The Champions League quarter-finals. It’s at this stage we’ve often seen some of the biggest names in European football drop out. A clash of the titans, where only one team can progress to the semis, while the other curses their luck for yet another year. The draw for both the quarter-final and the semi-final were made last week, and there are a number of plum ties coming up.
Manchester City will be looking to make the semi-final for the first time under Pep Guardiola’s stewardship, as they take on German club, Borussia Dortmund. Liverpool face Spanish giants Real Madrid, as they aim to exact revenge on the team that beat them in the 2018 final in Kiev. Chelsea are probably thankful for a tie against Porto. Meanwhile, there’s another battle between last year’s finalists, as the current champions, Bayern Munich, take on runners-up, Paris Saint-Germain.
If you’re looking at the UEFA Champions League odds on your mobile, you’ll notice that Manchester City are the outright favourites to win the competition, but Bayern are the favourites to progress from their clash. Incidentally, the winners of City/Dortmund will face the winners of Bayern/PSG.
Last year’s final wasn’t a memorable one by any accounts – but Bayern were worthy winners. Hans-Dieter Flick’s side made history as they became the first team to win every match en route to the final, with a clean sweep in the group stages, followed by victories in every subsequent round of knockout football.
And while it was a closely-contested affair, with the scoreline going in favour of the Bavarians by the narrowest of margins, it was quite the story for the goalscorer, Kingsley Coman. The young winger previously spent a decade at the French club, coming through the ranks as a youth player, and making four first-team appearances before departing for Juventus, and later Bayern, following successful loan spells. A powerful header at the far post from Joshua Kimmich’s cross before the hour mark was enough to settle the score and hand Bayern a sixth Champions League title.
Looking ahead to the final eight, it is this fixture, more than the others, which dominates the latest UEFA Champions League news. Bayern have been their usual formidable force this season, both domestically and in Europe. In the Champions League, they are yet to lose a game – although it wasn’t six wins out of six in the group stages this time around, following a draw with Atlético Madrid on matchday five.
But Flick’s side are flying high at the top of the Bundesliga, with a four-point cushion over RB Leipzig, and are unbeaten in four league matches. On hearing the draw, the Bayern boss said:
“There are only strong opponents in the quarter-finals, the top eight in Europe. It’s important to play two strong games. We want to progress. PSG are strong opponents, they showed that in the final last season. But we’ve also shown our quality.”
Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain will look to continue their decent run in Europe’s premier club competition under Mauricio Pochettino, who took to the reins at the start of the year. They recently knocked out Barcelona 5-2 on aggregate, and domestically, after beating Lyon at the weekend, go top of Ligue 1 on goal difference. It was a fairly torrid start to the campaign, with the current reigning champions of French football in the lower reaches of the table with back-to-back defeats early on. While Pochettino is still trying to work his philosophy into the side, and PSG don’t look quite on the same level as they have done previously, the tide is slowly turning – and a crunch match next weekend against Lille could have a huge impact on how the rest of the campaign pans out.
And ahead of the first leg on April 7th, to be played in Munich, the Argentinean head coach has promised his side will be competitive:
“The draw is of course a difficult one, and surprises exist, but we're going to play against the team that is the best on the continent at the moment. We're optimistic, the team will be competitive, we knocked out Barcelona and now we are focused on Bayern, with one objective, that of qualifying for the semi-finals.”
Sadly, for one of Europe’s elite, their Champions League journey will be over for another season come the middle of next month. But for neutral football fans across Europe, two teams of the highest quality facing each other in knockout football is what the beautiful game is all about.