The UEFA Champions League quaterfinals kick off on Tuesday as four huge ties take center stage over the next week.
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With the first legs happening this week and the second legs next week, there isn’t much time for a breather, especially with domestic games wedged in-between.
An all-Premier League clash ensures that there will be one English club in the semifinal, while the three Spanish teams left in the competition have all avoided each other.
Below we take a look at each series and predict the outcome.
Liverpool v. Manchester City – First leg: Apr. 4 & Second leg: Apr. 10
This is it. A monster clash between two of the Premier League’s top three teams. Liverpool’s 4-3 win against Manchester City at Anfield earlier this season (they are still the only team to beat City in the PL this season) will give Jurgen Klopp‘s men confidence they can pull off an upset. But with Pep Guardiola‘s City one win away from clinching the PL title in-between this series (against Man United in a Manchester Derby no less) and the bookmakers favorites to win the UCL, Liverpool are the underdogs.
The key battle will be in the first leg. Liverpool know they must take a lead with them for the second leg at the Etihad Stadium to have any chance of advancing to the final four and that means they will press City high early on, just like they did in the league win in January. If Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi can weather the storm from Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino then City have a chance of putting Liverpool in their place, especially with Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva back in top form. Virgil Van Dijk has improved Liverpool’s defense drastically but can Loris Karius step up and deliver two huge displays over the two legs? Man City to advance 4-2 on aggregate
Juventus v. Real Madrid – First leg: Apr. 3 & Second leg: Apr. 11
Massive clash between European soccer royalty. Juve have reached the final in two of the last three seasons. Real have won the Champions League two years in a row. This rematch of the 2016-17 final in Cardiff promises so much. Just like we saw against Tottenham in the Round of 16, this Juve side has the ability to withstand severe pressure and not fall. Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco and Karim Benzema will come at them but with Gigi Buffon in goal and Giorgi Chiellini at the heart of their defense, Juve still has a fear factor around them despite their ageing years.
As for Zinedine Zidane and Real, they are all in on the UCL and have been for a while. A three-peat would be an incredible achievement and Zidane would likely walk away from being a manager after leading this star-studded team to unprecedented success. That said, his former team Juve will give them their toughest test in the UCL this season. Real Madrid to advance 3-2 on aggregate
Sevilla v. Bayern Munich – First leg: Apr. 3 & Second leg: Apr. 11
Having the first leg in Seville means the Spanish side will want to go for it from the start and we saw against Manchester United just how many chances they can create at home with their supporters creating a superb atmosphere. Vincenzo Montella’s men blew a 2-0 lead against Barcelona at the weekend and should have wrapped things up before Lionel Messi jumped off the bench to grab a point for Barca and keep their unbeaten season going.
Bayern have already said they’re wary of Sevilla, who knocked out Man United in stunning fashion at Old Trafford in the last round, but the Bavarian giants are the heavy favorites to make yet another UCL final four. For Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery, this is one last chance to win the big trophy as they continue to rip it up in the Bundesliga year after year. Bayern’s experience should get them through this. Bayern to advance 3-1 on aggregate
Barcelona v. Roma – First leg: Apr. 4 & Second leg: Apr. 10
Barca warmed up for this game with a shaky defensive display at Sevilla as Ernesto Valverde had to call on Messi to save their unbeaten season. Still, with Messi back fit, Barcelona have the edge and having the first leg at home makes a big difference as they will look to wrap things up nice and early at the Nou Camp.
Roma should not be underestimated, especially with Edin Dzeko capable of unnerving the toughest defenses and youngster Cengiz Under bursting onto the scenes in recent months with some incredible goals and attacking displays. Roma’s veteran defense could well collapse with Messi and Luis Suarez running at them but if they can hold things together for the second leg in Rome, things could get very uncomfortable for Barcelona. We saw Roma batter Chelsea earlier this season in the group stages in the Stadio Olimpico and although the Messi factor is strong, Roma has nothing to lose as nobody seriously expected them to get to this stage. Like Sevilla and Liverpool, a team playing without any pressure is a dangerous proposition at this stage of the tournament. But, it’s Messi. Barcelona to advance 4-3 on aggregate