The UEFA Champions League tournament has reached the quarter finals stage, with much excitement and heartbreak ahead as the biggest names in European soccer go head to head for one of the biggest prizes in world soccer.
The Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid, and Manchester United vs Bayern Munich matches are set for an April 1 first leg and an April 9 second leg.
The other two set of matches, Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund, and Paris Saint- Germain vs Chelsea, will have an April 2 first leg and an April 8 second leg.
Here are some predictions of the matches.
Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid
(Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
The current (as of March 21) second (Atletico) and third (Barcelona) teams in the La Liga table are set for a tricky clash.
Atletico manager Diego Simeone had previously stifled and held Barcelona to a 0-0 draw when the sides met in the league on January 11, 2014, and Simeone will hope that his side’s tough, battling style can neutralize Barca’s fluid passing game over the two legs. To win games, however, a team needs to score goals and mercurial striker Diego Costa (22 goals in 27 games) must show up if Atletico are to get pass the Catalan giants.
Barcelona have the experience, but not the form at the moment. While Tata Martino’s men are winning games, they are no longer the completely dominant side of the Pep Guardiola era. Lionel Messi must inspire the 2010/2011 Champions League winners to victory, and for that to happen, must look to regain the blistering form he was in before his injury in 2013.
Prediction: Barcelona are the favorites given their experience in this stage of the competition, but are inconsistent of late. Atletico might just have the hunger and desire to edge this. Atletico to win 2-1 on aggregate.
Manchester United vs Bayern Munich
(Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
“This football club is capable of it,” said Man United manager David Moyes after his side beat Olympiakos. “If we play to our capabilities, which we’ve not shown that often this season, I think we can be a match for any team.”
Fine words, but the problem is Man United very nearly did not make the quarter finals against a team that they were suppose to decimate (Man United won 3-2 on aggregate). With his players in indifferent form, and with his struggles to find a preferred starting eleven, Moyes’s words ring of false bravado.
In contrast, Bayern Munich look unstoppable at the moment. The Bavarian giants are 23 points ahead of second place Borussia Dortmund, and have as good as wrapped up the league title. They are also on a 50 game unbeaten streak. Best part? With the exception of defender Holger Badstuber, former Barca player and manager Pep Guardiola has a complete squad of world class players to choose from, and the tactical acumen to craft out a victory.
Prediction: No contest. Bayern to win 6-0 on aggregate.
Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund
(Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
A repeat of last year’s semi final match. A repeat of Dortmund’s 4-1 trashing, is, however, not likely to be on the cards.
This Dortmund team is stuck by an injury voodoo. Błaszczykowski, Gundogan, Bender, Marcel Schmelzer and Neven Subotic are all out. Only star forward and Marco Reus is left from the team that beat Madrid for both legs (Robert Lewandowski misses the first leg through suspension). As a result, the team has been out of sorts lately form-wise.
On the flip side, Real are the team in form, seating on top of the Spanish La Liga with 70 points, and boosting the likes of new summer signing Gareth Bale, and “old” stalwarts Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, and Luka Modric.
Prediction: Dortmund might be able to hang on, but Real may just have too much fire power for this injury-hit Dortmund side to contain over two legs. Madrid to win 5-3 on aggregate.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Chelsea
(Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Paris Saint-Germain vs ChelseaThis is by far the toughest Champions League quarter final tie to call.PSG’s not-so-secret-weapon Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 25 goals in 28 games, and is arguably the most in-form striker in Europe at the moment.Chelsea, on the other hand, are crying out for a world-class forward. Although Chelsea current seat at the top of the English Premier League, Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o, and Demba Ba have not found the back of the net enough this season in crucial games (56 as compared to PSG’s 69) for Chelsea to close out the title race. Prediction: In a game of forwards, PSG should win 3-1 on aggregate.