The quarter-final matchups have been drawn for this year’s Champions League. Benfica faces off against Chelsea, Barcelona will take on AC Milan, APOEL will play Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich will battle Marseille to get to the next round. Which teams will progress to the semi-finals? Here is a quick analysis:
Benfica vs Chelsea
Chelsea, the only English side remaining, is a team full of momentum after their dramatic comeback against Napoli. They will come into this tie with every belief that they can win it. Chelsea’s “old guard” stepped up their game in the 2nd match versus Napoli and Di Matteo will have to rely on them to maintain their high level of play. Didier Drogba must continue to lead the front line with the strength and skill he showed in the last match. With Torres struggling and Lukaku not ready, Drogba has to be the dominant force at centre-forward for this Chelsea side to progress. Drogba, along with the other Chelsea veterans, will be highly motivated to win the only major trophy that has eluded them. Because the Premier League title is pretty much out of reach, Chelsea will be focused on winning the Champions league.
However, defeating Benfica will be no easy task. Benfica has proven throughout this year’s tournament that they are a tough, resilient squad. They surprisingly came out at the top of their group, finishing ahead of Basel, Manchester United, and Otelul Galati. Then they came back from a 3-2 defeat at Zenit to win the tie at home 4-3 on aggregate. Oscar Cardozo is a dangerous striker that can score on anyone. He will be a real problem to deal with for the inconsistent Chelsea defence.
Prediction: Chelsea. Although they have underperformed this season, Chelsea’s experience and desire for a Champions League trophy will carry them to the next round.
Barcelona vs AC Milan
Barcelona is the team everyone wanted to avoid. They are the defending champs and are arguably the best team in the world. As expected, Lionel Messi has led the way for Barca. He has already scored 12 goals during the campaign, tying the record he set last season. He is the focal point of Barcelona’s explosive offense. Barcelona is undefeated so far in the Champions League and no opposition has shown the ability to stop them from scoring. They will be confident of beating any team.
Although they know they have a difficult task ahead of them, AC Milan will believe that they can pull off the upset. They did manage to hold Barca to a 2-2 draw during the group stage. The Serie A leaders have the talent and experience to beat Barcelona. Their main weakness is their inconsistency. Winning 4-0 against Arsenal at home, then losing 3-0 away is a prime example. Ibrahimovic will be the driving force of the attack and is surrounded by players who can get him the ball in deadly positions. However, he cannot do it all alone. The entire team must play at their highest level for any hope against Barcelona, especially the back line.
Prediction: Barcelona. Milan will mount a challenge but Barcelona is just on a different level at the moment. Messi and friends will be too tough to stop.
APOEL Nicosia vs Real Madrid
APOEL is the surprise team of the tournament. Nobody expected the Cyprus champs to make it this far. They have survived due to their hard work and well-organized defence. Dionisis Chiotis’ performances in net have been legendary. His shot-stopping ability has saved them from defeat time and time again. Ailton and Gustavo Manduca have been their best players on the attacking side of the ball, scoring 3 goals apiece. It hurts that they will not have Manduca for the first game because of a suspension. They will rely on their defence once again to keep them in the game.
On the other hand, Real Madrid is one of the favourites to win the tourney and regarded as one of the only teams that can defeat Barcelona. Cristiano Ronaldo has been on top form up front this season. Kaka has also seen somewhat of a revival and has been instrumental in midfield along with Mesut Ozil. Like Barcelona, they are undefeated with 7 wins and 1 draw in the tournament. The La Liga leaders will not expect anything less than advancing to the semis.
Prediction: Real Madrid. Honestly, Real Madrid’s bench could easily defeat APOEL’s 1st team. It’s been a good run but APOEL’s Champions league adventure ends here.
Bayern Munich vs Marseille
Bayern Munich is a team reaching top form at just the right moment. After losing 1-0 to Basel, they thumped them at home 7-0 to advance. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben are two of the best play-making midfielders in the world and they can run rampant against unprepared defenses. They will look to get the ball in the box early and often, giving Mario Gomez every chance to score. The fact that the Champions League final is in Bayern this year will be another motivational factor. It will be a dream for Bayern to lift the trophy in their home stadium.
Marseille is a team struggling in their domestic league but have performed admirably in the Champions League. They put away Inter during their last leg despite being underdogs. They are a squad full of quality and young technically gifted players. The Ayew brothers, Loic Remy, and Brandao are serious threats in front of goal. They will be underdogs again in this round, but will come into it without fear, knowing that they have already defeated another big team. Steve Mandanda, their team captain and number 1 goalkeeper, will be missed while he serves a one game suspension.
Prediction: Bayern Munich. The German giants will advance and their pursuit of a championship final at home will continue. Their offense will be too much for Marseille to handle.
Those are my predictions. Looking forward to seeing how the matches play out in a few weeks time.