Tuesday, April 14 marks the beginning of the Champions League quarterfinals, where the final eight teams will compete to make it one step closer to the finals. The quarterfinals matchups are as follows: Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid, Juventus vs. AS Monaco, Paris St. Germain vs. Barcelona and FC Porto vs. Bayern Munich. At first glance, there are a number of intriguing storylines that go along with a few of these matchups. Right off the bat, the Madrid derby is about as good of a rivalry as you can get in European Club soccer and is a rematch of last years finals, when Real took it to their crosstown rivals 4-1. Juventus vs. Monaco is interesting because it means that one of those two sides are guaranteed a spot in the semifinals, where they will likely become the underdog if they face anyone besides Porto. PSG vs. Barcelona is an intriguing matchup because of the starpower dripping from both of these teams. Bayern vs. Porto should be
interesting because, well, it’s Bayern.
Looking at Tuesday’s matchups, we have the Madrid derby first. When projecting Real’s lineup, things get grim for Atletico. Offensively, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale will occupy the top of the formation, as has become tradition. What is new is that both Luka Modric and James Rodriguez are fully healthy again for the Champions League. Modric and Rodriguez returning to their attacking midfield roles adds a strong scoring presence behind Real’s formidable front three. On top of that, Toni Kroos is playing a defensive holding midfielder, a position that is out of his comfort zone, as he is a classic attacking-minded midfielder. Real has all of these star scorers and doesn’t really know what to do with them. Atletico has one of the most impressive young strikers in the game, Antoine Griezmann, who will most likely play alongside veteran forward Mario Mandzukic, rather than Fernando Torres. Either way, they surely have the ability to score, especially if Atletico’s midfield can control the center third. While Atletico might be able to get a positive result at home in the first leg, look for Real to ride their offensive firepower into the semi finals.
Tuesday’s other matchup will feature Juventus vs. Monaco. Monaco rode the starpower of James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao into the Champions League last season, when they finished near the top of Ligue 1 in France. Those two players have since been sold to Real Madrid and Manchester United, respectively, but Monaco has been able to make it to the final eight despite this. Monaco is currently being led up front by an aging Dimitar Berbatov as their scoring threat. However, they can defend like banshees, as they showed with their complete frustration of Arsenal in the second leg of the last round. Juventus has one of the best midfields in the world behind Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, who should be able to pick apart Monaco. While this one could go either way, striker Carlos Tevez, with his bulldog-like approach, will be back this round and should be able to help the all-star midfield put together a positive result for the Italians.
Wednesday features Barcelona vs. PSG, a matchup of epic starpower. Barcelona’s big three up top, Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, are still riding the almost perfect chemistry that they had discovered when the Round of 16 started back in February. PSG has Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani at the top, two incredibly potent scoring threats, as well as Thiago Silva to anchor the defense. PSG will be at a slight disadvantage against the Barca big three, as star center back David Luiz is out with an injury. He will be replaced by Marquinhos, who will undoubtedly have his hands full with all three of Barca’s forwards. While numerous players in the Barca defense are also out with injury, Gerard Pique should be able to hold it down. PSG did surprise last round by squeaking past Chelsea on away goals, but Barca’s utter demolition of a quality Man City team shows that PSG will have a lot more on their hands this round. Expect an exciting but fairly straightforward Barcelona victory.
Finally, we get to the “gimme tie,” of FC Porto vs. Bayern Munich. Porto has been fun to watch so far in this Champions League, but they haven’t exactly had a path of high resistance. They were able to maneuver past a small market FC Basel team last round, but the quarterfinals is where the buck stops. Bayern is player for player, from starters down to their bench, the best team left in this tournament. While they are currently plagued by injuries, the replacements are just as good. Neuer, Lahm, Alonso, Alcantara, Lewandowski, Muller and Gotze all will most likely start. The first leg in Porto might be close if the home team parks the bus to avoid giving up an all-important away goal, but expect a Bayern smashing during the second leg.