Eight teams remain in the hunt for the Champions League crown, with many familiar European giants in the picture. Thanks to this, plenty of storylines have developed. Manchester United faces its toughest test yet, staring at a Barcelona squad led by a scorching Lionel Messi. Tottenham hopes to prevent Manchester City, its english rival, from getting one step further to a quadruple. Ronaldo hopes to capture his fourth straight Champions League title with his new Juventus squad against a scrappy Ajax team, led by young sensations Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong. These quarterfinals figure to be as entertaining as the previous round.
Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona
Manchester United completed an improbable comeback in the last round, stunning Paris Saint Germain in Paris with a 3-1 win in the second leg. It didn’t come without controversy, however, as VAR gifted Man United with the game winning penalty. Now, the team faces the greatest soccer player ever having one of his best seasons ever. Messi has been red hot this season, especially of late, scoring 10 goals and assisting five in his last nine games, including two hat tricks. United doesn’t have the defense to keep up with Messi, which should open things up for Barcelona’s other attackers. While Man United has fought hard to get to this position, this is as far as it’ll go when confronted by a superior side.
Predicted Winner: Barcelona, 4-2 agg.
Tottenham vs. Manchester City
Spurs have been hard to read this season. At times, the team falters against weaker competition and look like it might finish outside the top four in the Premier League. But then, it turns in monster performances like the 4-0 aggregate win against Dortmund, which offers a glimpse into what the side could be if the team developed consistency. Manchester City, on the other hand, has been as solid this season as it has been in the past. It’s been in the top two of the Premier League all season, and have traded the first place spot with Liverpool all season. Pep Guardiola has done another magnificent job this year, battling through some stumbles and injuries along the way. It’ll be fascinating to watch Guardiola and Pochettino go toe-to-toe, but City will ultimately prevail thanks to more consistent play and superior talent across the board.
Predicted Winners: Manchester City, 4-3 agg.
Ajax vs. Juventus
Ajax stunned everybody outside Amsterdam in the previous round, dismantling reigning champions Real Madrid to the tune of 4-1 (5-3 aggregate). The team put on an impressive display, moving the ball at will. Now, it faces a much tougher test, facing perhaps the most dominant team in Europe at the moment. Led by Cristiano Ronaldo and a stellar attack, Juventus is the favorite to take home the Champions League trophy for good reason. Ronaldo is Mr. Champions league, having taken home the trophy five times. Last round, he willed Juventus back single-handedly, scoring a hat trick against Atletico Madrid to overcome a two-goal deficit. Funnily enough, Ronaldo has done this sort of thing before. Although Ajax is a talented team led by young sensation de Jong, it will face perhaps the greatest Champions League player of all time and fall well short.
Predicted Winner: Juventus, 5-1 agg.
Liverpool FC vs. FC Porto
By far the most lopsided game of the quarterfinals, Liverpool is the heavy favorite, opening at -364 for the first leg. FC Porto shouldn’t be overlooked, as the team fought hard against Roma to ultimately prevail in extra time of the second leg. Despite this, Liverpool is by far the more talented team, as it has been at the top of the Premier League for several months. While it often plays down to inferior opponents, expect Liverpool to win comfortably and advance to the semifinals for a second straight year, especially when looking back at their 5-0 aggregate win in last years CL round of 16 against Porto.
Predicted Winner: Liverpool, 5-2 agg.
Mike Cheripka is a Junior Communications major. Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.