Barcelona v Atletico Madrid – 1st Leg – 5th April / 2nd Leg – 13th April
A same country dust up, I always find these fascinating in European competition as the teams know a lot more about each other then if it was an opponent from another country.So it is possible then, they are beatable. Barcelona had their unbeaten record that stretched for 39 games and 6 months ended as they lost to fierce rivals Real Madrid in the latest El Clasico. They did not play that badly and were the victims of some lets just say heavy challenges but that is nothing new for the Champions of Europe. I suspect they will be expecting the same from a robust Atletico side moulded in the shape and attitude of their manager Diego Simeone. The problem Madrid’s so called (by their city rivals Real) ‘second’ club have are defensive issues, first choice Godin and Gimenez are major doubts as is first reserve Savic – Messi, Neymar and Suarez will be licking their lips. Two years ago Atletico beat Barcelona at this stage on their way to the final, I personally cannot see that happening again. Barca will be angry after their weekend defeat and Atletico are hugely hampered in a key area by injuries. They will make it difficult for their country rivals, but the holders will take advantage and build a lead at home that will be enough to see them through to the semi-finals and a step closer to being the first team to retain the Champions League.
Bayern Munich v Benfica – 1st Leg – 5th April / 2nd Leg – 13th April
Bayern were so so so close to being bundled out of the tournament 0-2 down at home in the second leg against Juventus, all looked lost and Pep Guardiola’s denouement at the German giants was looking less than positive (he was brought in to bring a 6th European Cup) – but then a goal from Lewandowski gave them hope a stoppage time equaliser from Mueller took it into extra time, where two further goals saw them out of the mire and into the quarter finals. Benfica have been very good throughout this years tournament and whilst they may have overachieved to get this far they are more than worthy of their place in the last eight. They are a solid if not spectacular side who have won at Atletico Madrid and after withstanding a barrage from Zenit in the previous round, they went behind but stepped it up and eventually won the match 1-2 to secure their place in the last 8. Germany v Portugal match ups do tend to end up going the way of the ‘Teutonic’ machine in football and I feel the same will happen again here. Bayern to build a lead, which Benfica will not be able to peg back in the second leg and Pep’s Bayern farewell will still have the chance to end on the highest of highs.
Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester City- 1st Leg – 6th April / 2nd Leg – 12th April
So its Qatar v Abu Dhabi in the Champions League – bring it on. PSG are in the quarter finals for the fourth year in succession, their performance against Chelsea showed the necessary steel, which has been missing from previous years attempts, though they have had the misfortunate of drawing Barcelona two years running. The French team have already won their League title, though I personally think that is more to do with how much stronger (especially financially) they are in a weak league. What they do in this competition is the true measure of how good a side they are. Manchester City have already made club history with their first ever appearance in the last eight. They may have underachieved in their domestic league competition as we stand, but this is where their owners have always wanted them to be when they bought the club. All the talk since February has been of the impending arrival of Pep Guardiola, which has put some pressure on Manuel Pellegrini, but he has already delivered a trophy this season so a trip to the last four of this tournament will be seen as a success. This will be tight and maybe the French teams experience may just see them though, especially as they can focus fully on this competition now, with their domestic title in the bag, though if the English side can leave Paris with something, by that I mean a scoring draw or a win, then they will have a great chance, otherwise it will be France’s best that will take the place in the last 4.
Wolfsburg v Real Madrid – 1st Leg – 6th April / 2nd Leg – 12th April
As stated above, Real Madrid have just won the Clasico against Barcelona, so they will be travelling to Germany (where they don’t have the best of records) in the highest of confidence. Zinedine Zidane showed superb tactical nous by mixing it up (legal and illegal) against their fiercest rivals to avenge a 0-4 home defeat earlier in the season, they may not win La Liga this season but its a marker laid down. Real are unbeaten in this years competition and were comfortable (in the end) winners over Roma, though if the Italians had had their shooting boots on in the second leg then it could have been different. Wolfsburg’s season hangs on this tie, their chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season via the Bundesliga are all but over. The hierarchy at the club will be delighted they have got this far (the intial target was just to get out of the group phase – which they duly did for the the first time in their history). Their season is ambling towards a disappointing finish, but this competition could be their saviour. As mentioned Real do have a mixed record in Germany so an opportunity may be there. Personally I think despite their in and out record on German soil, I can see Real escaping with at worst a draw from Wolfsburg, then they will seal the deal in the Bernabeu 6 days later. The fact that the La Liga title is all but gone, I feel the European Cup is their number one priority. Zidane will be focusing fully on making sure another step is taken to the 2016 title.
So my predicted final four – Barcelona, Bayern, PSG and Real Madrid. Let me know what you think.
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