Here’s what all the fans can expect from the highly anticipated UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals
The wait is finally over for the football fans around the globe. Yes! The Champions League is back and this time with more intensity as we are down to the last eight.
After looking at the draws that were held in Nyon, Switzerland, a couple of weeks ago, it is obvious that the competition is set to be very tough and unpredictable.
While the current champions Real Madrid are set to face the Italian giants, Juventus, everybody will be witnessing an all-Premier League affair when Liverpool will be locking horns with Manchester City.
Though the above-mentioned fixtures will be taking the centre-stage, Bayern Munich’s clash against Sevilla and Barcelona’s against Roma can’t be undermined in any way.
Both Sevilla and Roma might come off as weaker teams in comparison to the other sides in the quarterfinals but they are surely the dark horses of the tournament and of course, their journey so far says the same.
With the highly anticipated event set to begin this mid-week, let’s take a look at few things that the fans can expect from the Quarter Finals of the tournament.
#1 Highly intense matches
As mentioned earlier, after witnessing the draws, Juventus vs Real Madrid and Liverpool vs Manchester City can be called as the toughest and the most unpredictable fixtures amongst all in the quarterfinals.
The previous time Juventus played Real Madrid, they had suffered a 4-1 loss at the hands of Los Blancos in the final of the 2017 Champions League.
Now, while the Old Lady prepares to host Real Madrid on 4th of April, many call it as a revenge fixture for Juventus as it’s the Italians’ perfect opportunity to avenge their previous loss and show the Spanish giants the exit door.
Though Real Madrid were the ones to emerge victorious in their last meeting with Juventus, stats and figures play against them when it comes to Los Blancos‘ success-rate against Juve in the UCL knockout stages.
4 – Real Madrid have been eliminated in all their four #UCL ties against Juventus (except. final), three with the second leg in Italy & only one with the second leg in Spain, the last in 2015 (1-1 at Bernabéu). Danger
However, this term, Juventus won’t be just banking upon the stats while preparing to face a Real team that is back in form after a torrid first half of the season.
We can square down the fixture to Cristiano Ronaldo vs Gigi Buffon. The Madrid talisman is always a threat to any team and never fails to find the back of the net.
Whereas, Buffon, one of the best goalkeepers of all-time has recently stated that he is ready to face the prolific Portuguese forward and help his team ease past the Galacticos.
Juventus also have their trust upon their in-form striker, Gonzalo Higuain but he will have to go through Madrid’s anchor of the defence, Sergio Ramos.
Paulo Dybala is another possible threat for Real, however, Casemiro, nicknamed as the Brazilian Tank, is potent enough to take care of the Argentine.
Bale would be aiding Ronaldo in terms of attacking, although the probabilities of him starting depends upon Zizou’s tactics.
Liverpool’s fixture with Manchester City has got the fans equally excited. The fact that both teams have never faced each other in the Champions League prior to this, makes it even more thrilling.
Mohamad Salah seems unstoppable at the moment and that’s why the Reds won’t be worried much about their attacking options.
However, Liverpool’s inconsistent defence might prove to be fatal for them, especially when they will be facing threat from an attacking minded Manchester City.
Sergio Aguero’s inclusion in the starting XI is unsure due to the striker’s injury but with the availability of Gabriel Jesus, the Citizens won’t be stressing much about the Argentine’s presence on the pitch.
Kevin De Bruyne can be a menace for the Merseyside and hence they should be prepared to deal with the Belgian as well.
Though City is the Premier League’s champions-elect, Liverpool will be a challenging opponent for the Citizens as they are the only team to have beaten Guardiola’s side in league football this season.
#2 An upset on the cards?
The Catalans’ and the Bavarians’ clashes with their respective opponents are not evenly poised as it is in the case of other teams that we discussed earlier.
For the very same reason, many have already seen Barcelona and Bayern Munich through to the semi-finals of this competition.
Barca and Bayern won’t be willing to write off the “underdogs” completely, despite the fact that both the teams have rained goals and achieved comprehensive victories in almost every match that they have played in the competition so far.
By putting sensational performances in their journeys until now, AS Roma and Sevilla have reached this stage of the tournament much to the surprise of many.
Roma drew positive attention towards themselves in the group stages on numerous occasions.
They drew 3-3 away against Chelsea, the strongest team in the group, and later defeated them 3-0 at home.
In this process, the Italian side also denied a promising Atletico Madrid a spot in the Round of 16. They also achieved a comfortable win against Shakhtar Donetsk to seal their spot in the quarterfinals.
Although Roma have been impressive and their heroics have landed them in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, it is Barcelona that they are set to face now. Truly a David vs Goliath this clash shall be when the Italians would face the La Liga giants.
Barcelona is very much of a threat in terms of attacking but the Catalans will have to break some sweat in terms of defence to contain the much influential Roma’s attacking trio of Diego Perotti, Edin Dzeko, and Stephen El-Shaarawy.
On the other hand, it wasn’t long ago that Sevilla humiliated the favourites, Manchester United, in the Round of 16.
Their star man, Wissam Ben Yedder, who is also the second top-scorer of the tournament behind Cristiano Ronaldo, has been carrying his team single-handedly so far in this competition.
Talking about Sevilla’s upcoming encounter, Bayern Munich poses a threat in almost every department and it would probably be a comfortable match for the latter.
However, the La Liga side’s trump card, Ben Yedder, can surely prove fatal to the Bavarian club and thus the final result of the fixture might not be easy to predict.
#3 Brilliant Managerial tactics
It is clear that in the Quarterfinals of the Champions League, we will be spectating sparks flying matches. But, it shall also be a stage for a brilliant tactical exhibition of managerial skills.
Now that the contest has got tougher, there can be no room for error and thus the coaches will be having a huge responsibility ahead of them.
While some managers are dealing with the unavailability of players due to an injury or suspension, some are dealing with knitting tactics to contain the opposition.
Speaking of which, a massive task lies ahead of Juventus manager Allegri.
He will be without Medhi Benatia and Miralem Pjanić against Real Madrid at home as his players are serving a suspension.
Pjanić’s absence in a crucial home game has left a great void in the team and Allegri must be racking his brains right now to find a perfect replacement for the Bosnian, who is the brains of his team’s midfield.
It will be exciting to see whom shall the Juventus boss deploy to fill the Bosnian’s void. However, the Juve boss got a timely boost in the defence as Giorgio Chiellini played the full match against AC Milan it’s expected that the Italian will be back in action against Madrid.
On the other hand, after a bad aerial display against Girona in a recent Liga match, where the Blancos conceded three goals from set pieces, Zidane might be extra cautious against Juventus, who have scored the most number of goals from set pieces in their domestic league.
City boss Guardiola is also in trouble with the injury of his star striker, Sergio Aguero. The Argentine is set to be back before his side’s clash with Liverpool but Guardiola certainly can’t strain his No. 10.
With the other attacking options like Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus available, he certainly won’t add any sort of pressure on Aguero. Although the question is, whom shall he start in City’s match against the Reds?
Jurgen Klopp can be said to be enjoying his time at Anfield this season. Liverpool are cruising well in the Premier League and also have booked a place comfortably in the UCL quarters.
The Reds are drawn against one of the strongest teams in Europe at the moment, Manchester City, and thus Klopp can’t be casual about his approach against the SkyBlues.
The German realises that his team’s strength is attacking whereas their defence is mediocre. It is obvious that his trump card will be Salah, with Firmino and Sadio Mane to help the Egyptian in the final third of the opposition.
Trent Alexander-Arnold might be his highly preferred right-back as the defender has proven his worth in the earlier stages of the contest.
Bavarian boss Heynckes is also dealing with an injury issue. It is doubtful if he can include his star midfielder Thiago Alcantara in the starting XI.
Alcantara has recently returned from an injury and failed to start in their league game against Borussia Dortmund.
Furthermore, the German also got another problem to deal with- Ben Yedder!
Sevilla manager Vincenzo Montella knows that he can’t put all of his trust upon the team’s surprise hero, Ben Yedder.
Also, the forward hadn’t featured in Sevilla’s match against Barcelona this weekend where the Andalusians put up a brilliant display against the Catalans.
Facing a top class Bayern Munich will be a very difficult task for Montella and his men but they are always ready to put up a fight.
Sevilla is a team who plays from the back and relies upon their brilliant midfielders like Ever Banega, Correa and Steven N’Zonzi.
The Sevilla boss prefers to play the 4-2-3-1 formation but again, Ben Yedder’s inclusion might slightly alter the formation.
Last but not the least, Roma can’t do much about containing the Barca attacking which includes the likes of Messi, Suarez, Iniesta and many more.
But, the Italian side has got their own set of talented individuals who can surprise the comparatively weaker Barcelona department, defence.
AS Roma manager, Eusebio Di Francesco might go ahead with a defensive style of play with Dzeko and Perotti playing up front.
With so many hindrances lying ahead of them, it would be interesting to see what the bosses might come up with their respective teams.
#4 One man shows
Even though football is a team sport, there are many occasions where one-man alone steals the entire show.
Living legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the regular names when it comes to being the showstoppers and now the 25-year-old Salah is a new addition to the list.
Cristiano, Messi and Salah are also the top three goal scorers in Europe at the moment across all competitions and their numbers are insane.
When it’s Champions League, no one has or can ever have a doubt about Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance.
Season after season, the Portuguese is proving to be undisputed in the European competition.
Messi’s brilliance saw Chelsea’s Champions League campaign come to an end and Salah is still continuing to be the Merseyside’s most shining player.
The quarterfinals are about to kick-off this mid-week and all eyes are waiting to see yet another lustrous single-handed performance from these three.
With such great talents set to play, the fans of the sport around the world can surely hope for another scintillating individual performance in the quarter-finals.