So three Spanish teams, two German sides and one each from Italy, England and France will fight it out for this years Champions League title. Here is my preview of the quarter final matches.
Borussia Dortmund V Monaco – 1st Leg 11 April / 2nd Leg 19 April
It could be argued that this was maybe the tie both teams would have wanted (other than Leicester) in the final eight. Dortmund have had an up and down season. They have flattered to deceive in their domestic competition, they are currently 4th in the German Bundesliga in a season when they should have been challenging for the title, and are now 18 points behind Bayern Munich after their rivals beat them 4-1 at the weekend so that target has long gone. Monaco sit atop of Ligue 1 (4 points as I post this) and for me have been the outstanding team, if you factor in their resocurces compared to the other sides left in the competition. Their away goal victory over Manchester City in the Round of 16, didn’t tell the story for me as in the away leg they deserved better than their 5-3 defeat but they still came back to win at home 3-1 and deservedly progressed to this stage. Dortmund also had to come from behind after a first leg deficit, their 4-0 demolition of Benfica in the 2nd tie was pure football and showed exactly what they are capable of when on form. One things for sure this match will have goals in it and I think that kind of affair, especially over two matches suits Monaco better. Maybe defeat for the Ligue 1 side in the away leg, but they will battle back and progress to last four for the first time since 2004.
Juventus V Barcelona – 1st Leg 11 April / 2nd Leg 19 April
One of two quarter final clashes featuring European superpowers. What a game we have in prospect. The last time these sides met in the Champions League was in the 2015 final, where Barcelona prevailed 3-1, though at 1-1 a Juventus penalty shout was ignored and the Catalan side scored almost immediately afterwards, then sealed it in stoppage time, a match of what if’s for the Italians. So what can we expect this time? Well Barcelona should probably not even be in the competition, they somehow turned around a 4-0 deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round, destroying the French side 6-1 in the second leg. Juventus are unbeaten in the competition as we stand conceding only two goals. Whilst Allegri’s team knows the value of a clean sheet (Bonucci, Chiellini and Barzagli make sure of that) – they have game changers up front in Dybala and Higuaín, major creatively in the midfield with the likes of Pjanic and Cuadrado as well as the drive of Marchisio and Sami Khedira. Juventus will try and make this a physical game and get a lead to take to the Nou Camp. However they are much more equipped to deal with any assault Barcelona will throw on them. It will be tight, maybe even on away goals, but for me Juventus will get their revenge and progress to the last four.
Bayern Munich V Real Madrid – 1st Leg 12 April / 2nd Leg 18 April
So just the 16 European Cups between these two sides. Carlo Ancelotti, The Bayern manager, faces the team he won the Champions League for in 2014, with yes you have guessed it, Zinedine Zidane by his side as his assistant – they will now face each other from different dugouts, which will be fascinating. The Italian is actually bidding to become the first manager to win the trophy with three different sides. Bayern whilst clear at the top of the Bunsdesliga have struggled at times this season, though in recent weeks they have upped their performance levels, especially with a 4-1 victory over arch rivals Borussia Dortmund in their previous match. Real Madrid have been pretty consistent through the season, able to score loads of goals without having the ability to keep it too secure at the back. The late equaliser against their city rivals, Atletico in their last match yet more proof of that. No team as ever retained the trophy since the restructuring to the Champions League format and I think lighting will strike YET again. In a humdinger of a tie, Bayern to get a first leg lead and then hold out in the Spanish capital, especially as mentioned Real do massively struggle to keep clean sheets.
Atlético Madrid V Leicester City – 1st Leg 12 April / 2nd Leg 18 April
It has been a rollercoaster couple of years for Leicester fans. Premier League Champions last year, they then took to this competition by storm, qualifying for the last 16 as group winners with a game to spare (they were drawn against Sevila in the Round of 16). Their season then took a huge downturn, they plummeted in the league and by the time they faced the Spanish side it was expected to be a foregone conclusion, ie the end of the Foxes European run. Somehow they got out of Spain with only a 2-1 defeat, Ranieri their manager was sacked a day later, Craig Shakespeare took over and they then beat Sevilla in the return leg to make it to the last eight in their debut season in the tournament, amazing. Under their new caretaker manager they won 6 games in a row and despite defeat at Everton in their last match, confidence will be high. For me being drawn against Atletico is a downside as they are a team moulded in the image of their manager, Diego Simeone, ie obdurate, solid and clinical – teams Leicester struggle against. It is quite apt that these two will fight it out for a last four spot as the Spanish team also did a ‘Leicester’ when they won La Liga against all the odds, beating the big two of Real Madrid and Barcelona fair and square in the 2013-14 season. Since then they have been runners up in two Champions League Finals. For me their experience and tactical know how will be too much for what will be a spirited Leicester team. I am expecting a first leg victory for the Spanish side with no goals conceded which will allow them to choke the life out of the English team in the second leg and secure the required result to progress.
So my predicted final four would be Monaco, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid – let me know what you think.
Whoever gets through – the Biggishmouth will be previewing the semi-final ties – enjoy.
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