The quarterfinal second legs of the Champions League begin today with plenty of nervous anticipations, anxiety, palpitations.
And that is what the competition is about. Karim Benzema was in a class of his own, his hat-trick helping Real Madrid hold a fine advantage heading to the Bernabeu. At times, he looked out of this world and it was not just his goals.
Villarreal has the edge- however slight- over Bayern Munich. It was no less than they truly deserved.
Except for some dramatic comeback, Liverpool looks just about sure to progress to the next round.
The battle continues once again and so is the excitement.
Bayern Munich vs Villarreal
Julian Nagglesman will be under pressure tonight. After a flawless group stage, the Bavarians have looked vulnerable in the knockouts.
The Bundesliga giants will be optimistic about advancing, especially because the deficit is only one. And yet, in truth, they played second fiddle for most of the game in Valencia.
The hosts will need to hit the ground running from the first minute, hoping to score early and unsettle the visitors.
The German tactician will need Leon Goretzka to be at his very best, winning over possession and making late movements into the box.
The directness of Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman on both wings could prove key. And yet, Robert Lewandowski will be hoping to have a better evening than last week’s.
Unai Emery had made wholesale changes to the team that drew against Athletic Club in the La Liga. In effect, the players are fresher for this tie.
Of course, the objective will be to gain control of the midfield once again. Dani Parejo will be hugely pivotal in achieving that.
Arnault Danjuma scored the only goal last week. The former Bournemouth man will be confident once again, looking to exploit the high line of the opponent.
There will surely be goals as the German side take more risks, allowing for an end-to-end affair.
Prediction: Bayern 2-2 Villarreal
Real Madrid vs Chelsea
Real Madrid seems to have one foot in the semi-final after the 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge. Thomas Tuchel thinks so and called it the end of the road.
The comfort of a 2-goal lead means that the Spanish side do not have to rush into anything. They simply need to react to whatever the visitors do.
For much of the plaudits that have gone to Benzema, Luka Modric was easily at the end of everything positive by Madrid.
The Croat’s in-between-the-line passes and ball progression will be important once again. And although Eder Militao will be missing, the defence should be strong enough to match the opponent’s offence.
Real Madrid has shown to be effective on the break with the pace and trickery of Vinicius. With more spaces likely available in this one, the Brazilian will find more joy.
The Blues have nothing to lose. They will be risking more in offence in search of an early goal.
Kai Havertz has proven to score important goals since he arrived in London. Tuchel will once again look to him.
Last weekend’s Premier League win against Southampton will give the Londoners some halo of hope.
It is largely unlikely that Chelsea turns around this deficit. Real Madrid looks likely to win once again.
Prediction: Real Madrid 2-1 Chelsea
Atletico Madrid vs Manchester City
The first leg lived up to its hype. It was a tactical masterclass from both teams. And if Manchester City has the edge owing to the 1-0 win, this tie remains finely poised.
The encounter at the Etihad was attack versus defence. As things stand, it will be the theme once again.
Diego Simeone’s men lost at the weekend to Mallorca. However, they will look to put behind the defeat when City visits.
Not much will change for the Colchoneros in terms of tactics. They will look deny the visitors spaces while trying to break with the fewest passes possible.
In recent weeks, Joao Felix has been in excellent form. The Portuguese will once again look to influence proceedings.
Pep Guardiola’s men will be a bit more cautious, looking to control the game for as long as possible.
The goal will be to find the spaces in between Atletico’s defensive wall, trying to outmanoeuvre the opponent.
Kevin de Bruyne has continued to score in the last months just by picking his time to arrive in the box. The Belgian will fancy his chances.
Prediction: Atletico 1-2 Manchester City
Liverpool vs Benfica
The Reds were utterly dominant in the first leg. Indeed a 3-1 scoreline tells half the story.
As predicted, Jürgen Klopp’s men seem to have eased their way to the semi-finals. Only some form of inexplicable capitulation could change the outcome.
At Anfield, the EPL challengers will look to kill off the tie as early as possible. That is if they have not already.
Luis Diaz was exceptional on his return to Portugal. The Colombian will be licking his lips once again. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will hope to enjoy a field day.
Benfica, by their standards, has overachieved reaching the quarterfinals. The aim will be to enjoy themselves and also avoid pummelling.
This tie looks dead and buried. Liverpool can only consolidate on last week’s performance.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Benfica