The UEFA Champions League and Europa League have entered their business end as the quarter final line-ups were announced a few hours back. And as always the draw threw up some mouth watering encounters. Some old foes will be redrawing their battle-lines while some teams face each other for the very first time.
Manchester United v Chelsea
Unarguably the clash of this round as English powerhouses faces off against each other. Man United have an overwhelming record against EPL teams in UCL, on the flip side Sir Alex’s record is poor against Ancelotti. Chelsea has lost a lot of ground on table toppers United in EPL and for the blues UCL is one of the few realistic chances of winning a title this season. It will be a tricky tie for Man United; Fergie would need to spread out his injury depleted squad between three tournaments.
Barcelona v Shakhtar Donestsk
In a match which would delight purists the Ukrainian league leaders take on La Liga leaders. Barca and Shakhtar have been two of the most exciting teams in the competition so far with their brands of highly technical, attacking football. These two teams are no stranger to each other having met in 2008/09 season. In Barca’s historic treble year Shakhtar did stretch the Catalan club. It took two late Messi goals to earn Barca a crucial 1-2 win in Donetsk while Shakhtar upset Barca 2-3 in Camp Nou. It will be a grave mistake to expect Barca having it easy against 2008/09 Europa League winners.
Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur
After twin trips to San Siro the Lillywhites are making their trip to another coliseum of European football – Santiago Bernabeu. Spurs has been the surprise package of UCL this season and has the ability to defeat any team on their day. Real Madrid finally broke a 7 year jinx of failing to reach the quarter final. Led by the special one the 9 time winners are one of the clear favourites for the UCL title. Mourinho’s record against Harry Redknapp is also exceptional – Jose has won each of the last 5 matches against ‘arry.
Internazionale v Schalke
Defending champions probably got the easiest fixture of the round. While Schalke is certainly not a bad team, their form this season has been topsy-turvy. Sacking an experienced coach like Felix Magath in middle of the season can have detrimental effect on their UCL and domestic campaign. Inter won a memorable tie at the Allianz Arena to see off Bayern Munich in last round. Leonardo’s men will certainly fancy their chances of reaching back to back semi-finals in UCL.
FC Porto v Spartak Moscow
Three Portuguese teams have made it to the quarter final of a European competition – a first. Among these three teams former European champion Porto is one of the favourites for this years’ Europa League. Led by Villas Boas Porto have steam rolled their opponents in both home and Europe. They will be facing Valery Karpin’s deliciously erratic Spartak Moscow. Spartak’s 4-0 aggregate win over Ajax was one of the highlights of round of 16. This will be a clash of two very attacking teams and promises to produce goals.
Benfica v PSV Eindhoven
Former European champions Benfica and PSV square off against each other in what might be the tie of quarter final phase. PSV saw off a stiff challenge from a dogged Rangers outfit to curve out a 1-0 win at the Ibrox. Benfica’s passage to last eight wasn’t smooth either as they scraped past PSG on a 3-2 aggregate. Both of these clubs haven’t managed to win a European title in quite some time – a reason why they should take EL seriously.
Villarreal v FC Twente
Villarreal defeated off two high profile opponents in last two rounds – Bayern Leverkusen and Napoli, two clubs which are doing well in respective domestic leagues. The Yellow Submarines are now one of the firm favourites for the Europa League title. Their opponents FC Twente are no pushovers however. The provincial club from Holland was struggling financially a few seasons back but is now basking in European glory. After eliminating Rubin Kazan in Round of 32, they claimed another Russian scalp in last round – domestic double winners Zenit. Twente survived a scare at St. Petersburg as they slumped to a 2-0 loss. The 3-0 home win was enough to see them through to the next round.
Braga v Dynamo Kiev
Two sides which ended England’s contribution in this year’s Europa League face off against each other in quarter final. Braga fought brilliantly at Anfield, braving Liverpool’s legendary home crowd to earn a 0-0 draw, qualifying on a 1-0 aggregate win. Dynamo had to fight for their place also as they fell to a 1-0 loss at Manchester against City but qualified due to the 2-0 victory in Kiev. Dynamo was too defensive in Manchester despite having a man advantage for most of the match. The time wasting tactic employed by Semin’s men in second half was disgraceful and rubbed off some of the glaze from their clinical 2-0 home win.