The Champions League quarterfinals have some pretty intriguing matches lined up for us: Bayern Munich & Manchester United, Real Madrid & Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid and Chelsea facing PSG. Great games, but none of them a potential final with two favorites going head to head.
The two biggest favorites going into the final eight are Bayern Munich, the defending champions, and Real Madrid, who have romped their way through Europe this season. It’s about them and their ability, but it also has something to do with the weakness of their rivals.
Number 1 – Bayern Munich
Two reasons – A) They’ve been playing the best football in Europe for almost three years now, and have lost only once in official competition this season: A garbage time match against Manchester City during the group stage. B) They’re playing Manchester United, the weakest team out of the remaining eight.
Pep Guardiola took on an easy/tough job this summer: Taking over Bayern just when they peaked and had their perfect season. After a rocky start in terms of the aesthetics of their style (the results were always good), it seems like the blend of a mega rich club, an innovative manager with his tiki-taka tactics and the players who won everything last season is working out quite nicely again.
Number 2 – Real Madrid
Don’t be fooled by their loss, and slightly disappointing performance in El Clasico. Real Madrid have rampaged through Europe this season and for the most part, the Spanish league as well. THe return of Xabi Alonso might have taken Isco out from the equation, but Real Madrid are simply better when one of the best DMs in the world is healthy. The BBC is good for two goals at least in every match, and when considering how badly Dortmund’s defense has preformed this season, it’s hard to look at past results and think the Germans can actually cause an upset here.
Number 3 – FC Barcelona
After too many away losses that almost took them out of the championship race, the win in Madrid in El Clasico proves that there’s a bit more to Martion’s Barcelona then people would like to admit, especially if you try to sum it up by focusing on Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, putting in a masterpiece of a performance. Jordi Alba is turning out to be an excellent defender and not just wing back, while Gerard Pique is tremendous when his partner doesn’t fail him with bad coverage. Atletico are a tough nugget – a team Barcelona have yet to beat this season, but it’s hard to ignore their edge in terms of quality.
Number 4 – Chelsea FC
Chelsea’s last match, a 6-0 demolition over Arsenal, came after losing 1-0 to Aston Villa. This is a team that usually doesn’t play as well as the results might suggest, but it has incredible talent up front, even without any dependable striker, and their defense, under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, can be quite tough to crack when they’re not looking for anything but a draw or a solid result. In a way they’re similar to Paris Saint-Germain, something of an older version of quick rises through outside money, which doesn’t cancel out the fact that they’re really really good, and have a manager who gives them the advantage in this clash.
Number 5 – PSG
PSG have lost only once in Ligue 1 this season and have gone undefeated through the Champions League group and knockout stage so far. Laurent Blanc is probably no match for Mourinho in terms of tactics and surprises, but he also has a team with a very solid defensive midfield, excellent centre backs and one Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is hungry for the one club title he’s missing from his packed trophy room. It might make PSG a bit more predictable than anyone else, but in terms of quality, they’re better than last season, and ready to make it into the semifinals.
Number 6 – Atletico Madrid
Even though this is the first time since 1997 that Atletico have been to this stage, this team isn’t just about seeing the sights. They’re leading the league in Spain, have gone undefeated in the La Liga against the two giants and are having a very dominant season in Europe. Diego Simeone presides over a tough group that’s very difficult to score against. It might not be pretty at times, even a little bit dirty, but it gets the job done. The biggest change has been the no fear factor, changing last season in the Copa Del Rey final, and making this group believe they can beat anyone.
Number 7 – Borussia Dortmund
Somehow, despite all the injuries and problems this team has had to endure this season, they’re still in second place behind Bayern in the Bundesliga (way way behind), and had no trouble going past Zenit in the knockout stage. Real Madrid are a different task, and with this broken and patched up defense it’s going to be hard and dominate like in last season, in which Dortmund were the better team in all four matches, but Klopp knows what he needs to do. He only needs a little bit of luck and a performance that’s better than the quality of players he has at his disposal.
Number 8 – Manchester United
Looking at the Manchester United squad, it’s hard to find a single player who has a definite spot in the Bayern Munich lineup. That pretty much sums up the difference between the two sides. David Moyes might be relying on the name of his crowd and the European effect Old Trafford brings, but when it comes to actual football, tactics and skills, they’re inferior in every possible way.