Champions League quarterfinals: Elite eight begin push for Istanbul

The UEFA Champions League trophy before the draw for the round of 16.(Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
The UEFA Champions League trophy before the draw for the round of 16.(Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images) /
Chelsea is under the most pressure of the clubs remaining, as they can only qualify for next season’s Champions League tournament by going all the way this spring. (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images) /

The 2022/23 UEFA Champions League has reached the last eight. An octet of clubs remain, aiming to lift the trophy in Istanbul on 10 June.

For some sides still alive, the UCL represents the last chance to turn what has been a failed campaign into a good one.

For others, a Champions League triumph would be the cherry on top of a fantastic year.

Here is a look at the quarterfinals match-by-match, as well as predictions as to who will progress past this round.

UEFA Champions League quarterfinals preview

Benfica v Internazionale (first leg 11 April, second leg 19 April)

Two of the competition’s most respected teams, Benfica and Inter look to re-enact past successes in the European Cup. In a repeat of the 1964/65 European Cup final – which Inter won 1-0 – a glorious opportunity sits in front of both sides for a European semifinal.

A first semifinal in the Champions League since 1989/90 is on the line for Benfica, in the midst of  a phenomenal campaign. With just two defeats in all competitions at the time of writing, this is easily the best Benfica team in quite some time. Having already beaten Juventus twice in the group stage, Roger Schmidt’s side has already shown their mettle against Italian opposition. Now, the stakes are even higher.

Since defeating Benfica’s arch-rivals Porto in the Round of 16 first leg, Inter has won just once across all competitions (1-3-4). To make matters worse, the Nerazzurri have not won a match away from the San Siro since the end of January. They have even slipped out of the top four in the Serie A. That being said, there is still reason for optimism for Simone Inzaghi’s charges, as two trophies plus a top four finish in the league are all still possible.

Both clubs have defeated the other’s rival in this season’s Champions League. Yet the challenge is even greater on this occasion.

Who has the upper hand? I know I had Inter to lose in the last round, but given how unconvincing they have been of late, it is difficult to see them getting past this incredible Benfica team. I am going with the Portuguese club here.

Manchester City v Bayern Munich (first leg 11 April, second leg 19 April)

Still chasing their maiden Champions League title, Manchester City faces off against Bayern Munich in what most observers consider the blockbuster tie in this round. The two highest-ranked clubs in UEFA’s five-year coefficient ranking, this will truly be a top clash.

Man City is the only team left in the Champions League with a legitimate chance of completing a domestic treble. It is the Cityzens’ sixth successive campaign reaching at least the quarterfinals in this tournament.

This is not the first time City has faced German opposition in a European quarterfinal. They will hope for better this time though, as they fell to Hamburg in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup at this stage.

In what could be a do-or-die month in the 2022/23 season for Bayern, they can ill-afford a slip-up. It was just last week the Bavarians fell in the quarterfinal of the DFB Pokal to Freiburg. Remarkably, the Germans could end up without a trophy this campaign. Yet, with a perfect record in the 2022/23 UCL, plus seven clean sheets, Bayern will aim to avoid a third successive Champions League quarterfinal exit.

Manchester City and Bayern each have three wins against the other, with the latter scoring one goal more (10-9). Can Thomas Tuchel pile more UCL misery on City, as his Chelsea side did two years ago in the showpiece? I say yes. I feel that Bayern has been a different beast in the competition this year. So, I tip them to progress.

Real Madrid v Chelsea (first leg 12 April, second leg 18 April)

For the third season running and the fifth time overall, Real Madrid and Chelsea will go at it. Just like 12 months ago, the pair face off in the quarterfinal. That occasion was the first time that Los Galacticos got the better of the Blues.

Looking for a 15th European Cup/Champions League crown, record winners Real has impressed at times this season. Owning a 6-1-1 record in this campaign’s competition, Carlo Ancelotti’s side has scored in their last 14 UCL games. Real has a way of showing up on the biggest occasions, as evidenced in their 4-0 trouncing of Barcelona in the Copa del Rey last week. Although it is highly unlikely that they will defend their LaLiga title, they can still do the UCL and cup double.

In contrast, Chelsea has had a dreadful campaign. Already on their third coach, they can seldom afford another misstep. Winless in four going into the first game, it is virtually impossible for the Blues to finish in the top four of the Premier League. That means that unlike the other seven teams, a Champions League triumph come June is required for the Londoners to return to the competition in September. Having topped Real in the 2020/21 semifinals, a repeat could not be anymore crucial for them.

This is a season-defining tie for both teams, particularly Chelsea. Lose here, and the 2022/23 football year will be seen as a failure. With that said, I have Real to move on. Chelsea has failed to find the net in their last three matches, and this is a considerable step up from their other opponents so far. The Spaniards have the know-how to get past their English counterparts, and should be able to win this tie.

AC Milan v Napoli (first leg 12 April, second leg 18 April)

We end with an all-Italian affair, the first in the Champions League since 2004/05. Milan was involved on that occasion as well, thumping rivals Inter. Seventeen years later, they are in for a test against Serie A pacesetters Napoli.

I Rossoneri have just one win in six games. Funny enough, that sole victory came at the expense of their opponents, and in emphatic fashion. The 4-0 drubbing in Naples overshadowed what has otherwise been a poor run for Stefano Pioli’s Milan side. On the bright side, Milan has not conceded in their last two games, including the aforementioned thumping of Napoli. Searching for their eighth Champions League crown, this is their first appearance at this stage of the competition since 2011/12.

Reaching the UCL quarterfinal at the fifth time of asking, Napoli is enjoying a historic campaign. With 31 competitive wins on the campaign, I Partenopei are well on their way to a third Scudetto. Adding a second European trophy to that would make it the most memorable season in the club’s history. Funny enough, Napoli defeated Juventus in the quarterfinals of the 1988/89 UEFA Cup. On that occasion, Napoli would go on to win what is their only European title. Can they win another all-Italian quarterfinal?

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This will be a fascinating tie. Just 10 days after their most recent meeting, much more is on the line. Napoli has the advantage of being able to solely focus on this tie. Milan, meanwhile, still must try and maintain their top four position in the Serie A. I feel that will make the difference here. I am going with Napoli in what will be a close tie.