Indeed, the UEFA Champions League draw couldn’t come soon enough. Those who still have a dog in the race and those who don’t all watched with subtle anxiety as the draws were made in Nyon, France. All eyes rolled with the hands of Andriy Schevchenko as he rolled the balls and picked randomly before reeling out the names of teams to face each other in quaterfinals.
The outcome isn’t news anymore. Conquerors of Chelsea; Barcelona will take on AS Roma, surprise Manchester United slayers Sevilla will try Bayern Munich for size, Juventus and Real Madrid will square up in a repeat of last year’s final while Liverpool will be up against Manchester City in a mouthwatering all-English encounter.
Significantly, the pairing meant, in the next round of the comepetiton; there would be one English team, there could still be at least two Spanish teams, the sole German representative might also remain and the two Italian teams in the last eight might be close to the end of the road.
At this stage, all eight teams are two rounds away from the final. With all eyes set on the trophy who advances and who doesn’t?
Here’s what Abiodun Adewale makes of the the quarter final pairings:
Liverpool v Manchester City
This fixture will mark the first meeting of both clubs in Europe. Though Liverpool remains the only team to have beaten City in the Premier League this season, they can only fancy their chances against their Premier League champions in waiting.
Yes, the reds play fascinating attacking football that best matches City’s style and they have an atmosphere that intimidates opponents on European football nights. However their ability to concede goals (minding away goal rule) and playing the second leg at the Etihad stadium would be a headache. This would be City’s biggest advantage over them.
Compared to their opponent’s status, Manchester City are as as feared as Barcelona and Real Madrid. Still the merseysiders will be a troublesome opponent for City anytime, any day.
City have an enviable stride this season and the gulf in class between them and Liverpool is evident on the Premier League table, so this two-legged affair provides another opportunity to show that superiority – at least for this season. To their advantage also is a depth in squad and a second leg at home.
Concentration and consistency will make a huge difference between the reds and the citizens. Thats what the Champions League takes; that’s what City have and what Liverpool lacks.
Sevilla v Bayern Munich
Asides an away defeat to PSG in the group stage, Bayern Munich have been in good form in the Champions League. This is evident in the 8-1 aggregate demolition of Besiktas in the round of 16. Will this mean anything to Sevilla? – an average team from La Liga that has come this far by painfully eliminating Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
Yes, it will. Sevilla are in this stage, not because they are aggressive but because Manchester United were poor over two legs in the round of 16. That is to say, any sleeping giant should be wary of sleepwalking back home against the three time back-to-back Europa League winners.
Avoiding Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester City is definitely an advantage for Bayern Munich. And being the only representative of Germany, they should be ruthlessly motivated to punish Sevilla or even any other opponent.
FC Barcelona v Roma
By all standards, Barcelona were handed the easiest job in the draws. Barcelona fans might say it won’t be easy, but that would only be regarded as mind games either.
After conquering Chelsea in the last round, Barca would definitely not have wished for another opponent in the last eight that could get under their skin like the blues. Now that’s what they have in Roma – they could summon some comfort in that before taking on an inevitable heavyweight in the semifinal.
Roma too are aware of Barcelona’s run and Messi’s impact. But for making it this far after a decade, Roma must be down for whatever comes their way.
Juventus v Real Madrid
They say experience is what you need to play in the Champions League. If that statement is really a sacred fact, these two sides have it and they are up against each other for the third time in four years. Besides, how does experience underline this kind of fixture?
Aside the fact that this tie is a repeat of last year’s final, it’s the battle of 12 times champions and and two times winners. Also, the he Champions League is Real Madrid’s only hope of a silverware this season, just as Juventus are in dire need of a trophy which has eluded them twice in three years. The Old Lady lost to Barcelona in the 2015 final and were also beaten to it by Real Madrid in 2017. So it’s a mixture of revenge and ambition.
Real Madrid have theoretically made the Champions League theirs in the last four years. They won their tenth title in 2014 and added the eleventh and twelfth with an unprecedented back-to-back feat in 2016 and 2017. It is now more like, the only way to stop them from winning it is to stop them from making the final.
But who is going to stop Los Blancos, a battled hardened Juventus? Much can also be said about the impact of players in this match-up. Juventus are still looking formidable with the 40-year old man between the sticks, Gianluigi Buffon – a legend that needs to add the Europe’s elite title to his CV. In the same team is also Sami Khedira and Paulo Dybala.
Then you think of Cristiano Ronaldo who plays like he was born for the competition. Ronaldo alone makes Real Madrid look like a moving train, unstoppable until he decides to. But Juventus have knocked them out before in 2015 and can still do it again. That should make them feel confident even as Real wouldn’t want to allow complacency.
If there is a story however, there might be a twist as well. So that’s a teaser into what to expect in the semi finals pairing. The world better be ready for a treat as the Champions League never disappoints.
The die is cast and April can’t come soon enough.