With the draw for the Champions League quarterfinals set in stone, it’s time to take a look at the match-ups of eight of the most prestigious club tournament in Europe.
Matchup 1: Chelsea vs. Benfica
With a recent resurgence of the Blues, Chelsea certainly will feel optimistic about progressing further in the competition. They had a fantastic comeback in the Round of 16 against Napoli, losing 3-1 in the first leg and turning it around with a brilliant 4-1win at Stamford Bridge. With Didier Drogba back in the squad and finding form, Chelsea pose a great risk to opposing defenders.
Benfica famously helped knock out English giants Manchester United in the group stages. They then overcame a 3-2 loss in Russia to win on aggregate 4-3 against Zenit St. Petersburg. The Portugese team do not have a problem finding the back of the net, as they have never failed to score in any of their Champions League matches thus far.
Prediction: 1st leg Benfica win at home. 2nd leg Chelsea win at home. Chelsea progress on aggregate.
Matchup 2: Real Madrid vs. APOEL
APOEL is definitely the Cinderella side of the 2012 tournament so far. The first Cypriot side ever to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, APOEL took it one step further defeating French outfit Olympique Lyonnais in penalties, after a 1-1 draw one the final siren.
In comparison, Real Madrid put five goals on aggregate past CSKA Moskva. Madrid are currently the leaders of La Liga, seven points ahead of Barcelona. Like their rivals, Madrid have also only dropped points on one occasion, a 1-1 draw against CSKA Moskva. However, their strikers have a far superior execution, having netted 24 goals this tournament, compared to APOEL’s seven. Jose Mourinho will most certainly fancy his chances against the Cypriot side.
Prediction: Real Madrid wins both legs and progresses.
Matchup 3: Olympique de Marseille vs. Bayern Munich
Both teams are well known and respected in Europe. After losing the first game against FC Basel 1-0, Bayern Munich came back stronger than ever smashing seven goals past Basel in Munich. Their leading goal scorer, Mario Gomez, has ten goals to his name so far in the competition. Munich have not had the greatest time playing away from home, though, drawing once and losing twice so far. However, they are on a hot streak in the Bundesliga at the moment having scored 20 times in their last three games.
Marseille had a tough time putting away Italian giants Internazionale in the round of 16, eventually winning on away goals. They’re Champions league campaign so far has been relatively inconsistent with three losses and a draw in total. Funnily enough, two of those losses were in their home ground, but with Munich’s average away record Marseille must take advantage in the first leg. It must be noted though, that Marseille won both games against Bundesliga leaders, Borussia Dortmund, in the group stages.
Prediction: 1st leg draw at Marseille. 2nd leg Bayern Munich win. Bayern Munich progresses.
Matchup 4: Barcelona vs. AC Milan
Definitely the match-up of the quarterfinals. The reigning Champions League title holders face off against the leaders of the Serie A. Barcelona progressed in style putting ten goals past German side Bayern Leverkusen in the round of 16. 3-1 in the away leg and 7-1 at Camp Nou, with their talisman Lionel Messi slotting five times past the keeper in the latter. The Catalan giants have only dropped points in the Champions League once, and that was against the team they’ll soon face again, AC Milan, drawing 2-2 against them at home in the group stages.
AC Milan started strong in the round of 16 defeating Arsenal 4-1. However, in the second leg, Milan survived a scare as they lost to Arsenal 3-0 narrowly avoiding elimination as they won on aggregate. Star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is certainly scoring his fair share of goals in the domestic cup though, with 20 goals in 22 matches. Can he bring his form into the Champions League and will the effects of the Arsenal loss be lingering at the back of Milan’s mind? They certainly need to pull it together if they want to defeat Barcelona.
Prediction: 1st leg draw at Milan. 2nd leg Barcelona win. Barcelona progresses.
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