For the first time in the history of the Champions League, eight group winners have made the quarter-finals, so it's unsurprising that the ties thrown out by today's draw in Switzerland are some of the most exciting in recent years.

Three Spanish, two German, two English and one French outfit have battled to this stage, with six former tournament winners still in the mix. It's safe to say that most of the world's best players will be on display during these clashes for the last chance to cement their status at the highest stage before the World Cup kicks off over in Brazil.

Injuries and domestic form could take their toll in the next couple of weeks, but let's look at how next month's ties are likely to shape up...

Barcelona v Atletico Madrid

Although Pep Guardiola's Barcelona were widely regarded as one of the best footballing sides of all time, Gerardo Martino's incarnation of the Catalan juggernaut are a less predictable beast.

Barca sit third in La Liga, behind Atletico and Real Madrid, at this late stage in the season, a position that would have been unthinkable only a couple of years ago but has now become a reality .

Despite a 7-0 thrashing of Osasuna at the weekend, off-field issues with Neymar and sporadic performances mean the four-time winners look set to lose Argentine gaffer Martino, who is being linked to the Tottenham job, at the end of the season.

With stars like Andres Iniesta, Alexis Sanchez and of course Lionel Messi though, it would be foolish to completely write off the side over two legs against a team they know so well.

Atletico on the other hand are enjoying a bustling, aggressive resurgence under Diego Simeone, smashing AC Milan 5-1 on aggregate in the Round of 16 and thrusting themselves firmly into the title race in La Liga with the best defensive record in the competition, having conceded only 21 goals this season.

Explosive striking revelation Diego Costa has provided seven goals in five games for Atleti in Europe, and magnificent stopper Thibaut Courtois has become one of the best goalkeepers in the world over the past couple of seasons, so it is no surprise that Los Rojiblancos have reached this stage for the first time since 1997.

Barcelona key player: Lionel Messi, with eight goals in five games.

Atletico Madrid key player: Thibaut Courtois, the Spaniard has conceded four in seven games.

Tie prediction: Atletico Madrid. This is Atleti's year to show they can outshine the big two in Spain and Europe, Barca are there to be hit hard.

Real Madrid v Borussia Dortmund

When these two sides came up against each other in one of last year's semi-finals, Dortmund were the most energetic and awkward side to play against in the competition.

Ilkay Gundogan, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus fired around the midfield with boundless energy, chasing down every ball and throwing themselves into every tackle - Jurgen Klopps' men played with seemingly eternal engines and knocked out Los Blancos after Robert Lewandowski scored four goals in the first leg.

The heady heights of last season have left last year's finalists with a lingering hangover though - a 23 point gap between them and rivals Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, a squad decimated by injury and their best players being lured across to the aforementioned Bavarian side. 

Key players such as Gundogan, Neven Subotic, Marcel Schmelzer, Sven Bender and Jakub Blaszcykowski round out the casualty list and Lewandowski will also sit out the first leg after picking up a needless suspension for a hand-ball against Zenit in the last round.

The Germans will find it very difficult against a ruthless Real Madrid side next month, with Cristiano Ronaldo looking every bit the Balon d'Or winner, netting 48 goals in 31 games across all competitions this season.

Carlo Ancelotti's side are incisive at the top of La Liga this season, having won 16 of their last 18 league games, and could go seven points clear against Barcelona on Sunday at the Bernabeau, where Gareth Bale is expected to return.

Borussia Dortmund key player: Nuri Sahin, after an unsuccessful spell at Madrid the midfielder has slotted right back in to Dortmund's engine room.

Real Madrid key player: Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portugese forward has 13 goals in seven games.

Tie prediction: Real Madrid. Dortmund's defence were shaky against Zenit, expect a better team to take advantage of that.

Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea

Make no bones about it, this will be a test for Jose Mourinho as he comes up against one of his former stars and arguably the best centre-forward in the world, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Laurent Blanc's squad entered this competition as dark horses for the final, with many pointing to their spirited defeat at Barcelona in the quarter-finals last season and their astute purchases in the summer, including Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani, as a sign of greater things to come.

PSG seem to have the valuable ability to raise their game substantially in Europe even though they are sometimes seen to be going through the motions in their domestic campaign, with little challenge to the title on the homefront outwith new-billionaires-on-the-block Monaco. 

In addition, Swede superstar Ibrahimovic is 32-years-old now, and although anything seems possible with the pony-tailed enigma, time looks to be running out for him to seal a Champions League title, one of the only trophies to have eluded his collection at this stage.

Mourinho's second coming at Chelsea has turned them into a highly reactive and adaptive unit though, and it would be no surprise if he went all the way to a third win in the competition with the Blues.

The Stamford Bridge side's lack of a centre-forward in the mould of Ibrahimovic could represent a problem, although their talented attacking midfield arsenal of Oscar, Eden Hazard, Willian and Andre Schurrle should provide enough firepower to cover for Samuel Eto'o and Fernando Torres' shortcomings.

PSG key player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swede has 10 goals in seven appearances.

Chelsea key player: Eden Hazard, the Belgian has an 85% pass accuracy in Europe.

Tie prediction: Chelsea. The Happy One's tactical nous coupled with Chelsea's strength on the break will prove too much for Blanc and PSG.

Bayern Munich v Manchester United

In what looks to be the most one-sided tie of the round, the reigning champions, fresh from dispatching Arsenal, take on a waning Manchester United side after their strangely limp second-leg comeback against Olympiakos.

United are at their weakest in years as manager David Moyes struggles to fill the shoes of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson and stamp his own mark on the club, while Bayern are basking in their first season under tiki-taka preacher Pep Guardiola, who seems to have taken the beauty of his short-passing Barcelona side and transplanted it into the more physical Munich.

The result is a near-unstoppable German force who have bossed their league this season, with the technical intelligence of Thiago Alcantara, Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben matched with the brute force and workmanship of Phillip Lahm, Mario Mandzukic and Javi Martinez.

The Red Devils are sprawled out in 7th place in the Premier League after a tough transitional period for the club and have been unconvincing in the Champions League this campaign, although they did turn over Olympiakos' 2-0 first leg win in the last round with a hat-trick from Robin van Persie.

Moyes' continued tenure is unlikely to hinge on the result of this tie, and it would be surprising if he did not reach the end of the season in the job, but a rousing couple of performances would certainly endear him to the Old Trafford faithful and let the fans know they were headed in the right direction.

Bayern Munich key player: Toni Kroos, the young German has been pivotal in Europe this season, with a 92% pass accuracy.

Manchester United key player: Wayne Rooney, the English striker put in a stellar performance against Olympiakos and has four assists in seven games.

Tie prediction: Bayern Munich. This is the last draw United would have wanted at this stage. They may have turned a corner against Olympiakos, but it is too early for them to overcome the Germans.

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Topics:
Bayern Munich
Eden Hazard
Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain
Manchester United
Chelsea
Borussia Dortmund
Football
Wayne Rooney
Barcelona
Cristiano Ronaldo