Who’s in? Ranking the eight teams that have survived into UEFA Champions League’s quarterfinals

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The field for UEFA’s Champions League quarterfinals is set, with all eight group winners advancing to the tournament’s next round. Yet as the struggles of Manchester United show, not all quarterfinalists are created equal.

Eight-to-one, here’s a rundown of the last clubs standing in pursuit of this year’s European title, with last year’s winners still setting the pace in this year’s Champions League:

source: AP8. Manchester United

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group A ahead of Bayer Leverkusen; defeated Olympiakos 3-2 in the Round of 16.

League standing: Eighth place in the English Premier League.

Chances:

(Warning: If you’re a celebrating United fan, skip this part.)

Whether you judge by how they’ve played in Europe or the struggles they’ve had in England, the Red Devils are the last eight’s weakest link. Three goals from Robin van Persie gave Manchester United an impressive Wednesday result, but the team was also facing one of the least-talented teams in the Round of 16. That United cut things so close speaks to its chances of advancing past the quarterfinals.

(MORE: Van Persie treble hands Manchester United incredible Champions League comeback win over Olympiakos)

source: Getty Images

7. Atlético Madrid

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group G ahead of Zenit St. Petersburg; defeated AC Milan 5-1 in the Round of 16.

League standingSecond place in the Spanish Primera Division.

Chances: 

At their best, Atlético can compete with anybody, as its peak performances against Barcelona and Real Madrid have shown. As organized and hard-working as anybody in Europe, Atleti present the type of counter attacking and or set piece execution that could even trouble Bayern Munich. Unfortunately, that tenacious, almost impenetrable team that dominated the season’s first half has been more inconsistent this winter. Right now, they look mortal.

(MORE: Two from Diego Costa help Atlético Madrid cruise past Milan in Champions League, 4-1 (5-1, agg.))

source: AP6. Chelsea

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group E ahead of Schalke; defeated Galatasaray 3-1 in the Round of 16.

League standingFirst place in the English Premier League.

Chances: 

Between what its core showed in 2011-12 and the presence of José Mourinho, Chelsea has the components for another run. While it may not play with Atlético’s tenacity or have a scoring presence like Diego Costa, Chelsea is still a team others would avoid if given the choice to play AtletiAnd whereas Diego Simeone’s team has proven vulnerable this winter, Chelsea continues to make steady, incremental improvements (albeit with some stumbles).

(MORE: Chelsea cruise past Galatasaray, as Blues make UEFA Champions League quarterfinals with 2-0 win (3-1, Agg.))

source: Reuters5. Borussia Dortmund

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group F ahead of Arsenal; defeated Zenit St. Petersburg in the Round of 16.

League standingSecond in German Bundesliga.

Chances: 

Teams would still likely prefer a meeting Chelsea or Atlético than deal with the potential Roberto Lewandowski, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Marco Reus bring to a matchup. Last year’s run to the final proved what Jurgen Klopp’s team can do, with the Round of 16’s first game in St. Petersburg showing that form is never far away. Where as Chelsea can grind you down, BVB can play you off the park, if you’re not careful.

(MORE: Hulk goal, Zenit win can’t keep Borussia Dortmund from Champions League’s quarterfinals)

source: AP4. Barcelona

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group H ahead of Milan; defeated Manchester City 4-1 in the Round of 16.

League standingThird place in Spain’s Primera Division.

Chances: 

Their handling of the Citizens may have been the round’s most impressive result, but Barcelona have proved, particularly in league. Recent losses to Real Soceidad and Real Valladolid have made Gerardo Martino’s future the subject of tabloid speculation. And memories of Barcelona being worn down by the time they faced Bayern Munich in last year’s semis? They linger, with this year’s quad yet to prove its depth has improved over the thin team Guaridola took to titles.

(MORE: FC Barcelona edge out Manchester City 2-1, as Spaniards reach UEFA Champions League quarterfinal (4-1, agg.))

source: AP3. Paris Saint-Germain

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group C ahead of Olympiakos; defeated Bayer Leverkusen 6-1 in the Round of 16.

League standingFirst in France’s Ligue 1.

Chances: 

Depth is no problem for a team that went out of last year’s quarters on away goals to Barça. Since then, the team has added Edinson Cavani up top, Marquinhos at the back, and Yohan Cabaye in the middle. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, having become the first player in PSG history to eclipse 40 goals, appears as good as ever, while last year’s experience should serve as both motivation and validation if they draw another titan.

The only question is their coach. Laurent Blanc is a fine manager, but seeing what Carlo Ancelotti’s done this year with Real Madrid, you can’t help but wonder if almost any club would be worse off for having lost the Champions League-winner.

(MORE: Marquinhos, Lavezzi goals see PSG cruise into Champions League quarterfinals)

source: AP

2. Real Madrid

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group B ahead of Galatasaray; defeated Schalke 9-2 in the Round of 16.

League standingFirst in Spain’s Primera Division.

Chances: 

The Merengues are Europe’s clear number two. They’ve won seven of eight in Champions League, have climbed to the top of La Liga, and are in the Copa del Rey final. The only thing they can do to knock Bayern off its perch is beat them, a matchup we’ll hopefully be spared in the quarterfinals.

(MORE: Ronaldo brace, Jesé injury highlight Real Madrid’s Champions League victory over Schalke)

source: Getty Images

1. Bayern Munich

Path to quarterfinals: Beat everybody, all the time, at everything, ever. (First in Group D ahead of Manchester City; defeated Arsenal 3-1 in the Round of 16.)

League standingSee “Path.” (First in Germany.)

Chances: 

Champions League matches against Manchester City and Arsenal showed Bayern isn’t quite as imperious as their numbers imply, but given the low stakes of those matches, it’s safe to assume they’re close to untouchable. Real Madrid’s switch to a 4-3-3 formation could help the Merengues in a potential matchup, but there’s also the possibility that Pep Guardiola hasn’t shown his hand. Who knows what tricks Bayern’s boss has in store, should his team finally be tested?

(MORE: Battling Arsenal bow out, as Bayern Munich reach UEFA Champions League quarters after 1-1 draw (3-1, agg.))

Chelsea chase Alexis Sanchez; Man United want Dier

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The summer transfer rumors are heating up long before the heat of summer arrives…

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

On Wednesday it is being claimed by the Guardian that Alexis Sanchez has become Chelsea’s “No.1 target this summer” as the Arsenal and Chile forward has yet to sign a new deal with the Gunners.

Per the report, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has drafted up a shortlist of the players he wants to sign this summer and Sanchez is at the top of the Italian managers wishlist as he is also close to signing a new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Sanchez, 28, has a deal at Arsenal until the summer of 2018 but if the north London club fails to agree a new deal with him this summer (as well as Mesut Ozil and Arsene Wenger, but that’s another story…) then they’ll have to sell him on or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next season.

The striker scored twice for Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela on Tuesday and has been essential all season long to Arsenal, scoring 18 goals and adding nine assists after playing through the middle on his own for much of the campaign.

Would Arsenal really sell Sanchez to a PL rival? It wouldn’t be ideal but it’s not like they haven’t done that in the past. Think of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

The thought of Sanchez on one wing with Diego Costa up top and Eden Hazard on the other wing at Chelsea should be enough to get Arsenal to offer their star man whatever cash he wants — the report states he wants $310,000 a week which would almost double his current $160,000 a week salary — when they sit down to discuss the new deal at the end of this season.


Elsewhere in north London, Tottenham Hotspur’s versatile defender Eric Dier has been linked with a $50 million move to Manchester United this summer.

According to Neil Ashton of the Sun, Dier, 23, is being lined up to replace Michael Carrick in the holding midfield role at United.

Now, Tottenham are notoriously tough to do business with and chairman Daniel Levy will not want to lose one of his top prospects and an England international to a direct rival in the Premier League.

That said, Dier has been used in multiple positions by Spurs this season and Mauricio Pochettino appears to prefer Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele as the holding midfielders and the emergence of Harry Winks has seen Dier’s importance questioned by some.

The fact that Dier can play in holding midfield or anywhere across the back line will also suit Moruinho who likes to have a smaller squad to work with and per the report the Portuguese boss has been a long-time admirer of Dier. His power to break up the play and also use he ball safely could work very well alongside Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.

PHOTOS: Bizarre Cristiano Ronaldo statue unveiled

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Hang on, is that really meant to be Cristiano Ronaldo?

On Wednesday the Portugal and Real Madrid legend had Madeira Airport named after him just outside his hometown of Funchal and during the ceremony a bust of his head was put on show.

Except, it looked horrendous…

Take a look for yourself in the photos below. See.


 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

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The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Portugal airport to be named after Ronaldo near his hometown

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FUNCHAL, Portugal (AP) Welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

That will be the message awaiting passengers in the Madeira Islands from Wednesday, when the local airport will be renamed after the local star by the regional government.

Ronaldo is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side lost 3-2 to Sweden in the city in a friendly.

The name change attracted a lot of attention locally, with many politicians opposing it.

Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport displaying the trophy it won at the 2016 European Championship in France.

Funchal also has a Ronaldo statue and a museum about the player, as well a hotel complex named after him.