The Champions League has reached a familiar, albeit exciting stage. Arsenal disappointingly limp out, Spanish and German clubs exert their dominance, a French team makes a representative appearance and the familiar Italian team holds the fort for Serie A. The draw last week threw up some fascinating match-ups, and the top class performances of the previous stage will likely translate to the quarter-finals as well.
English hopes in the competition lie on the shoulders of Premier League champions and this season’s relegation battlers, Leicester City, who play against one of the European top horses, Atlético Madrid. Monaco, the exciting, young team of the season, will go head-to-head with Borussia Dortmund, who have firmly established themselves in this competition over the past few years. German powerhouse Bayern Munich will face Real Madrid in a clash of titans, while the Italian champions, Juventus, will cross paths with a resurgent Barcelona.
Atlético Madrid versus Leicester City might seem a one-sided affair at first glance, because of Atlético’s dominance in the Champions League, reaching the finals in two of the last three years. However, Leicester, despite struggling in the Premier League this campaign, have put in dogged performances in Europe, especially to overcome three-time consecutive Europa League winners, Sevilla in the previous knockout stage. After sacking league winner Claudio Ranieri, the Foxes have renewed energy under new boss Craig Shakespeare. However, it is difficult to imagine them getting past the resolute defence combined an attacking flair of the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco of Diego Simeone’s Rojiblancos.
Borussia Dortmund against Monaco is a clash of two of the youngest, most attacking talented sides in Europe, which naturally promises loads of goals. Thomas Tuchel’s BVB have managed to put in excellent performances, in spite of a slightly difficult league season. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been scoring goals for fun, while Julian Weigl has shown enough quality to become one of the best midfielders in football. Monaco under Leonardo Jardim overcame a dominant Manchester City team and have young pacey attackers like Kylian Mbappé and Bernando Silva, along with an in-form Radamel Falcao. The Germans will likely edge out the Ligue 1 side in a high-scoring tie, purely due to their experience in Europe’s top competition.
German Champions, Bayern Munich, will have to overcome the current European Champions, Real Madrid to have a shot at winning the Champions League after a four-year drought. Carlo Ancelotti, with three top European honors, was brought to Bavaria for this sole purpose and showed his pedigree by destroying the Gunners in the previous knockout round. Zinedine Zidane, like Ancelotti, has an enormously talented squad in his arsenal – Toni Kroos and Luka Modric among the top performers. The student will want to do one over his master, and while Los Blancos proved winners the last time they faced Die Roten, it is a much tougher task this time. Robert Lewandowski has been in good form, and Phillipe Lahm and Xabi Alonso would want to retire on a high. Along with Ancelotti’s vast experience compared to Zidane, it would seem likely that the Germans would go past the Madridistas over the course of two legs, and in fact, go all the way to the Cardiff.
The fourth quarter-final is a repeat of the high intensity 2015 Champions League final, and this tie could also witness a similar style of play. Barcelona are pumped up after a memorable night against Paris St Germain and will look to cut short the Italians’ stay in Europe. Juventus have dominated the Serie A for the past few years, but have proved unlucky at the continental level, falling just short on multiple occasions. The focus of this match-up will be between Barça’s three-pronged South American attack and the resolute, Italian defence. However, Barcelona’s defensive mettle will also be tested against the Juvé attack of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain. If Juventus are to go past the Catalans, they will have to produce a performance of the ages, although, in all likeliness, Barcelona should be able to comfortably defeat the Bianconeri, due to the sheer depth quality through their squad.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund and Atlético Madrid look likely to progress along with Barcelona and Bayern Munich to the semi-finals. The BVB and Los Rojiblancos will be keen to go all the way, after disappointing final defeats in the past few seasons. Barça are the usual suspects for the title, and will be motivated to give a proper send off to Luis Enrique. However, it is difficult to see past the Bavarians to win the Champions League in May. Under their vastly experienced Italian boss, Bayern seem to be the strongest of the bunch and are favorites to win their sixth major European trophy.