After a thrilling round of 16 in the UEFA Champions’ League, the stage has been set for an exhilarating quarterfinal round.
In a rematch of last year’s Lisbon final, crosstown rivals Atletico and Real Madrid will face off in a recurring sight for La Liga fans. Of course, many casual fans know the latter better, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale executing Carlo Ancelotti’s strategy to perfection than not. However, as he proved last season, Diego Simeone knows how to command his charges at Atletico, with Arda Turan and Diego Godin leading the charge.
If you’re heading to Vegas, though, don’t make the hipster pick: Real look primed to advance to the semifinals once again. Another familiar Spanish face entering the fray are Barcelona, who, armed with loads of confidence after defeating Manchester City, are ready to take on PSG, fresh off their own advancement against Chelsea.
The French giants, unfortunately, will be without striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the first leg after his red card from a tackle on Chelsea’s Oscar. Due to these factors and quite a few more, Messi and company should move on. In what many are calling the most lopsided matchup of the draw, perennial Portuguese powerhouses Porto are tangled up with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.
While Portugal’s Primeira Liga may not receive the same level of exposure as the likes of the Premier League, Porto has faced stiff competition from the likes of Braga, Sporting and Benfica.
Furthermore, Colombian striker Jackson Martinez has proven his worth consistently, in addition to proving why he’s consistently linked to teams like Arsenal. On the other side of the ball, though, Pep Guardiola’s squad has depths of talent most coaches would sell their souls for. Any team that sees a player like Philipp Lahm, arguably one of the greatest right backs ever, switch to central midfield without a hitch is a team that deserves immense respect.
While everyone loves the underdog, Bayern should throw Porto more than they can handle en route to a semifinal berth. Finally, a rare second French team in Monaco are set to take on Italian champions Juventus, who capped off their quarterfinal tie with a resounding 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund.
Even with star striker Radamel Falcao on loan at Manchester United, Monaco have been able to create plenty of chances, with former United striker Dimitar Berbatov providing plenty of flair. On the other side, the bianconneri’s traditionally strong defense have blossomed lately, and have been supplanted by powerful attacks from the Argentine bulldog Carlos Tevez.
Unfortunately, during that last 3-0 victory, Paul Pogba suffered an injury that’ll see him on the sidelines for roughly 2 months, leaving a big French hole in the middle of that midfield. With that in mind, Monaco have at the very least a fighting chance to make it to the next round.
While all these projections are great, if March Madness has taught us anything over these agonizing past few days, it’s that what happens on the field is what counts.