On to the Last EightMarch 26, 2015
Well, I know, I know the Champions League draw was held last week and this post is maybe little bit late to the party. So what? We’ll still get on with it, so stop whining. Right, with that out of the way, let’s get down to business. It’s the last 8 stage in the search for this season’s kings of European football who will be crowned at Berlin’s Olympiastadion on the night of June the sixth. This lousy expert sought to play prophet about those four ties and here’s what he thought. And still thinks.
Paris St. Germain v FC Barcelona
The stand out tie of the round, though obviously others may feel the Madrid Derby is weightier. Well, different strokes. The French champions after dispatching off Chelsea in the previous round can now be seen as a genuine European force – and rightly so. In the group stage they also beat Barcelona in Paris so really, pedigree is not an issue here. Then again they are against a Barcelona side that seems to have found its feet since the turn of the year. In Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, the Blaugrana boast the most potent attacking trio in Europe. It will be interesting to see just how the PSG rear-guard will deal with them especially at the Camp Nou leg.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic misses the tie (the first leg at least) and whether that will impact PSG’s game remains to be seen. Then again remember their finest European performance in the modern era was achieved at Stamford Bridge, playing 90 minutes without the Swede. They’ll be just fine. A worry for Barcelona could be getting overrun in the middle of the park by the energetic all action trio of Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi and the elegant Marco Veratti. Oh, Marco. Probably Sergio Busquets will be back from injury. Does that mean Javier Mascherano drops to defence? I want to think Ivan Rakitic should drop to the bench but I’m no Luis Enrique, or am I?
Playing the first leg at home is not a handicap these days but if the Parisians are going to prove that fact right, they absolutely have to take their chances during their dominant spells. Anything less than a handsome two goal lead to take to Catalonia will be fatal. For Barca? Well, all they have to hope for is that their golden trio will be at their destructive best and they will be home and dry.
Verdict? PSG to go through on away goals.
Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid
This is the majority’s most mouth-watering pairing of the round. Well, okay, I guess. If you ask me, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. There is only one way this is gonna go, and it’s not the lily-white direction. It is six games since Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid beat Diego Simeone’s Atleti. And mark you, it isn’t a freak statistic. Don Carlo just can’t beat Il Cholo Simeone. Yeah I know, the 4-1 scoreline in favour of Real in Lisbon is still fresh in the mind. But also is the 4-0 hammering masterminded by Simeone at the Vicente Calderon earlier this season. And really, come think about it, in the record books, the Lisbon final will always be marked as drawn.
The fact that this is a two legged tie makes it even more ominous for Los Merengues. Indeed, it is easier to halt a rival’s dominance over you in a one off encounter than in a double-legged tie. Just accept it, don’t argue. It has to be said though that neither of the two Spanish capital sides are in the best of form; Real making heavy weather of the Round of 16 return leg against Schalke at the Bernabeu, going down 4-3 while the Rojiblancos needed a dramatic penalty shoot out to fend off the challenge of a dogged Bayer Leverkusen. Will it boil down to individual brilliance? I doubt it. I think the more organized team will win this.
Can’t see past Atletico Madrid to be honest. They’ll win at the Calderon then do just enough at the Bernabeu to book that semi final spot.
Juventus v AS Monaco
A tie pitting two unlikely quarter finalists and going a long way to prove that Champions League football is anything but static. The Italian champions were imperious in their 5-1 aggregate demolition of Borussia Dortmund while Monaco did the business (in the first leg) against Arsenal, progressing on the away goals rule.
This is going to be one tie decided on the tightest of margins. Monaco this season have been notoriously water tight at the back, and Juve, well, are Italians. That’s the likeliest possibility on face value. Also possible is that each team go with a mentality that the opponent is not exactly elite and so just go guns blazing right from the word go. How we’d all love that – the second theory, that is. Somehow though you get a feel that the Principality side has already bitten more than they should chew with the scalp of Arsenal. In the second leg against the Londoners they really did look every inch of the average side many have thought them to be. Juventus on the other hand seems to have finally grown on the European stage and are surer of their abilities on the continental platform. Massimilano Allegri factor? Well…
The first leg is in Turin and again I don’t expect this to be decisive in favour of the side finishing at home. The Monegasques will have to invoke the spirit that carried them to that famous victory at the Emirates because should they lose that match, they are out. Then again Leandro Jardim will predictably be defensive and play on the counter. How that will pan out is anybody’s guess. Carlos Tevez is on red hot form and the Old Lady faithful will be confident of him providing the goods once again, aided by the rising star of Alvaro Morata. A big worry is whether Monaco can create enough chances. You would think that is dependent on Joao Moutinho playing a bit further up the pitch and Dimitar Berbatov being ruthless in front of goal. Ah, so many ifs. Juve should have enough quality to see this through.
FC Porto v Bayern Munich
The easiest to call tie? Certainly, and without hesitation. Porto have done well to get into the quarter finals but in Bayern they face quite a different animal from the ones they have already gobbled up so far. It is more of a question of how impressive the Germans’ march to the semis will be, and not whether they will be in it. So for all the brilliance of Danilo, Christian Tello, Vincent Aboubakar and especially Yacine Brahimi all of whom Pep Guardiola and his boys will have to be wary of, it still ultimately won’t be enough. Arjen Robben will miss both legs and really, he’s been Bayern’s best player this season, but then again Captain Philipp Lahm and maybe the Spanish duo of Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez could be back and available. Really, there’s nothing much to say except that it would be a huge shock if the champions of Germany weren’t in the semi-final line up.
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