Bayern’s euro nous and firepower maybes just getting the edge over the dogged and extremely strong Italian champions – though this one is going to be close.
And finally Malaga vs Dortmund. I just have a feeling for Malaga, don’t ask me why – I feel Dortmund can be outstanding but Malaga have a manager in Pellegrini who has been there done that and knows how to stifle attacking teams.
Well seems like I’m going against my previous predictions – though I did say that the draw was all important – football hey bloodyhell 😉
Now I was also hoping to talk about potential semi-final matches, however Uefa have deemed to change plans again and now have a separate ceremony for the semi draw. Why – yet another junket – no recession there then!!!!!!!
Let me know your thoughts, I have already had one comment from a reader saying they think Juve is going to win the whole thing – what do you reckon.