The Champions League returns next week, with eight teams still in the hunt to make the final at Wembley in May. A number of high-profile sides have been eliminated, including Manchester United, City and defending champions Chelsea, however a host of top European clubs still remain.
The four fixtures drawn are all intriguing match-ups, without pairing any of the tournament favourites together. With the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich still in the hunt, and the rising power of teams like Paris Saint-Germain, Malaga and Borussia Dortmund, and enthralling quarter-final line-up is in store.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Barcelona
Despite a blip in early March that saw them beaten twice by Real Madrid and once by AC Milan at the San Siro, Barcelona remain one of the favourites to lift the trophy this year. The Catalan side overcame their scare in Italy with a comprehensive 4-0 win in the second leg of their last 16 tie against the Rossoneri.
PSG’s new-found wealth is starting to reap rewards, with the French capital-city side top of Ligue 1 and starting to look like a threat in Europe. Carlo Ancelotti’s star-studded side disposed of seasoned European side Valencia in the last 16, but their next clash will test just how far they have come, and whether they are ready to mix it with the best teams on the continent.
The first leg of this tie will be played at the Parc des Princes, and it is essential that PSG win their home leg if they stand any chance of progression to the semi-finals. Even then, as Milan found out, going to Camp Nou is a big ask, and the Parisian rearguard will need to be disciplined to contain a lethal Barcelona attack.
It is hard to look past Barcelona for this tie, as their attacking play and possession football should be too much for PSG to handle. The French side must be commended for their efforts in making it this far, however the Catalans have eyes on a domestic and European double.
Bayern Munich vs Juventus
Arguably the tie of the round, Bayern Munich and Juventus have been relatively comfortable in their progression to this stage, and will look to lay down a statement of intent with victory here.
Bayern are still hurting from their defeat to Chelsea in the final of the Champions League last term, and have come out fighting in 2012/13. With a domestic Bundesliga title all but wrapped up and scintillating form on the continent, the Bavarians will take some beating this time round.
The 3-1 win over Arsenal in England in the last round showed what Die Roten are capable of, and with Pep Guardiola assuming the Allianz Arena hotseat next season it is an exciting time to be a Bayern Munich fan.
Juventus have gone about their business clinically and effectively this term, and have put themselves in a position to reclaim their Serie A crown. In the Champions League a commanding performance against Celtic in Scotland ensured progression to this stage, and a 3-0 home win over Chelsea in the groups stands out. That said, the tie against Bayern will be a step up for the Bianconeri.
The winners of this tie must be deemed as a real contender for the whole competition, and Bayern will be slight favourites given the way they have been playing. However, Juventus have shown traditional Italian doggedness over the last 18 months, and with a supremely talented midfield, may just edge the tie.
Malaga vs Borussia Dortmund
A clash of the wild cards, Malaga and Borussia Dortmund have overcome a number of obstacles to take their rightful place in the last eight, and this tie should be packed with attacking intent and exciting play.
Malaga’s achievements this season are made all the more spectacular given their financial problems in the summer, and after the sale of Jose Rondon and Santi Cazorla the side from La Rosaleda were being written off. However Manuel Pellegrini has worked wonders. The Spanish side topped their Champions League group unbeaten at the first time of asking, and overcame a spirited Porto team to make the last eight.
Dortmund struggled to make an impact in Europe last season after winning the Bundesliga at a canter, but Jurgen Klopp’s men have been a tough customer in this season’s competition.
Topping the Group of Death against Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax, the German champions then outplayed the dangerous Shakhtar Donetsk in the round of 16. Supremely talented and devastating in attack, Dortmund fans are dreaming of a repeat of their 1997 heroics in lifting Europe’s top trophy.
Malaga will put up a strong-willed fight in the first leg at home, but Dortmund should have too much in the return leg in Germany. The likes of Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Mats Hummels are world stars in the making, and Dortmund should progress with a strong home showing.
Real Madrid vs Galatasaray
Real Madrid’s slow start to the season has been put well and truly behind them, and Jose Mourinho’s men have come into form at just the right time. Consecutive victories over Clasico rivals Barcelona and the elimination of Manchester United from the Champions League have been Los Blancos’ standout performances of the campaign.
Galatasaray have regained their mantle as Turkey’s top team under Fatih Terem, and with a wealth of experienced foreign players complementing exciting homegrown talent, are a tricky team to face. The shrewd January acquisitions of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder show that the Turks are keen to get back to their former dominant selves, and an imposing atmosphere at the Turk Telekom Arena awaits Madrid.
Despite Galatasaray’s improvement and impressive elimination of Schalke in the last round, it is hard to look past Madrid for the tie. Mourinho will urge his side to end the tie as a contest in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, and the Turks will find it tough to contain the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and company.