Manchester United have drawn Barcelona in the pick of the ties in the Champions League quarter-final draw. Liverpool will be delighted to face outsiders FC Porto, whilst Manchester City and Tottenham will meet in an all British tie. The remaining fixture pits the youthful talented Ajax against the seasoned Italians Juventus.
An exhilarating round of 16 saw unlikely victories for Manchester United, Juventus and Ajax. And if this Champions League campaign has shown us anything, it is that anything is possible. JD Football takes a look at the quarter-finals and the favourites to progress.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær returns to the scene where he scored his famous winning goal 20 years ago to win United the European Cup in Fergie-time. The Norwegian has demonstrated an excellent level of confidence and positivity, but even he will struggle to make his team believe that victory against Barcelona is a possibility.
The last two times the two teams met, Barcelona cruised to victory in Rome and at Wembley to earn two of their Champions League trophies. Victories on the road to Juventus and PSG in Europe, along with wins away to Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs domestically, show they have the potential. But with all due respect, Barcelona are a level above.
Jürgen Klopp’s men demonstrated their calibre by sweeping aside Bayern Munich on their own patch. A miserly team all season in defence, thanks to the performances of Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool are still to peak in attack.
But when they have needed a big performance, such as Napoli at home or Bayern Munich away, they have delivered. Porto, who only just scraped past Roma, will not be expected to pose the Reds any problems. A likely tie against Barcelona or the unlikely proposition of rivals United will make for box office viewing.
Pep Guardiola’s men, along with Barcelona, will be favourites to make the final. Spurs, who have fallen away in the title race, have continued to deliver above their means, and have shown maturity in Europe. With no expectations, Mauricio Pochettino will urge his players to seize the moment.
City’s ruthless streak has seen them score buckets of goals in games, including their recent 7-0 demolition of Schalke. Therefore, Spurs will need to be at their very best for 180 minutes plus injury time, if they are to negotiate their way past the current Premier League champions.
The Champions League final will be played in Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium. Thanks to these teams, surprisingly the host city will have no representatives. Both Ajax and Juventus pulled off major upsets to arrive at this stage.
Ajax had to overturn a 2-1 home deficit against the back-to-back-to-back champions Real Madrid, and they put on a show with Dušan Tadić looking formidable in the false nine role.
Juventus meanwhile leaned on their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo to overturn a 2-0 first-leg loss. Having only scored one goal in the competition this campaign, the Portuguese sensation delivered a performance for the ages with a hat-trick to keep the Old Lady’s obsession with the Champions League alive.
*numbers in brackets indicate JD Football’s ratings for both sides of the draw