The Champions League and Europa League Quarter Finals are set and we have some tasty match ups to look forward to. Let’s start by analyzing the Champions League draws.
PSG vs Barcelona
A mouth-watering draw with the likes of THE Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura taking on the sneaky fast Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas. This is going to be an EPIC encounter and will no doubt keep us all on the edge of our seats for all 180 minutes. I’m expecting a high scoring aggregate final with goals galore in both legs. Both of these teams are high energy and are well-equipped with firepower from more than one angle. I will be rooting for PSG to take down the blaugranas, however, I think Barca will be too much for Le Parisiens and when all is said and done, it will be Barca advancing to yet another Champions League semi-final.
Prediction: Barca 5-3 on aggregate
Real Madrid vs Galatasaray
Jose Mourinho will be reacquainted with one of his beloved former players, Didier Drogba. Many will look at this match up and think Real Madrid will cruise past the Turkish giants, but I don’t think it will be so easy. Galatasaray are a very, very, good squad with some elite talent amongst their ranks. The acquisition of Wesley Sneijder has not yet paid off as the Dutchman is still suffering from poor form. After all, he has pretty much been on vacation for a few months, he was not playing at all for Inter Milan before the transfer happened as he was relegated to the bench for not accepting a pay cut. If Sneijder can find his form in the next month, these two legs will be much more interesting. Burak Yilmaz has been on an absolute tear for Galatasary and is the joint top scorer in the competition with 8 goals, tied with Cristiano Ronaldo. Paired up with Didier Drogba, those two give Galatasaray a fighting chance against Los Blancos. However, I am a man of reason, and Real Madrid are definitely on a mission, guided by the great Special One. Mesut Ozil, Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria, that is simply too much attacking prowess for the Turkish giants to overcome. I would like to give some recognition to 19 year old defender, Raphael Varane who has been a revelation in the center of defense for Real Madrid. This young man is going to become one of the worlds best defenders in the very very short future. He is an absolute gem that deserves all the recognition he gets. His play has not gone unnoticed as Deschamps has called his number for the French national squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifying matches.
Prediction: Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate.
Malaga vs Borussia Dortmund
Malaga is one of the more intriguing teams remaining in this competition. They are a very talented squad with some real gems in their squad. If you are searching for one of the more promising young talents in world football, look no further than Isco. The Spanish attacker is having a magnificent season and has drawn the attention of some of the biggest clubs in the world, including Chelsea. Malaga realized this and went ahead and restructured his contract during the winter window in order to increase his buy out clause. It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that Isco will be sold in the summer because Malaga need all the money they can get due to their financial situation. They already sold starting left back Nacho Monreal during the winter window for 10 million euros to Arsenal, and had sold one of their best midfielders in Santi Cazorla during the offseason to Arsenal as well. Santi Cazorla has been fantastic for Arsenal this season, yet despite these moves, Malaga are still having a great season. Manuel Pelligrini has done a fantastic job for Malaga, guiding them to the quarter finals of the Champions League and has the team sitting in 4th place in La Liga. On the other hand, Borussia Dortmund are suffering from somewhat of a hangover from last seasons success yet still find themselves in a great position to reach the semi finals of the Champions League. Dortmund are coming off a double winning season last year, taking the DFB Pokal Championship along with the Bundesliga title. They are already knocked out of the DFB Pokal thanks to Bayern Munich and find themselves 20 points behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. This is their only chance at silverware this year and they certainly have the players to take them the distance. Led by Jurgen Klopp and young phenoms Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski, this squad has the potential to lift the holy grail of all trophies.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 3-2 on aggregate.
Bayern Munich vs Juventus
The German Giants vs The Italian Giants. This will be a battle of tight knit defense vs high powered offense. In the end, I have no doubts that the Bavarian’s high powered offense will come out victorious. Bayern are still in the hunt for the treble, they have the Bundesliga wrapped up by a long mile, have a great shot at the DFB Pokal after knocking out rivals Borussia Dortmund and are now that much closer to returning to the Champions League final for a second consecutive year. Juventus should cause them a little bit of trouble becaue of their stingy defense having allowed only 18 goals in Serie A, however Bayern’s defense is quite stout in their own right. With the emergence of young phenom Dante and the solid veteran presence of Daniel van Buyten, the ever reliable captain Philipp Lahm and the emergence of David Alaba as one of the elite prospects at LB has led to Bayern only allowing 10 goals in the Bundesliga. Despite Juve’s lack of a prominent striker they have still managed to net 55 goals in Serie A, however, this will be their stiffest test all year. I think Bayern Munich will manage to roll past Juve and advance comfortably to the semis.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 4-1 on aggregate.
The ugly step sister of European competitions has proven it can still be an entertaining tournament. Inter Milan put forth a valiant effort coming back from a 3-0 first leg deficit against Tottenham and managed to put 3 in the back of the net in the return leg to force extra time. Unfortunately, Adebayor managed to literally fall into a goal in the 1st half of extra time which made Inter’s conquest that much harder. They needed two goals in extra time after that because of the away goal rule, and they almost did it, but fell one goal short. They thumped a Bale-less Spurs 4-1 at the end but did not advance because of the away goal rule. As per usual for this season, Chelsea had another heart stopping game but managed to advanced thanks to the most unlikeliest source, Fernando Torres, granting his team advancement to the next round with a 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge.
Tottenham vs Basel
Spurs should advance comfortably to the semi finals, however, nothing is ever a foregone conclusion when it comes to the Spurs as their fans can attest. Basel managed to get by Hulk and Zenit St. Petersburg but this should prove to be a much tougher task. Gareth Bale is in the form of his life and Moussa Dembele has proven to be a fantastic signing for AVB. Basel are heavily reliant on 31 year old countryman Marco Streller for their goals, he leads the team with 12 goals, the next highest scorer on the team is fellow countryman and 33 year old striker Alexander Frei with 6 goals. Tottenham have more talent, better players and should have no problem getting past Basel.
Prediction: Tottenham 4-1 on aggregate.
Chelsea vs Rubin Kazan
Nothing has come easy for the Blues this season and there should be no reason to believe that it will change now. Rubin Kazan’s leading scorer is Israeli international Bibras Natcho with 7 goals, but they also have Venezuela international and former Chelsea target Solomon Rondon with 5 goals and newly acquired midfield enforcer Yann M’Villa. Juding by the line up The Interim One trotted out in the second leg against Steaua Bucuresti, this competition is of high priority and Chelsea are definitely in it to win it. Regardless of the fact that Fernando Torress will be the only available striker for this entire competition, Chelsea should still manage to get through Rubin Kazan and advance to the next round.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 on aggregate.
Fenerbahce vs Lazio
Lazio look really good. They thumped Stuttgart 5-1 on aggregate in the previous round but will face stiffer competition here. Libor Kozak, 23 year old Czech striker, had a field day in the 2nd leg of the Stuttgart leg netting himself a hat trick. Fenerbahce barely squeaked by Viktoria Plzen, advancing 2-1 on aggregate. I’m thinking Lazio will continue their good form in the Europa League and will edge out Fenerbahce, but it won’t be as lopsided as their previous round.
Prediction: Lazio 3-2 on aggregate.
Newcastle vs Benfica
Newcastle barely got by Anzhi thanks to a late injury time winner by Papiss Cisse for the only goal over both legs for either team. Benfica, on the other hand, got by Bordeaux 4-2 on aggregate and will look to continue their run of 31 straight games unbeaten in regular time (they were defeated on penalty kicks against Sporting Braga on Feb 27th in Taca da Liga). Oscar Cardozo and Lima are Benfica’s top scorers and will look to help their team continue their fantastic run of form against the Magpies. I don’t think Newcastle have enough quality to get past the Portuguese giants and I see Alan Pardew’s men bowing out of the competition here.
Prediction: Benfica 4-2 on aggregate.