After my Round of 16 musings (5 from 8 right from the field) this week sees the return of the Champions League, with the Quarter Finals. An elite eight in the race to be crowned the Kings of Europe. Previews and predictions as follows:-.
Juventus v Real Madrid – 3 Apr / 11 Apr
WOW!!!!!!! What a match up. A repeat of last years final, mouthwatering. In June 2017, Real Madrid schooled the Italians in an emphatic victory in Cardiff 4-1, and got a large modicum of revenge over their opponents who had beaten them in the 2015 semi-finals. The Spanish sides season has been underwhelming when you compare it to their double feats of 2016-17. Yes they retained the Club World Cup in December, but that was more than expected, however they will soon relinquish their La Liga title to fierce rivals Barcelona, who they trail by 13 points – a feeble defence. Juventus on the other hand are in pole position to secure a 7th straight Serie A title (and a possible 4th consecutive domestic double), they are 4 points clear of their nearest rivals with eight games left. It is interesting when you look back at these teams previous meetings in the European Cup / Champions League. Real Madrid’s record against Juventus is awful in two legged knockout ties (only ever beating them on penalties), however in one off (non group stage) matches they have won them all. Juventus, whilst very likely to win Serie A, still need to secure points to achieve the title, whereas Real Madrid only have the Champions League to worry about and can rest their big guns according. I am going against what history tells us and plumping for the Madridstas to scrape through in what will be a two titanic, if not necessarily, the most entertaining matches but if you like football, you will be gripped. Home leg advantage in the Santiago Bernabeu for the second leg should make a difference, and the ‘Threepeat’ will still be on, but only just though as Juve showed against Tottenham in the previous round, they can go away in the return leg and win.
Sevilla v Bayern Munich – 3 Apr / 11 Apr
Firstly huge credit to Sevilla. They fully deserved their victory over Manchester United in the Round of 16. When they came away from their home leg with a 0-0 draw after total domination, it seemed that they had missed ther chance. However in the away leg they were the better team and Wissam Ben Yedder’s double strike was just reward and they find themselves in the last eight of the Champions League in its revised format for the first time. No such worries for the German giants whose 5-0 first leg victory settled their tie even before their trip to Turkey, which they won 1-3 anyway to secure passage to this stage. Whilst the Spanish side will not qualify for next seasons competition via their league, they are 13 points behind the 4th place team as I post this blog, in contrast Bayern are just one win away from a sixth Bundesliga title in a row. My view is Sevilla will make it tough for the Bavarians in the first leg, however over the tie, the German sides superior strength will show and I can only see a convincing victory to them over the 180 minutes.
Barcelona v Roma – 4 Apr / 10 Apr
Barcelona saw off Chelsea in a workmanlike fashion, it always help when you have got a bloke called Lionel Messi in your team mind. Roma’s path through to this stage was one with much more jeopardy. Edin Dzeko, ironically a man that Roma nearly sold in the January transfer window, was the johnny on the spot who scored the all important goal at the Stadio Olimpico that squeezed the Italian side passed Shakhtar Donetsk on away goals. Barcelona are overwhelming favourites to go through, though they will need to be weary of the side from Rome. As mentioned the runaway La Liga leaders beat Chelsea in the Round of 16 and though the 4-1 aggregate scoreline looks emphatic, their opponents did cause the Catalan side problems and if they had taken the opportunities they created in key moments who knows what would have happened. The runaway La Liga side would have noted that Roma topped their group with the London side in it, and will most definitely be on their guard. I predict a strong home showing in the first leg which will leave the Italian side with too much to do in the second leg.
Liverpool v Manchester City 4 Apr / 10 Apr
So a domestic skirmish in the last eight, with arguably the two teams that have the played the most exciting brand of football in Europe this season pitted against each other. It is already Klopp 1 Pep 1 this season, in the two league matches they played we have had a 4-3 victory for Liverpool in January which ended the runaway Premier League leaders unbeaten run and a 5-0 drubbing to Manchester City last September, though the Merseyside club were down to 10 men when the game was only 1-0, so the final result may have been skewed somewhat. Whilst it is a shame the two English clubs still left in the competition were drawn against each other (to be honest it didn’t surprise me in the slightest) what a mouthwatering clash we have in prospect. My prediction is two fold here. Over a couple of matches you have to fancy Manchester City to find a way to win this game, they are stronger, in all areas of the team, apart from the forward positions where it is a toss of a coin as to who is the most potent on any given day. As we all know in football being the ‘so called’ better team, especially on paper doesn’t always mean that much and in what will inevitably, in my opinion, be a cagey first leg (both sides will want it up for grabs in the second leg) if Liverpool win at Anfield without conceding, I fancy them to get through. A City win, or even an away goal or two in a narrow loss may well mean the end of the trophy hunt this season for Klopp’s men. Whilst at the time City fans would have been gutted at the 4-3 defeat earlier in the season, they would take it this coming Wednesday, no doubt. It will be fascinating tussle and the fact it is a two-leg affair just adds to the intrigue.
So I’m predicting Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona to make the semi-finals and then, admittedly, my slight fence sitting prediction on the all English affair, though come Wednesday soon after 9:30pm (BST) – my fourth team for the last four will be apparent.
You can tweet me:- Tweet to @biggishmouth
Go to my facebook page at:- www.facebook.com/thebiggishmouth
or click on this link to pick up:- ALL my latest and historical blogs
You can subscribe for free at www.biggishmouthblog.com – with an email address and then every time I post a blog you will get it instantaneously.