After an exhilarating (term used very loosely) last 16 knockout stage, we find ourselves standing in front of the good ol’ quarters! Yes the stage when shit gets real and it becomes clearer as to which teams are genuine title contenders and which teams are the pretenders to the crown.
I did my last 16 predictions and I am sad to say I only got 7/8 right. Which one let me down? Unbelievably I predicted that Man City would knock out Barcelona, much to my distraught as I genuinely thought I had made a perfect score after the results were complete. Obviously at the time of writing I felt Barca didn’t look too great and City were looking pretty good, whereas when they played each other that was no longer the case, it was the tightest of all the ties on paper.
If you were to handpick which teams you wanted to go through from the last 16, you would have ended up with this exact outcome. That in itself is quite remarkable as there were no shocks or unexpected results, which is quite unusual.
Barcelona v Atletico Madrid
A nice all Spanish tie to start us off, with both teams having gone through from the last 16 in a convincing manner. About half the teams left in the Champions League have either as good as won their league or are no longer competing in their league, that is not the case with Barca and Atletico who are in a tussle with Real for the La Liga title. If you look at the Spanish league you can clearly see that there is very little between these two teams, and that was the case in the fixture between the two earlier in the season, a drab 0-0 which left little to be desired.
This fixture is very much a toss-up; I could make an argument for either team going through, but I feel the argument is stronger for Barca. Quite simply Barca are a team full of experience of succeeding at this stage of the tournament, Atletico are not. That is the biggest reason that I think that Barca are more likely to go through from this tie.
Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund
At the start of the tournament I had these two as my favourites to lift the trophy, clearly that final is not going to happen (although you never know when Platini’s in charge…). Dortmund still have a really good first team and are less than a year removed from a Champions League final. Real sit atop of La Liga and have the best player in the world on their books. So who’s going to win? I honestly find it hard to look past Real for this one; not only do I think Real are built to win this tournament but I think that Dortmund have really struggled this year with injuries and increased expectations and I don’t see that changing.
The good news for Dortmund is that they were the underdogs last year when they faced Real in the semis, and they deservedly went through that tie. Could the same happen again? Who knows, but one thing is known for sure, and that is that this is another really tasty tie.
Paris Saint Germain v Chelsea
There are no bad ties in this Champions League draw, but this is the worst of the four. PSG are in my opinion the most over rated team in Europe. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the most over rated player in Europe. It isn’t written in stone, but Chelsea should win this tie. The one thing that will go against Chelsea winning this tie is that they are still competing to win the Premier League, whereas PSG have pretty much wrapped up Ligue 1 so will be able to concentrate on it further.
On paper Chelsea have a better team; in reality Chelsea have a better team and Chelsea have a better manager. Everything about this tie says Chelsea should go through and the only way I don’t see this happening is if they choke.
Manchester United v Bayern Munich
Bayern are the best team in the competition and Utd struggled to go through against Olympiakos of all people and currently sit 7th in the Premier League, so it isn’t hard to guess who will be going through. The Bayern steamroller keeps on chugging with them basically having won the Bundesliga already and only having the Champions League to concentrate on. Utd also only have the Champions League to concentrate on, but for very different reasons.
On paper it really is a mismatch, but one thing keeps popping into my head, Chelsea. The year Chelsea won the Champions League they beat teams that they had no right to beat and did so whilst doing nothing in the league, could Utd replicate this? Probably not, but on paper this is still a very talented Utd team that on their day could beat anyone, and another bonus for Utd is that Bayern tend to struggle against English teams, especially those whom they are strong favourites to beat. Add onto that the fact that no team has ever retained the Champions League and ideas start to creep in to your head.
It all sounds pretty good when you write it out like that, you can’t help but think ‘maybe, just maybe.’ The reality of the situation however is that it is unlikely that this Bayern team will make that mistake against this Utd team, but I still don’t think it is as clear as it initially seems. If there is to be an upset, then this is it for me.
What I find remarkable about the quarter finals draw is that it was able to keep what I consider to be the best four teams (Bayern, Real, Barca and Chelsea [in that order best-worst]) away from the worst four teams (PSG, Dortmund, Utd and Atletico[ in that order worst-best]). Even if the teams I think are the best don’t go through, we will still have incredibly mouth-watering ties for the semis to match up against the incredibly mouth-watering ties we received for the quarters. This is the Champions League and it is the pinnacle of club football, let’s hope the ties don’t let the fans and the glory of the tournament down.