Now, we are left with eight teams, the UEFA Champions League getting even tougher. There has been drama. Indeed, plenty of it. It has been exciting too.
And if scrapping the away rule felt like some fun had been taken away even before the knockouts, the round of 16 matches showed just how unique this sport is.
Benfica has qualified for the last eight. And if that surprised many, the Portuguese side almost could not believe it themselves.
Villarreal defeated Juventus in just 15 minutes- the last quarter the Old lady would not forget hurriedly.
The line-up of fixtures promises plenty of excitement.
Benfica vs Liverpool
It has been such a ride for Benfica, one they will hope to continue for as long as possible. And perhaps, that is what has continued to propel them forward- wearing the underdog tag with no pressure.
Barcelona and Ajax have fallen off in the process. Now, they face a team that has ridden on its power-house status. The Reds have taken out all comers with relative ease.
Nelson Verissimo has continued in just about the way his predecessor left, at least in the Champions League by ensuring a solid defence.
In truth, his team will need to be even more resolute and focused. The aim will be to shut out Jurgen Klopp’s relentless offensive side. Certainly, they will be tested for 90 minutes.
Yet, they will look to break efficiently with the pace of Rafael Everton and utilise the cleverness of Darwin Nunez. In any case, set-pieces may also form a good offensive route.
Liverpool has no other way to play. They will continue to run at the opponent until they find the spaces.
The full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson will hope to find more spaces to influence the game.
The Premier League side will also hope that Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane find fluency. Diogo Jota will also be important.
This feels like a match Liverpool will win by the odd goal.
Prediction: Benfica 0-1 Liverpool
Manchester City vs Atletico Madrid
While it is tempting to see this as an attack vs defence tie, the Colchoneros’ slight recent tactical remodelling suggests that this may be a more open match than envisaged.
Even so, Pep Guardiola will look to surprise everyone once again- a recurrent theme of his coaching career. Last season’s UCL final showed just as much.
The dilemma- as it feels- will be finding the right attacking trio for this game. First to find spaces behind Atletico’s defensive trio. Second is to limit the excesses of Renan Lordi and Marcos Llorente.
The Cityzens will remain patient in their build-up. Pep will also hope that his team can take its chances when they come.
Diego Simeone needs no introduction. He will likely play exactly how he did against Manchester United in the Round of 16.
Joao Felix is on a superb run of form. The forward’s trickery and finesse will prove key tonight.
The Argentine manager will also look to limit the freedom of his former player, Rodri in midfield.
This will be a fascinating tactical battle between both geniuses. There will be goals too.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Atletico Madrid
Villarreal vs Bayern Munich
You never really know which Villarreal will show up tomorrow. The lacklustre La Liga side, or the impressive UCL one that outclassed Juventus.
What seems almost guaranteed is that Unai Emery’s men will jostle for possession with their Bundesliga counterparts. However, they will need to be wary of the opponent’s aggressive high-press.
Dani Parejo is important in how they progress the ball. The midfielder will be key once again.
Arnaut Danjuma has gone on to be one of the signings of the season, following his move from Bournemouth. The winger will fancy his chances against Bayern’s high defensive line.
The Bavarians were unplayable against Salzburg in the previous round. Of course, this is a different kettle of fish.
The objective will be to win the balls high up against a team that always wants to retain it.
Robert Lewandowski is the competition’s top scorer. The Pole will be desperate to score once again. Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane will also look to utilise their pace.
Julian Nagglesmann’s men seem like the favourites, although, Emery’s men will not cower.
Prediction: Villarreal 1-3 Bayern
Chelsea vs Real Madrid
The defending champions are not as strong as they were last season. Thomas Tuchel will be cautious against the best UCL team, one they defeated last season.
As far as preparations go, the Londoners were given a rude awakening by Brentford at Stamford Bridge.
The German manager will look to control the tempo of the game while looking to create chances. Romelu Lukaku will most likely start from the bench.
The Blues’ once impenetrable defence has now been breached with ease in recent weeks. Tuchel will be keen to restore their solidity.
Kai Havertz will fancy his chances in trying to find the spaces and combine with Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic.
Real Madrid will line up in almost the same way they have throughout the campaign. Luka Modric was outstanding against PSG in the round of 16. He will once again hope to influence things.
The communication between Karim Benzema and Vinicius has been telepathic. The pair will be very key in this tie, especially the French man.
This is particularly close to call. This tie will also stretch to the limits, perhaps beyond 180 minutes.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Real Madrid