Champions League Quarter-Final Preview
Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg Preview
The might of English clubs appears as immovable as ever on the European stage. With four English clubs in the quarter-final draw of this season’s Champions League (CL), there was an air of inevitability about another all-English tie at this stage of the competition.
Tottenham v Manchester City – Tottenham Look to Tame City in All-Premier League Tie
There is no doubt that City stand as favourites to progress to the semi-finals and give themselves a very real chance of becoming the first English team to complete a quadruple. Current Champions League Outright Index prices reflect kindly on City ahead of this tie, with Pep Guardiola’s men unbeaten in six straight away matches across all competitions, and that good travelling form has also translated to the Citizens’ CL travels.
Three CL away wins and a solitary draw precede City’s first-ever visit to Tottenham’s brand new stadium, and there are some real trends within that sequence which suggest City could well end Tottenham’s 100% record at their new home after just one match.
In the two CL trips that saw City fall behind (at Hoffenheim and Lyon) Guardiola’s charges fought back to score four points out of a possible six. Additionally, with City scoring the last match goal in all of their trips abroad this campaign – with none arriving prior to the 70th minute – Tottenham will need to exert an untold amount of stamina to take anything into the second leg.
Tottenham themselves face City having already lost once to them this season – albeit at Wembley. That result stands as part of a poor record against fellow members of the Premier League’s burgeoning ‘elite’ group of six, who are poised to make up the top-six for a third year running.
However, credit must be given where due, and after falling to a heavy 4-2 home defeat to Barcelona back in October, Mauricio Pochettino’s men have won four CL matches and drawn twice, with one of those draws coming as a moral victory at the Nou Camp which saw Tottenham pass through to the knockouts by a slender margin.
The Lilywhites’ round of 16 tie with Borussia Dortmund was yet another demonstration of how much the club has grown. Though they won both legs with great ease, there remains questions as to how much of a gulf in quality now exists between the English and German top-flight leagues. City, undeniably, pose an altogether different test to a Dortmund team inexplicably distracted by a domestic title race after blowing a huge Bundesliga lead.
Liverpool v FC Porto – European Specialists Look to Take the Initiative Against Portuguese Champions
After seeing their heroes meet and beat Porto in the round of 16 last year, Liverpool fans always saw this as perhaps the most favourable draw possible. Their wish was duly granted, and many believe that the Reds’ 5-0 win in Porto last year was the moment the ‘Klopp project’ reached another vital threshold.
They followed that up with a formality of a second leg meeting at Anfield, which ended 0-0. Given that Liverpool were still fighting for a top-four finish back then, very little can be read into that result. Anything other than a comfortable Liverpool win here will come as a huge shock, and in beating Bayern Munich 3-1, the Merseysiders proved that the mistakes which have seen the club go without a trophy since 2012 are now consigned to the past.
Liverpool will entertain Porto on the back of three clean sheets in home CL matches, and expectations of a Klopp-style quickfire start are given good justification, with the Reds winning the first half in five of their last six European nights at Anfield.
For their part, Porto required extra time to overcome 2018 semi-finalists Roma in the previous round, winning 2-1 in normal time after an identical reverse in the Italian capital. Prior to that defeat, Porto had gone unbeaten in five CL matches on hostile turf, including their consolation draw at Anfield.
Manchester United v Barcelona – United’s Last Hopes of Silverware Threatened by La Liga Maestros
Manchester United pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the club’s history – greater perhaps than the grand comeback of 1999 – in the second leg of the round of 16. While the decisive factor in the Red Devils’ 3-1 win at Parc des Princes was not without some debate, the performance was sufficiently spirited to suggest that United can negotiate their next test.
Since that great night, United have subsequently lost three of four matches in all competitions. That form combines badly with the fact that three of the team’s last five CL home fixtures have ended in defeat – with all of the defeats additionally seeing United fail to recover after conceding the opening goal.
Despite pulling off the apparently-impossible, United remain outsiders to qualify, with Barcelona as firm favourites. Barcelona have already beaten United in the two finals they have met in the last ten years, and their status as favourites is well-justified by another runaway La Liga title win.
Barcelona’s Champions League form further backs arguments in the Catalan club’s favour. They are unbeaten in eight Champions League matches, and following their shock 3-0 loss at Roma in last season’s quarter-finals, have opened the scoring in three of their last four away CL matches.
If trends in all competitive matches involving Barcelona are brought into play, this should be an entertaining affair regardless of the result. Ahead of the first weekend in April, the ‘Blaugranes’ had seen all of their last five games either produce two or more match goals or see both teams score.
Ajax v Juventus – Champions League Surprise Package Entertain Italian Powerhouse
The dream of an all-English semi-final is on hold for another year, with Ajax facing yet another elite test after being paired with the Italian champions-elect and the wrath of Ronaldo.
Juventus are favourites by quite a distance. However, Ajax were full of Johann Cruyff’s immortal spirit in the last round, turning around a lost first leg at the Amsterdam Arena by thrashing Real Madrid 4-1 at the Bernabeu. They face a Juventus side that has lost three of its last five CL matches, including consecutive away defeats, in Bern and Madrid.
Who is the Current Favourite to win the Champions League?
According to the latest Champions League Outright Index, Manchester City currently command the high spread of 63-66 in the Champions League outright market, and they are closely followed by Barcelona (60-63).
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