An El Classico final is still very much a possibility after the two Spanish and European heavyweights avoided each other in the draw for the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League.
Although no English team progressed to the last eight, the Spanish top flight has three teams there, the biggest share since England had four back in the 2008-09 season. Turkey, Spain, Italy and Germany all have representatives looking to progress in Europe’s most illustrious cup completion.
But what will the matches entail?
Malaga V Borussia Dortmund
The champions of Germany against a debt ridden Spanish side that lost have key players during the past 12 months- an easy tie for Dortmund you would think? Wrong.
Malaga CF have been the standout surprise package in both the league and the European Cup this season and have been in outstanding form, topping Group C with 12 points hand holding the scalps of Anderlecht, Zenit and Italian giants AC Milan. Isco has been a revelation this season and has inspired Malaga to their success this season, along with scoring a brilliant curler against former Champions League winners FC Porto, which ultimately sent the Portuguese team crashing out the cup.
Dortmund also have been in sizzling hot European form this season and topped the ‘Group of Death’ as they beat Ajax, Manchester City and Real Madrid, the German giants should be considered as one of the favourites for the trophy.
Despite surrendering their title to rivals Bayern Munich, they have seemed fully focused on addressing their poor Champions League form that has been under scrutiny in recent seasons.
They have a team of full internationals including Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels and Mario Gotze, and have the crucial ability to adapt to certain games, a skill quite prominent in their group game against Real Madrid. Certainly a massive challenge for Malaga to beat Borussia Dortmund over two legs, but nothing is ever simple at this level of football. One thing is for certain however, we are in for a brilliant tie.
Real Madrid V Galatasary
Fresh after beating German side Schalke 04 in the Round of 16, Galatasary and their new additions of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder are in good stead for this tie against the Spanish giant Real Madrid.
Finishing second in their group and even claiming the scalp of Manchester United to secure qualification, the last Turkish club in the competition will be hoping to pull off a shock in order knock Madrid out of the cup. Make no mistake however, they are not a ‘park the bus’ team, and in 14-goal striker Burak Yilmaz, former Chelsea hit-man Didier Drogba and midfield magician Wesley Sneijder they have a unique balance of experience, killer instinct and quality that wasn’t there last season. The Turkish club edged past Schalke 4-3 on aggregate and sent out the message to the clubs left in the completion they should be feared as much as anyone else left in the competition.
Real Madrid are in pretty good form too however, beating Barcelona twice and Manchester United in the last month. They possess one of the best players in the world in Portuguese megastar Cristiano Ronaldo, but as United witnessed, they do have other players capable of hurting opposition defence including Angel di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Luka Modric. They have perhaps surrendered their La Liga title to rivals Barcelona, although few teams on the planet could prevent that, and are full prepared to lift the European trophy for the first time since 2002.
Jose Mourinho is aiming for his Champions League treble after success with Porto and Inter Milan and will be lauded if he manages to end the club’s Champions League drought, as he aims to return the club to the standard of the 2002 ‘Galacticos’. This is no easy task being compared to a team that included the great Zinedine Zidane but in Ronaldo they have their very own legend capable of taking the club all the way this year.
Paris Saint Germain V Barcelona
It looks as if we have a very intriguing tie on our hands, with mega-rich French side PSG coming up against possibly the best club team in history in the form of Barcelona.
The Paris based club are becoming an increasing force in the world of football and if the growth of the club continues at this rate, we could be looking at one of the favourites for the cup in a few years. Huge names such as Thiago Silva, Lucas Moura, Ezequiel Lavezzi and the controversial Zlatan Ibrahimovic have all joined the club in recent seasons and possess one of the most potent attacks on the European stage. Italian Carlo Ancelotti has guided the club to the top of Ligue 1 despite talk of being replaced by ex-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, and a team of full international stars look ready and waiting to pounce on any opportunity presented to them in this round.
Barcelona are no easy team to face however, far from it. The Spanish top division leaders are in their usual unstoppable form with one man at the centre of it: Lionel Messi. The Argentine is considered to be one of the best, if not the best player in history, and it is not hard to see why with over 50 goals for club and country this season.
The little magician is surrounded by another 10 superstars that include Xavi, Iniesta and Dani Alves that all share the same attacking mind-set that has led the team back to the level of their previous Champions League triumphs from recent years. Their passing is exquisite and they close down quicker than most teams on the planet, qualities that have formed the foundations for this brilliant Barcelona t
As AC Milan realised in the last round, they are beatable just like any team in one match, but face them over two legs and you have a mammoth task at your hands, a task PSG will be hoping to conquer.
Bayern Munich V Juventus
Bayern Munich edged past Arsenal by the skin of their teeth last week, with their stellar performance in the first leg overpowering the shocking display at the Allianz Area in the return leg.
The Germans are on course to win another Bundesliga title ahead of fellow quarter finalists Borussia Dortmund and it looks well deserved for Jupp Heynckes’ side, his side have looked efficient and lethal in all competitions this season. Losing the final to heartbreaker Didier Drogba’s penalty that won the trophy for Chelsea and sent the cup to Stamford Bridge after it looked destined for Germany after Thomas Muller’s goal late on in the game hurt the Munich giants, but it has only made them hungrier this season. Heynckes has taken the imminent Pep Guardiola as inspiration to end his managerial career with the prestigious European Cup on his list of achievements, leading his team to such form that has made them the clear favourite for the tie.
The champions of Italy will have something to say about that however. Juventus have risen from the match fixing scandal that got them relegated years ago, and once again lifted the Serie A title last season. A solid defence and a mix of class and discipline in midfield has consolidated them as one of the European greats again, knocking holders Chelsea out of the cup during the group stage.
Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal have formed one the meanest midfields in Europe, and will be sure to test their opposition.
Knocking Bayern out of the competition and continuing their recovery from past Juventus demons will be at the forefront of all the players’ minds on the night. It is possibly the blockbuster tie of the round, with two of the biggest clubs in Germany and Italy facing off in what promises to be a vintage European night.
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