The much awaited UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw handed stiff tests to FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, while throwing up favourable match-ups for Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Reigning European champions Barcelona, who are hoping to be the first club in the Champions League era to retain their title, lock horns with Diego Simeone’s tenacious Atletico Madrid side. Meanwhile, Manchester City will take on French champions Paris Saint-Germain in their quest to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.
Elsewhere, German powerhouse Bayern Munich face Portuguese champions SL Benfica in the last eight, while ten-time European Cup winners Real Madrid are tasked with overcoming the challenge posed by German side VfL Wolfsburg.
The two legs of the four quarter-finals will take place on 5-6 April and 12-13 April. TheHardTackle predicts the teams that are likely to make it through to the semi-finals of the 2015-16 Champions League.
Big spending Manchester City and PSG hope to venture into uncharted territory
Qatari-owned PSG were handed yet another English test when they were drawn with Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City in the last eight of the tournament. Fuelled by Arab oil money, both clubs have made giant strides towards attracting some of the best names in European football in the past half-decade. However, when it comes to performing in Europe’s premier football competition, both Manchester City and PSG have flattered to deceive.
In terms of progress in Europe, this is already a historic season for the Sky Blues. Manuel Pellegrini’s men qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history, after easily overcoming Dynamo Kiev by a 3-1 aggregate scoreline.
Paris Saint-Germain, on the other hand, overcame a stiffer test in the form of English champions Chelsea in the last 16, recording an impressive 2-1 win in both in the home and away the legs against the Blues. They make their way into the quarter-final of the tournament for the fourth year in succession.
A George Weah inspired PSG side reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 1994-95. A two-legged aggregate win over fellow Arab-funded big spenders will see the Parisians scale those lofty heights once again.
Prediction: PSG 5-3 Manchester City (aggregate score)
Barcelona have the key to open Atletico Madrid’s world class defence
A 5th-minute goal from Koke Resurrección at the Vicente Calderon condemned Barcelona to a quarter-final exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the 2013-14 Champions League. Two years on, the Catalans will need to overcome a familiar foe if they are to become the first side in the Champions League era to win back-to-back titles.
Diego Simeone’s Los Rojiblancos scraped into the last eight of the tournament after a nerve-jangling 8-7 penalty shoot-out win over Dutch side PSV Eindhoven. With 19 clean sheets in 29 La Liga matches this season, Atletico have the meanest defence in Europe’s top 5 leagues. Goals, however, have been hard to come by for Simeone’s men, with Antoine Griezmann their only goalscorer in double figures this season.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have played some scintillating football this season and are currently on a 38-match unbeaten run in all competitions. The Blaugrana’s irrepressible attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have notched up 68 goals in the La Liga this season, and will pose a major threat to Atletico’s goal over the course of the two legs.
Prediction: FC Barcelona 3-1 Atletico Madrid (aggregate score)
Bayern Munich will ride a wave of confidence after downing Juventus
Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich made a miraculous comeback against Italian champions Juventus to sneak into the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The Bavarians needed an injury-time equalizer from Thomas Muller to force extra time against the battle-hardened Italians. Goals from Kingsley Coman and Thiago Alcantara in the 2nd half of extra time eventually sealed qualification for Bayern Munich.
Portuguese champions Benfica come into the last 8 as the real dark horses of the tournament. Benfica qualified for this stage after overcoming the challenge posed by Russian giants Zenit St. Petersburg with an aggregate scoreline of 3-1.
The Portuguese side’s successful European campaign has been spearheaded by striker Jonas Goncalves, who currently leads the race for the European Golden Boot with an astonishing 28 goals scored in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. After Bayern Munich’s narrow escape against Juventus in the last 16, they would be well advised to take Benfica very seriously.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 4-2 Benfica (aggregate score)
Real Madrid’s attacking quality will see them breeze past Wolfsburg
Having brushed aside AS Roma in the last sixteen, ten time European champions Real Madrid will be confident of getting past German outfit Wolfsburg in their quarter-final clash. Sitting 12 points behind Barcelona in the Spanish Liga table, and having been knocked out of the Copa Del Rey already, winning the Champions League represents Real Madrid’s only realistic hope of silverware this season.
Wolfsburg were arguably handed the easiest last 16 draw when they were paired up with Belgian club Gent. After registering a 3-2 away win in the first leg, Wolfsburg finished off the tie in the 2nd leg in Germany with a 1-0 victory. Although Wolfsburg head into the last eight stage of the Champions League as possibly the weakest team in the draw, the attacking threat posed by the likes of Julian Draxler and Andre Schurrle in their ranks cannot be ignored.
Prediction: Real Madrid 5-2 Woflsburg (aggregate score)