As we head towards the end of the 2016-2017 campaign, each competition begins to heat up meaning every game is practically a final. For Champions League, it means that only Europe’s best remain in the competition giving us some of the best games we could hope for. In the upcoming days, we will have the priviledge to see the likes of Juventus and Barcelona in a rematch of the 2015 final. 24 hours later, we’ll see the league leaders of Spain and Germany go head to head in a final-like fixture. With fixtures like these, it’s impossible to truly predict the final outcome. Nonetheless, here are my analysis and predictions on the most entertaining Champions League quarterfinals in years.
Barcelona vs Juventus
Last time these teams faced off, they both had a treble on the line but it was Luis Enrique’s men who won 3-1 in Berlin. Much has changed for both sides since that final two years ago.
Juventus has evolved into more of an offensive powerhouse with their front four of Mandzukic, Dybala, Cuadrado and Higuain combining for 43 goals in both league and Champions League. With the addition of Dani Alves and Higuain this summer, the team has shifted into a 4-2-3-1 with versatile wingers and two holding mids to control the game.
Barcelona on the other hand have tested the 3-4-3 lineup in the past for big games and it has, so far, worked to near perfection. As accustomed, Barcelona’s strongest form of defense is possession. If they are able to dominate the possession on the opponent’s half, their back three does not necessarily appear to be fragile. Umtiti and Mascherano and speedy defenders who can recover in case of a counterattack and Pique’s aerial ability and experience make him the perfect central piece in defense. Of course we all know what Messi, Neymar and Suarez are capable of up top. However, with this new lineup, it helps shift Messi more central making it almost a 3-3-1-3 allowing him to control the game from the center while not having to lose much defensively on the right wing.
Juve has proved to be one of the best defensive teams in Europe but it is safe to say they have yet to face a trio like MSN. When all three forwards are active and sharp, I believe there is no team in the World that can stop them. However, Barcelona’s defense has left some question marks when pressured high up the field. If Juventus study Barcelona’s game in Paris, they should create havoc for the Spanish giants. High pressure on Barcelona’s backline and lethal counterattacks could help Juve come away with a massive victory.
Prediction: Juve 2 Barca 1
Dortmund vs Monaco
This is another fixture that I am anxious to see. Some of the most exciting teams to watch this season who’s core players are still relatively young.
Dortmund set the record for most goals in the group stage of the competition thanks to an 8-4 thriller against Legia. An incredibly exciting front four led by one of the best strikers in the World in Aubameyang. United States teenage star Christian Pulisic has made a splash this season as one of the best attacking midfielders in the World and his creativity and vision ranks him amongst the best. However their defense has yet to fully convince me. They are unable to remain consistent and often times make crucial mistakes which can lead to trouble. Their defensive problems are often overlooked thanks to their brilliant and speedy attack but nonetheless, they do remain.
Monaco has shown the World just what they are capable of this season as they lead League 1 and defeated Guardiola’s Manchester City in a thrilling fixture. Similar to Dortmund, they are a young core perfectly mixed with veteran players like Falcao that have stepped up when needed. Alas, much like Dortmund again, their defense has proved to be unreliable at times. 13 goals conceded in 8 games can be cause for concern.
I expect this fixture to be goal-friendly with little to no defending involved. Similar characteristics with similar players who, for the most part, have little experience in big games. It will be a fun and thrilling match with multiple mistakes done by both teams but it will come down to who can score the most away goals. The first leg will be played in Dortmund where the hosts have lost just one of their last 12 games. First game will go to Dortmund but don’t expect Monaco to stay silent.
Prediction: Dortmund 4 Monaco 2
Leicester City vs Atletico Madrid
On paper, this is the most dull game of all of the quarterfinals but do not be surprised if they give us a memorable game. It’s the cinderella team of the tournament against a team little to no people actually enjoy watching. However, it is a fixture featuring a team with absolutely nothing to lose against a team that will have to switch their tactics to avoid humiliation.
Atletico will have to leave behind their defense-first mentality and go out and look for the game. That simple. Leicester will look to play it safe at the Vicente Calderon and go look for the game at home like they did with Sevilla. Simeone will then have to decide just how much he wants to switch his tactics and whether or not he’ll go on all out attack mode to kill the game in the first leg. That of course could leave them vulnerable in the counterattack. As we know, Atletico is not necessarily the most dangerous team when they go up for the attack. They’ll need to find a way to feed Griezmann or Torres and hope they can put the game away early.
Leicester City will travel to the Calderon and hope for at least a close game. We are uncertain what version of Leicester City will show up on Wednesday. Champions League Leicester City could compete and perhaps even beat Atletico. But Premier League Leicester will stand no chance. They’ll look to play it safe and force Atletico to play out of their playing style and make them uncomfortable. A close game with an away goal will serve as a victory for the foxes who again, have nothing to lose, but a lot to play for.
Prediction: Atletico 2 Leicester 0
Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid
Europe’s powerhouses this season. This fixture will be the most talked about all season regardless of the final result. League leaders who look to add to their luxurious cabinet of international trophies. This story has it all. Carlo Ancelotti vs his old team. Bayern’s revenge for 2014. Robben and Xabi Alonso vs old team. Madrid’s revenge for 2012. One of the favorites will go down before the semi final, we just don’t know who.
Bayern have practically wrapped up the league and can worry strictly on the Champions League at this point. However, injuries have them somewhat vulnerable at this point of the season. Hummels and Lewandowski don’t seem to be fit but luckily for them, they have the best bench in Europe. It will be interesting to see Ancelotti’s approach leading up to the game. In 2014, Pep’s possession-friendly Bayern got stomped at home 4-0 thanks to counterattack goals. Playing at home will give Bayern a sense of relaxation knowing that they can dictate the fixture early on in front of their own crowd. Unlike 2014, they won’t need to go out and desperately look for goals which would leave them vulnerable. If they can dictate the first leg and prevent Madrid from conceding, the second leg will be much much easier.
Real Madrid has been the most confusing team in my eyes. The team has various disappointing games which they end up winning simply by the luck of Zidane (yes, it’s now a thing). Not quite sure where their goals are coming from either. An off season for all of BBC and a midfield that isn’t exactly known for scoring. Somehow, they’re finding a way. Leading La Liga comfortably and aside from Dortmund, no one has really challenged them in Champions League so far. They’re one of Europe’s best for a reason and I’m sure they’ll come out to show it on Wednesday. Despite Pepe and Varane being out injured, I don’t think Nacho will be a liability for Madrid in the back.
Prediction: Bayern 2 Real Madrid 0