The draw for the Champions League Quarter Finals has been made – throwing up several mouth-watering ties.
With three English clubs falling by the wayside in the round of 16, domestic hopes rest with Manchester City and Liverpool. Only one will still be in with a chance of glory in Kiev come the end of this round.
With the international break giving everyone the chance to take stock, Marathonbet have taken an early look at the four intriguing clashes…
Liverpool v Manchester City
It’s the stand-out tie of the round – for neutrals of course. Whilst many will be disappointed the Premier League’s two most dynamic attacking teams are meeting so early in the knockout stages, these two ties will be a fascinating acid test of the two manager’s respective strengths.
Jürgen Klopp will point to the fact he is the only manager to better Guardiola in the league this year, where a blistering attacking display saw the Reds take a 4-1 lead at Anfield back in January. However, defensive fragility has been a hallmark of Klopp’s tenure and two late goals from Bernardo Silva and Gundogan made the German sweat as Liverpool eventually edged City out 4-3.
Pep Guardiola will be hoping for a more disciplined performance from his champions-elect in the first leg in this one and will surely start with the upper hand given City’s clear superiority in the league which will allow the Catalan to freshen his side up in the games in and around these two fixtures.
Barcelona v Roma
Barcelona comfortably advanced to the Quarter Finals after seeing off Chelsea 4-1 on aggregate in the last round, but don’t look quite the force of previous Champions League-winning campaigns, and still heavily rely on the force of nature that is Lionel Messi to drag them through ties. That isn’t exactly a bad position to be in for Barca, and they will be quietly content at being handed what looks a favourable draw.
Roma have been something of a dark horse so far in this competition, finishing top of a group of death above Chelsea and Atletico Madrid – eliminating Diego Simeone’s 2016 finalists in the process. They overcame a challenging 2-1 reverse against Shakhtar in the round of 16 to eventually progress on away goals after a 1-0 victory on home soil. Knocking out Barca will be another feather in the cap for Eusebio Di Francesco who has impressed in the managerial hotseat since joining Roma from Sassuolo in June.
Sevilla v Bayern Munich
Sevilla deserve huge plaudits for reaching their first Quarter-Final since 1958 in UEFA’s premier competition after claiming a surprise victory at Old Trafford. However, as the least experienced side left in the tournament, the Andalusian outfit may have to work miracles to keep pace with their more illustrious rivals.
As proven in the last round, Vincenzo Montella’s side have more than enough capacity to spring a shock, but will need to press their home advantage in the first leg to stand a realistic chance of reaching a first ever semi-final in this competition. Since being parachuted in to replace Carlo Ancelotti in October, the hugely experienced Jupp Heynckes has stabilised the German giants, and in his fourth separate spell as manager with the club, looks easily set to claim his fourth Bundesliga title. FC Bayern look a far stronger proposition for a final appearance in Kiev than they did six months ago, and the 72-year-old German will be looking to finish on a high by achieving a second Champions League crown with the club.
Juventus v Real Madrid
From a European football heritage perspective, this probably rivals the all Premier League clash as the tie of the round – a replay of the 2017 Champions League Final. After a tense, tactical battle in the first half of that final last May, Real Madrid eventually ran riot from the restart, scoring three goals in the second half to secure an emphatic 4-1 victory, and a record 12th European title.
Los Blancos are currently labouring in third place in La Liga, and head coach Zinedine Zidane will be hoping another European title will provide him with a stay of execution at the notoriously trigger-happy club. Knocking out a highly-fancied PSG side 5-2 on aggregate may have been the first step towards consolidating his position.
Zidane will be wary of a Juve side that are more than happy to turn any knockout tie in to a cagey tactical battle. Uncharacteristically sloppy at times over two legs against Tottenham, Juventus will need to be back to their defensive best to keep veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon’s long held dream of lifting the Champions League trophy alive.
All image sources from PA Images