The UEFA Champions League returns on April 6 (Tuesday) as the quarterfinal stage of the tournament gets underway. This year’s edition of the UCL has been hamstrung by off the field issues. A lack of fans for the most part has continued to impact games but that wasn’t the only problem. The ever-changing coronavirus situations across Europe even saw games played at neutral venues. That being said, the quality of the football has, for the most part, remained unaffected. As the tournament enters the business end, let’s take a look at each of the four games and try to gauge who will come out on top.
The most high-profile of the two clashes set for Tuesday sees an encore of the 2018 Champions League final. That match is remembered mostly for then-Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius making two costly errors, as well as Sergio Ramos injuring Mohamed Salah’s shoulder. However, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has played down any ideas of this tie being a ‘revenge tour’.
The match itself should deliver, although both teams possess notable weaknesses waiting to be exploited. Liverpool have been vulnerable at the back this season whereas Real Madrid lack mobility in midfield. However, both sides possess an in-form forward. Diogo Jota has been on fire for Liverpool lately and Karim Benzema has shouldered Real’s attacking load admirably. Expect this game to be decided by the finest of margins.
After being steamrolled by an all-conquering Liverpool side in 2019/20, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City look set to regain their domestic crown this year. But Guardioala’s key focus will be the Champions League; the Catalan has not won the trophy since his days at Barcelona. The current City side have the tools to go the distance.
By contrast, Dortmund find themselves at a bit of a crossroads. They have a talented young side – spearheaded by 20-year-old Norwegian striker Erling Haaland and England international Jadon Sancho. However, they currently sit fifth in the Bundesliga – seven points adrift of Eintracht Frankfurt and the Champions League spots. Whether or not they can stop the City juggernaut remains to be seen.
The luck of the draw did not favour the defending champions in the slightest. Bayern Munich will have to see off a resurgent PSG to stand a chance of making it to the semi-finals. Nevertheless, the side have shown no significant drop-off under coach Hansi Flick and will start the tie as favourites. That being said, the loss of Robert Lewandowski to injury is a big blow.
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino will have both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to call upon in a match that could well define his season. The former Tottenham Hotspur manager has revitalised the side since replacing Thomas Tuchel but will need to show progress in Europe to keep his job safe. Beating the current standard bearers of European football would be some way to announce his intentions of succeeding with the Parisian giants.
Chelsea suffered a shock 5-2 loss to struggling West Brom in the Premier League. However, they showed excellent tactical innovation to see off Atletico Madrid in the round of 16 stage. New coach Tuchel took PSG to the final last year and will be keen for a repeat this year.
However, Porto are no pushovers. Their defence-first style of play saw them eliminate Juventus and they will relish the underdogs tag. It will also be interesting to see how Malang Sarr, on loan from Chelsea to Porto, fares against his parent club.