The UEFA Champions League is back this week, with the last eight teams remaining in the competition taking part in the quarter-finals to see who will continue on in the tournament for a chance to be crowned champions of Europe.
The first leg matches will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, with return fixtures following next week to determine the semi-finalists. Some excellent matchups are on the cards at this stage of the competition, and it will be difficult to predict the teams that will progress to the final four.
We take a closer look at the encounters set for Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
Barcelona will host fellow Spanish club Atletico Madrid in their first leg match on Tuesday, with the favourites for the title expected to make life difficult for the team from the Spanish capital.
The rivalry between these two teams is fresh from clashes in Spain during recent campaigns, but with Barcelona in such incredible form, and an attacking trio that includes Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi, a betting man would likely suggest that the team from the Nou Camp will emerge victorious over the two legs, with this first leg in particular set to favour the home side.
Barca defender Jeremy Mathieu is not available for the game, as he suffered a knee injury that will require surgery while representing France.
Bayern Munich did well to fight until the last moments in order to turn things around against Juventus in the previous round, in typical German fashion, but they will be keen to make sure of progression to the semi-finals of the competition by securing a substantial victory over Portugal’s Benfica when the sides meet at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night.
Benfica have done very well to reach the last eight, but the quarter-final may prove to be a bridge too far for the men from Lisbon. Bayern coach Pep Guardiola is leaving the club to join Manchester City next season, but before he departs Germany, he will be desperate to bring UEFA Champions League silverware back to Munich.
The German machine will be difficult for the Portuguese to negotiate, and their main hope would be to limit damage in the first leg and count on home advantage to boost their performance in the return match.
It is still not clear whether Bayern star player Arjen Robben will feature in this match, as he is struggling with an injury, but he will not likely be risked for this encounter.
After knocking English Premier League champions Chelsea out of the Champions League, the quarter-final draw sees Paris Saint-Germain set to face Manchester City with a match at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday night.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his team-mates have their focus set on reaching the final of the competition, but they will need to ensure progression to the next round with an aggregate win over the English. For this reason, the home leg this week is of utmost importance, and should be an opportunity to put Man City under serious pressure for the return leg.
The Citizens have been giving the competition a great deal of their concentration and effort this season, and they will not be content with a quarter-final finish, despite the fact that this is as far as they have ever come in the Champions League.
PSG will be without the services of Marco Verratti and Javier Pastore due to injury problems, while Angel Di Maria seems to have recovered from a minor knee issue that he suffered on international duty.
Real Madrid’s draw sees them set to collide with Germans Wolfsburg in an effort to reach the semi-finals of the competition. The first leg on Wednesday has the Galacticos travelling to Germany before next week’s return match at the Santiago Bernabeu.
As a giant of the competition and a side with serious pedigree when it comes to the business end of the tournament, Real Madrid are expected to find their way to the next stage without suffering any setbacks against their German counterparts, but soccer is a game that often surprises, and the Spaniards should not be complacent, especially away from home in the first leg.
The Germans know that the pressure is on them to make something out of this week’s match, as the second leg in Madrid will be tough, and coming home to Germany with any valuable result is unlikely.
At their most recent training session Real Madrid’s French defender Rafael Varane was the only player still recovering from an injury, and he is a doubt for the clash with Wolfsburg.
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