The UEFA Champions League is back in the limelight this week with four intriguing quarterfinal matches.
For the first time since the 2004/05 season, neither Cristiano Ronaldo nor Lionel Messi will feature at this stage.
This season’s final eight would see a repeat of two of the last three finals. Pep Guardiola will be eager to cross the quarter-final hurdle with Manchester City after three successive exits. Porto will have dreams of another final since it last won in 2004.
Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund (Etihad Stadium)
This fixture promises goals and indeed, plenty of it. The Cityzens will continue to harbour thoughts of a quadruple when they host Dortmund.
Pep Guardiola’s men made light work of Borussia Monchengladbach in the round of 16 with a four-nil aggregate win.
The Premier League leaders are the most in-form side in Europe with 24 wins out of 25 since December.
This season, the hosts have been reluctant to go on an intense counter-press against swift offensive teams. City will look to hold a mid-block, especially in trying to curtail the tournament’s highest scorer, Erling Braut Haaland.
On the other hand, the Black and Yellows have been anything but convincing this season.
Edin Terzic’s men narrowly defeated Sevilla 5-4 on aggregate in the previous round. They have also struggled for momentum in the Bundesliga. The German side sits seven points behind Frankfurt in the race for a top-four position.
The German manager faces the huge task of trying to instil discipline in his team’s defence, especially during set-pieces.
With Jadon Sancho injured, the 2013 finalists will rely heavily on Haaland for the goals.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Borussia Dortmund
Real Madrid vs Liverpool (Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano)
This is a repeat of the 2018 Champions League final. It pits the most successful teams in this competition against each other with 19 titles in between them.
Similarly, both clubs were Champions of their respective leagues last season. However, the two sides have been anything but impeccable this season.
Real Madrid is on a resurgent run in La Liga which has kept it in contention for the title. Los Blancos (The Whites) will be without their inspirational captain, Sergio Ramos.
However, Karim Benzema will fancy his chances against a generous Liverpool defence.
Jurgen Klopp’s men comfortably defeated Leipzig 4-0 on aggregate in the second round. The Reds have been without their favoured centre backs in Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez all season. Hence, they are expected to field another pair of inexperienced defenders against a Benzema-led attack.
Mohamed Salah will have a keen eye on this fixture owing to his famous collision with Ramos in their last meeting.
This fixture is likely to produce a goal fest.
Prediction: Real Madrid 4-2 Liverpool
Bayern Munich vs PSG (Allianz Arena)
PSG will be looking to take their revenge after losing out narrowly in last season’s final.
The defending champions haven’t been rampant in the Bundesliga. However, they have been assertive in Europe. The Bavarians scored the most goals in the group stage and thrashed Lazio 6-2 on aggregate in the second round.
Hansi Flick will have to fashion out a dynamic scoring outlet with Robert Lewandowski unavailable. It will be time for players like Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry to step up and be counted.
The defense will also be weary of Kylian Mbappe’s pace in behind.
PSG will look to put their Ligue 1 form behind when they travel to Germany. The Parisiens eased past Barcelona in the round of 16 with Mbappe running the show.
With Neymar available for this tie, Mauricio Pochettino has the tricky task of setting up his team. The Brazilian tends to slow down the pace of attack of the French giants. However, his creative ability will be key during transitions.
This fixture has the makings of a drama-filled encounter.
Prediction: Bayern 2-2 PSG
Porto vs Chelsea (Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan)
Porto has moved from being dark horses to relative contenders for this competition.
The Portuguese giants showed intent after defying the odds to beat Juventus in the second round. The Dragoes (Dragons) have been very organised in defence with veteran defender, Pepe at the heart of it. They have also been devastating on the break owing to Sergio Oliveira’s exceptional qualities in midfield.
Sergio Conceicao will hope that his team continue to ride on their underdog status.
Chelsea has found a new lease of life under manager, Thomas Tuchel. The Blues outclassed Atletico Madrid on the road to qualifying for this stage.
However, the Londoners have been handed a reality check after losing scandalously to West Brom at the weekend.
Tuchel will be concerned about his once impenetrable defence getting breached. He will also be sweating over the terrible form of Timo Werner.
Olivier Giroud has been excellent in Europe this season and will be keen to bring that form to bear in Seville.
Prediction: Porto 2-2 Chelsea