Champions League quarters preview: No English teams, but great fixtures ahead
For the first time since 1996 there is no English representation in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Despite this, the draw has still thrown up some potentially exciting ties that are bound to produce plenty of goals and talking points.
Malaga vs Borussia Dortmund
Probably the least glamorous looking of the ties, but has the potential to be one of the most entertaining. Both teams have been extremely impressive in getting this far. Malaga topped their group, remaining unbeaten, and finished ahead of AC Milan and Zenit, before overturning a first-leg deficit against Porto in the last 16. Dortmund meanwhile were put in the so-called Group of Death alongside Manchester City, Real Madrid and Ajax. They too remained unbeaten though, and also finished first in their group before sweeping aside Shakhtar in the last 16.
While most people will look at Isco as Malaga’s main threat, the experience they possess with the likes of Joaquin, Toulalan, Saviola and Demichelis is not to be under-estimated, and they will be prepared for the occasion. Dortmund’s youth and attacking style may just prove to be too much for the Spaniards however, and with the guaranteed goals and creativity of Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski along with home advantage in the second leg, the Germans may well be a good outside bet to make it all the way to Wembley.
Real Madrid vs Galatasaray
The second favourites meet the rank outsiders in this quarter-final tie. Madrid cruised through their group, even though they finished second to Dortmund, and then controversially saw off Manchester United over two tense games. Galatasaray just edged through their group ahead of CFR Cluj and their attacking prowess saw them score three in Germany to get past Schalke.
There is no doubting the Turkish side’s attacking options. Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder were the big name signings in January, but they also boast the joint top scorer in the competition with Burak Yilmaz. Add to this the experience of Felipe Melo and Hamit Altintop in the midfield and they certainly have a strong core to their team. Over two games though it is hard to see a defence which has already conceded in all but one game in the competition so far this season containing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and company. Galatasaray do have the advantage of being at home for the second leg, but they cannot afford to be more than a goal or two behind after their trip to the Bernabeu.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Barcelona
Undoubtedly the tie of the round, which pits the big-spending French team against a side that has raised most of its players through its youth team. Despite a couple of wobbles along the way against Celtic and in the first leg against AC Milan, the Catalan giants still remain the team to beat. As they showed in the second leg against Milan they are still unstoppable when they are in form. PSG were very impressive in topping their group, and despite a nervy second leg against Valencia, they deservedly fought their way through.
The biggest problem for the French side in the first game will be the continued suspension of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. To have any chance against Barcelona, they will need their strongest team and it will be a big blow to not have their talisman. Not that PSG are a one-man team though. Ezequiel Lavezzi continues to show his talent with five goals in this tournament, and they also have exciting young talents Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore. The problem they may face though is getting the ball to these players, but if they can there is no doubt that they can cause Barcelona problems. It would be no surprise if Paris Saint-Germain got a positive result at home, but as Milan found out in the last 16, it needs a big lead to take to the Nou Camp for the return game.
Bayern Munich vs Juventus
The final tie pits together two of the heavyweights of European football over the years. Bayern have been very impressive up to this stage, and despite their second-leg defeat to Arsenal, they still dominated in terms of attempts at goal and possession. Juventus came through a slow start to qualify first from a group containing Shakhtar and defending champions Chelsea, before brushing aside the challenge of Celtic.
Bayern will be determined to make amends for their final defeat to Chelsea last year and they certainly have a team who find it easy to create chances and, certainly at domestic level, score goals. They are coming up against a side though that is more of a stereotypical Italian team. Solid at the back and good in possession, Juve play the game at their own pace. They may be short of big names but they have an Italian core that are well drilled and know exactly what they are doing. This is probably the hardest of the quarter-finals to call, but it may well be that Bayern’s extra options in the attacking third will be enough to see them through; but only just.