The Champions League field is getting smaller as the remaining teams compete for a chance to play in the final in Berlin in June.
The field has been narrowed to eight teams representing five different European Leagues, with teams from France, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy still alive. Notably absent from competition is the English Premier League, which saw Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea eliminated in the prior stage of Cup competition.
Let’s take a closer look at the competing teams that have made it to the quarterfinals and predict who will be in the “final four.”
Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) vs. Barcelona
These two regional powerhouses met in the group stage of the 2013 Champions League field as well as in the quarterfinals last year. They played each other close in 2014 and each team managed draws in their home matches.
The Spaniards advanced beyond the quarterfinals on away goals after tying PSG 3-3 in aggregate goals. Barcelona would seem up for the challenge, beating second place Manchester City to advance to the next stage.
PSG has certainly shown their resolve after battling back twice against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to advance to the quarterfinals.
Both teams will have key players sitting out the first leg of their matches due to card infractions, with PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as midfielder Marco Verratti sidelined, along with midfielder Dani Alves for Barca. This will force both squads to adjust their style of play slightly to compensate for these players’ absences, especially in the counter-attack.
But with the first leg being played in Paris, expect PSG to try to attack Barca’s back line early. Overall, a slight edge goes to Barca for their stable of forwards, keeping in mind that away goals scored is a key tiebreaker.
Aggregate Prediction: Barcelona 4, PSG 3
FC Porto vs. Bayern Munich
As is often the case in football matches played at this level, there is some history here between these two European powerhouses. Porto has won a European Cup by beating Bayern Munich 2-1 (albeit in 1987). Both managers (Pep Guardiola of Bayern and Julen Lopetegui of Porto) were teammates at Barcelona in the 90’s. Fast forward to 2015, and few would expect the Portuguese to advance beyond these quarterfinal matches by beating the Bundesliga juggernaut.
Porto does possess a potent attack, but they are vulnerable to a well-disciplined counter-attacking team such as Bayern, and we can expect the German side to be prepared to exploit these situations on the field. Additionally, Bayern’s depth is superior to that of Porto, and this late in the season could prove to be a major advantage. Look for Bayern to advance to the next stage with ease.
Aggregate Prediction: Bayern 4, Porto 2
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid
This match pairing could not have been drawn up any better. After all, this was the final match of last year’s Champions League competition that saw Real Madrid defeat Diego Simeone’s Atletico 4-1.
With both squads well acquainted with each other, it will likely come down to which squad can execute their game plans better than their rival. The last time these two clubs met on Feb. 7, 2015, Atletico beat the Galacticos soundly, 4-0. But few expect these games to be one-sided affairs.
Since then, Atletico’s play has been less than stellar, winning one of their last five matches in La Liga and falling to fourth place in the table. In the meantime, Los Blancos and Barcelona continue their battle for the top spot. Expect both matches in Madrid to be close, with the depth of Real Madrid giving them a slight edge over a determined Atletico squad.
Aggregate Prediction: Real Madrid 5, Atletico Madrid 4
Juventus vs. AS Monaco
Both clubs are in good form and enjoying current success within their respective leagues.
Juventus is solidly in the top spot in Serie A, while Monaco currently holds the No. 4 spot in Ligue 1. In order to advance to the quarterfinals, Monaco defeated a top flight EPL team (Arsenal) through a tiebreaker (scoring an away goal). Juventus advanced by handily beating German side Borussia Dortmund 5-1 in aggregate scoring.
Monaco’s strength lies in its defense, which has ceded just four goals in the last eight Champions League matches. Their veteran players might be past their prime, however, with Dimitar Berbatov (age 34) and Ricardo Carvalho (age 36) both having lost a step or two in recent campaigns.
Expect Juventus to try to exploit this with a veteran (but younger) front line comprised of Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Morata. Looking at Monaco, it’s hard to see them getting past a determined Juventus team anxious to repeat the glory of a Champions League trophy that has eluded them since 1996.
Aggregate Prediction: Juventus 5, Monaco 3
In the 60th season of UEFA’s premier club football tournament, expect great competition throughout as eight premier teams from five countries do battle in hopes of playing in Berlin in June.