UEFA Champions League: Operation Paris down to eight teams

The UEFA Champions League trophy (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
The UEFA Champions League trophy (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images) /
Champions League
The UEFA champions league quarterfinals feature the two Madrid teams squaring off with English Premier League giants. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) /

We are quickly approaching this season’s Champions League finale in the Stade de France in Paris. Before that however, there are 12 more matches to determine the finalists.

With the quarterfinal series taking place over the next two weeks, it is time to look at the matchups and make a prediction on who will go one step closer to glory.

Looking at my predictions from the previous round, I called six of the eight winners, getting only Villarreal and Benfica wrong.

Here is a preview of the upcoming ties.

Champions League quarterfinals matchups

Manchester City vs Atletico Madrid

A contrast of styles will go head-to-head as one of world football’s most lethal attacks in Man City will battle the often-defensive minded Atleti.

It will be quite a demanding month of football for the Cityzens, who must pay a visit to Anfield in between the two legs against Diego Simeone’s rugged side. A weekend success at Burnley keeps them ahead in the two-horse race for the Premier League title.

Meanwhile in the UCL, they have lived up to their billing as one of the favourites to hoist the trophy in May. Boasting an overall record of 5-1-2 so far, City had no trouble dispatching Sporting CP in the last round.

Atleti find themselves in an upward trajectory following a rather shaky first half of the season. A far-from-convincing group stage saw the Colchoneros squeeze past Porto on Matchday 6 to continue on in the Champions League.

A victory at Old Trafford last month got them past Manchester United, bringing them to this point. With an overall mark of 3-2-3, they have the worst record among remaining teams. They are in good form though, having won 7 of their last 8 including a six-game winning run.

The only tie in this round in which neither side has won the Champions League before, this gives the matchup extra intrigue. As for who will go one step further, I think it will depend on two things; the first leg, and the domestic match between the two legs. City have Liverpool away while Atletico go to Mallorca. So, I tip the first leg winner to go through. Since the Cityzens host the first leg, I will go with them to progress. That said, I would not be shocked to see Antoine Griezmann and Co. find a way to win.

The first leg is Tuesday, April 5; the second leg is Wednesday, April 13.

Chelsea vs Real Madrid

A repeat of last year’s semifinals will see holders Chelsea battle La Liga pacesetters Real Madrid, with Carlo Ancelotti’s men hoping to seek revenge for last April.

Weekend defeat to London rivals Brentford halted Chelsea’s six-game win streak. The Blues have choked several times this campaign when it matters most. For instance, on Matchday 6 they conceded a very late goal in Russia, costing them top spot in their group. They also faltered against Liverpool in the EFL Cup final. An overall record of 6-1-1 in the Champions League so far, they have one of the best records of the remaining clubs.

A humiliating 4-0 drubbing in El Clasico in their last match before the international break is the only blip in the last seven games for Madrid. Holding a 12-point lead over three sides at the summit of the table, full attention can be turned to the two ties ahead.

Another group-stage winner, Los Merengues boast a record of 6-0-2 across their Champions League campaign. Coming from two goals down in the last round to down PSG, this could be Madrid’s chance to grab a record-extending 14th UCL crown.

I am tipping Real to go through in this one. The reason is quite simple; for the most part, Ancelotti’s side have come alive when it matters most. Bar their aforementioned drubbing before the break, they have been on point cometh the hour. The same cannot be said for Tuchel’s Blues in recent times. I think this is the difference-maker between the two.

The first leg is Wednesday, April 6; the second leg is Tuesday, April12.

Benfica vs Liverpool

Two historic clubs clash here as the Portuguese giants tackle the English side with the most titles in Europe’s top club competition.

Very few predicted As Águias would still be standing in Europe at this point. Their continental performances have overshadowed what has once again been an underwhelming domestic campaign. Defeat to the other Portuguese side left in Europe, Braga, leaves Rui Costa’s side well out of the title race at home. As such, all their attention can be put on the two matches against Liverpool, and with a 3-3-2 record so far (excluding qualifying), they could very well pull off another shock.

This has been another year where Liverpool have seemed impenetrable. With a 7-0-1 UCL record, they have the second-best record of the teams left. Having already captured the EFL Cup, a quadruple is still on the cards for Jurgen Klopp’s men. Their reverse to Inter in their last match in Europe is their only home defeat of the season, and one of only three setbacks all year.

It goes without saying that Liverpool are the easy favourites. There is no denying that. While I expect the Merseysiders to move on, I would say two things to those expecting an easy win. First thing is to remember that this is Benfica, a club that is no stranger to this level of competition. The other thing is that Liverpool will have divided attention with a huge Premier League match between the two games. All that aside, the Premier League club should still progress without too much trouble.

The first leg is Tuesday, April 5; the second leg is Wednesday April 13.

Villarreal vs Bayern Munich

Finally, the defending Europa League winners Villarreal will have the arduous task of pulling off an upset against a Bayern side hungry to claim its second Champions League title in three years.

The Yellow Submarines have been substandard in LaLiga, heading into the tie in seventh spot. A defeat at basement side Levante further complicated matters domestically. They are far from the Champions League places and will need swift improvements to save their season. Fortunately, with a 4-2-2 record in Europe this campaign, they can still come into this one feeling some sort of confidence.

Meanwhile, Bayern are in a familiar position. Well on their way to a 10th successive Meisterschalle, the Bavarians are able to focus on the two meetings with the Spanish side. The only unbeaten team in the Champions League, they have continued to look highly impressive in their quest for more European glory. They hit seven over a sorry Salzburg last month to move on. They will fancy themselves to go at least one round further.

Spanish sides often fare reasonably well with Bayern, but this Villarreal team has not looked as good of late. Save for their 3-0 success in Turin last time out, there is little to justify putting faith in them to overcome this new challenge. I will go with Bayern here.

The first leg is Wednesday, April 6; the second leg is Tuesday, April 12.

Next. Pedri wondergoal lifts Barça past Sevilla. dark

The eight matches taking part over the next week will be sure to provide more drama, consistent with what we have seen so far. Get past this round, and there are just two games separating them from a Paris final. But one step at a time, still plenty of football left.