Another season, another Champions League failure for PSG. Then the cliched question rears its head once again: Can success truly be bought? Perhaps. But if you have to spend outrageously and desperately, at least employ some long-term strategy.
180 minutes of football against Robert Lewandowski-less Bayern Munich with two of the best forwards in the world, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi, and PSG could not score a goal. What next? More summer signings? A change of coach? Or perhaps an outright replacement of the sporting director?
And for Tottenham, the lack of ambition continues. After a huge investment in a world-class stadium, the appointment of one of the best coaches, and the rise to world reckoning of one of their best homegrown talents, no one truly knows what the real goal is for this club.
Yet, things seem to be improving at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea overturned a goal deficit to progress to the final eight. But even more importantly, they are beginning to find the goal a little more frequently.
The dream continues for Benfica, as does the real business. They barely broke a sweat to defeat Club Brugge, but now, the intensity increases.
Four matches will go down this midweek to decide the remaining teams to progress. Surely, we are set for drama and excitement.
Porto vs Inter
Inter Milan hold a slim 1-0 advantage from the first leg courtesy of Romelu Lukaku’s late goal, ending Porto’s 22-game unbeaten streak.
Still, this tie is nicely poised. And with Porto in better form than their opponents altogether, they will surely fancy their chances.
Sergio Conceicao will be hopeful that Mehdi Taremi can be more clinical in front of goal. If Porto failed to register a goal in the first leg, Andre Onana will get the plaudits for some heroic saves, especially against Taremi.
Marko Grujic will need to get closer to the forwards to help create chances and perhaps get one himself. Yet, the defence has to be weary of Inter’s deadly duo, which might likely be Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.
Simone Inzaghi knows the job continues. You reckon the aim in this game will be to gain balance, especially in midfield. Nico Barella, Hakan Calhanoglu, and Henrik Mkhitaryan will have to work hard to achieve cohesion.
Denzel Dumfries and Federico Dimarco will provide the width, marauding forward at intervals from their wing-back positions to send crosses into the box.
Prediction: Under 3.5 goals
Manchester City vs Leipzig
After a lacklustre performance at the Red Bull Arena, which saw Leipzig score a well-deserved equaliser, Manchester City have it all to do at home.
Indeed, Pep must be a little concerned about the dip in form by some of his trusted generals, not least Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian has had to play bits and pieces in the last few matches.
However, with everything on the line, the Cityzens will be keen to overcome this resilient Bundesliga team at home.
Phil Foden, who began the year poorly, seems to be back in form, starting the last two Premier League games. He will expect to start on the right, with Jack Grealish holding on to the left flank.
Erling Haaland has been somewhat starved of adequate service in the last few matches. Yet, Pep continues to require the forward to come deep and be part of the play.
Leipzig know precisely what to do. They have to be very direct on the break, feeding Timo Werner as quickly as possible. The forward will look to isolate City’s central defenders and beat them for speed. Unfortunately, Christopher Nkunku will be absent due to a fresh hamstring injury.
In defence, Josko Gvardiol will have his work cut out for him against the relentless pressure from the English side.
Manchester City will play differently at the Etihad, and if they hit anything close to their best, Leipzig are set for a very long night.
Prediction: Manchester City win
Napoli vs Frankfurt
Napoli have one foot firmly planted in the quarterfinals of this season’s Champions League. Worse still, Frankfurt will be missing their prolific forward, Kolo Muani, who was sent off in Germany.
Luciano Spalletti’s men come into this game off the back of a healthy 18-point lead at the top of the Serie A table.
The brief from the Italian manager is simple this time. They have to be very resolute against a Frankfurt side that will come out with guns blazing. Kim Min-Jae has been one of the best central defenders in Serie A. He will be confident against Rafael Borre.
Zambo Anguissa will give control in midfield, alongside Piotr Zielinski. And with the partnership between Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia continuing to blossom, we can expect at least one of them to find the net.
Frankfurt, on the other hand, have nothing to lose. They have to go for it from the blast of the whistle. They have to take offensive risks in trying to get the first goal.
Mario Gotze, Rafael Borre, and Daichi Kamada will be under immense pressure to make things happen in the opposition’s box.
This fixture has goals written over it. Of course, Napoli seem to have done just enough to win the war.
Prediction: Napoli win
Real Madrid vs Liverpool
In what was a shaky start to the first leg at Anfield, Real Madrid regained the momentum, scoring five and holding a three-goal advantage returning to the Bernabeu.
While it is clear that anything is possible in this sport, Los Blancos have already done the difficult job three weeks ago. Carlo Ancelotti’s men, too, are a different side on Champions League nights. They are able to forget everything else and have a beastly mentality.
The La Liga champions will look to consolidate their first-leg win. They will hope to drop the intensity, yet still, be aware of spaces that may appear on the break.
Vinicius continues to excel this season. He will be the man to watch out for on the left of the attack. The Brazilian will engage Trent Alexander-Arnold, committing him as many times as he gets the ball. Karim Benzema will also fancy his chances.
Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Aurelien Tchouameni will hope to deny the Liverpool midfielders the ball. And the pace and strength of Federico Valverde will be pivotal.
Jurgen Klopp will be wary of his side’s inconsistent performances, especially after a disappointing loss to Bournemouth last weekend. The Reds had only just hit their rivals, Manchester United seven days ago.
The objective for the German manager will be to make fewer mistakes in defence. Virgil Van Dijk and Ibrahim Konate must be solid at the back. Alisson will also need to retain his composure for the duration of the game.
Mohamed Salah, Darwin Nunez, and Coady Gakpo will be required to press high out of possession yet be swift in transitions.
Liverpool are unlikely to give up without a fight. However, Real Madrid have the required experience to navigate this tie.