Champions League: Who will come out on top?
Europe's top club competition is still wide open - here's an in-depth look at each team's chances
After the quarter-final draws were made for the UEFA Champions League last week, the competition still looks to be extremely open.
Here's an evaluation of the remaining teams and their chances of lifting the historic trophy.
Many people's favourites to win the competition, and rightly so. They bounced back from a first-leg defeat to crush AC Milan 4-0, and looking like the almost unbeatable side we've seen in recent years. The draw has also been relatively kind to them, as I believe PSG are not yet the finished article and still need to improve if they are to be considered serious contenders for European glory. When they are on song and their passing is fluent, I cannot see any team beating them.
Lionel Messi is very reliable and already has an astonishing 53 goals this season, and he is more than capable of guiding them to the trophy. Andres Iniesta is a guaranteed performer on the biggest of stages, and Barca's midfield are an integral part as to whether they will win it or not. Xavi is also experienced and consistent, whereas it remains to be seen who is the permanent third midfielder. They have a lot to choose from, with Sergio Busquets young but experienced in Europe and Cesc Fabregas capable of doing the job, and if the midfield plays well, the team does. Most importantly, perhaps, is their defence.
They have looked very shaky at times, with some schoolboy errors costing them dearly. The experience of club captain Carles Puyol may prove vital, as he can organise the back line and inspire his team-mates. Gerard Pique will also have to put in strong performances, whilst the full-backs are probably the best in the world and give an extra dimension to the attacking play, but still need to provide Pique with assistance.
If they sort the defensive blunders out, and the midfield perform well, I see it as a foregone conclusion that the Catalan giants will be at the Wembley final in May.
The German giants have been outstanding this season. Their defence has been unplayable for the majority of the season, and their attack has been exceptional.
With Bayern, the key lies in the middle of the park. They have some terrific players - Javi Martinez, Luiz Gustavo and Toni Kroos to name a few. They are all remarkable players, however their best midfielder has to be Bastian Schweinsteiger. In the second-leg against Arsenal, Bayern looked worryingly lost without him. Although the likes of Martinez and Kroos are brilliant, none of them are capable of the role the German plays. He pulls the strings, and ultimately makes the team tick.
However, the Arsenal game was a one-off and Schweinsteiger will be back for the quarter-finals, but that is not to say he is not immune to a possible injury. Regarded he stays fit, Bayern certainly look like they could progress, but they face a stern test against a resilient Juventus side. If they can bring their top game, Bayern can definitely progress, and if they can beat Juventus, they can beat any of the remaining teams.
Dortmund have been one of the stand-out packages in this season's campaign. They made it through the Group of Death unbeaten, earning credible draws away to Manchester City and Real Madrid, whilst hammering Shakhtar Donetsk 5-2 on aggregate in the Round of 16.
They have an all-round strong, young team, with Mats Hummels a great leader of men at the back, and German wonderboy Mario Gotze looking a great player. They have a lot to give going forward, with Marco Reus and of course Robert Lewandowski great dangers to any defence in the world. You cannot discount the German champions, as the Champions League is their priority with the league all but over.
They are certainly strong candidates to lift the coveted trophy, and I think they will overcome Malaga over the course of the tie. They can beat anyone on their day, they just need Subotic to accompany Hummels as well as he's done in the past, while the full-backs must provide an extra force going forward to get the balls in to Lewandowski.
The surprise package of the tournament. They have made some high-profile acquisitions in the January transfer window, with Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba joining the Turkish champions. They should certainly not be underestimated, as they disposed of Schalke in the last round with an impressive 3-2 away win in the second-leg. It is vital that they work as a team against Madrid and are not exposed to counter-attacks too often, otherwise they will get punished. This means Tomas Ujfalusi must lead at the back to try to prevent Ronaldo and co from scoring, along with Felipe Melo keeping his discipline and helping out at the back. Burak Yilmaz is the top scorer in the Champions League this season, and service provided by Sneijder could prove key to whether Galatasaray can defy the odds and progress. Overall, it's hard to see how they can get past Real, let alone lift the trophy. With all respect to Galatasaray, I can't see any way they will progress.
The mega-rich French club are showing signs of becoming one of Europe's top sides. They have the tag of underdogs in their tie against Barcelona, but could cause an upset. Against Barcelona, one thing's for sure: they aren't going to get much of the ball. But when they do, they have to capitalise.
They have undoubted quality in attack, with Ezequiel Lavezzi and Jeremy Menez providing support for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In the past the giant Swede has struggled to perform well on the big stage, but there's certainly a first time for everything. If David Beckham gets a chance to play, his delivery may be crucial as he can provide excellent balls in to Ibrahimovic who as we've seen, can finish. The midfield battle will be interesting. Barcelona's midfield is incredible, and if they play well it will be a long night for PSG. Although they are great, they aren't always unstoppable. Blaise Matuidi will be required to break down play, and Javier Pastore must provide the attack with some assistance. The defence must be strong, aggressive and let the likes of Messi know they are there. Thiago Silva, Alex, or Mamadou Sakho must show their class and be bold to try and stop the best attack in the world.
PSG don't have much experience in this competition, and I don't think they are good enough to beat Barcelona. It looks like the end of the road for them.
The Galacticos were fortunate to progress in the last round. Credit to them though, playing against ten-men seems easy but they had to show character to come from behind and the stroke of luck may symbol it is their year to finally win their tenth European title.
It's hard to see any faults in the Madrid side as they are playing very well, and they have a solid defence, with Sergio Ramos a world-class player and Raphael Varane more than capable of filling in for Pepe. Without a doubt their hopes of reaching the final will be affected by the performances of Cristiano Ronaldo. He showed good character to nick his goal at Old Trafford after a quiet display, but is usually consistent and a prolific goalscorer. He will be key to whether Madrid get on a flight to London in May, but will need the midfielders and strikers to help him as well. Xabi Alonso is an integral part of the Los Blancos side, dictating play and can break down attacks before they get started. Mesut Ozil is another vital player. He can dribble past anyone and find space, leaving him to pick any pass he wants. Whoever starts up front - Karim Benzema or Gonzalo Higuain - they will have to time their runs well to receive the ball from the likes of Ozil and Alonso, and will also be required to hold the ball up to bring Ronaldo and Angel di Maria into the game.
Madrid should definitely progress and there is no reason why they can't do what they've already done nine times - win the biggest trophy in Europe.
The Italian champions have experience and youth amongst their ranks and should definitely be regarded as a possible winner. The Old Lady went on a huge 49-match unbeaten run so clearly have great resilience and a never-say-die attitude. They breezed through the group stage without losing a match and swept aside Celtic.
They are brilliant in defence and have only conceded four goals in this year's competition. Not only are they solid at the back, they have netted 17 goals in their European campaign which is far from poor. Midfield is the most important part of the pitch for Juve, with Andrea Pirlo as good as ever at controlling the play. Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal are excellent players, who can both support the attack and defence and leave Pirlo to pull the strings. Juventus also have plenty to choose from to provide them goals, with Mirko Vucinic, Sebastian Giovinco, Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella notching ten goals between them, they look a tough test to keep out.
All in all, the Italians are back to their former glory and will take some stopping. They face a tough test against Bayern Munich, but are very capable of beating the Bavarians in what is the tie of the round. If they beat Bayern, they will develop a great mind-set, and from there onwards there's no reason they can't conquer. Juventus are serious contenders to win the trophy.
A good side that many did not expect to be in this position. Considering they have little European experience, people must respect how far the Spaniards have progressed in this year's competition. Despite all their financial troubles, Malaga have not been distracted on the pitch by what happens behind the scenes at the club.
They have players with vast experience all over the pitch in Javier Saviola, Julio Baptista, Joaquin, Jeremy Toulalan and Martin Demichelis. In addition to these world-class players, they have the brilliant Isco who's developing into an excellent player. With the class and experience of Demichelis at the back, Malaga have developed a tight back four who have only conceded 25 goals in the league and will be hard to break down. In midfield, they have Toulalan who can sit in front of the defence and stop serious threatening attacks and can distribute balls out wide to the pacy Joaquin, or out to Isco who as we've seen, is a goal threat when he gets the ball near the penalty area. In attack they have former Barcelona and Real Madrid hit-man Saviola and Baptista, who can provide the team with their share of goals. They also have former Blackburn and Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz who is an aerial threat and can bring other players into the game.
Don't be shocked if Malaga progress against Dortmund, as they are very strong at home. Playing at home in the first leg, they could get a goal or two at a push and possibly keep a clean sheet too. They also showed in their away match against Porto that they can travel from home and get a result. Malaga will not make it to Wembley, as it will be tough against Dortmund, especially in the second-leg.
The remaining teams are stronger than them, and they don't have the know-how as a team to make it on the big stage. Despite their home record, it will be tough to keep out the Germans and I ultimately believe Malaga will exit the competition after this two-legged tie.
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