UEFA Champions League – Quarter Finals
The Quarter Finals round for the 2017-2018 UEFA Champions League kicks off today. And there is simply no better way to preface it than with this photo from the Barcelona – Chelsea match in the Round of 16. Lionel Messi has just been unstoppable of late and if that continues for the next two months then it will be bad news for any team having to play Barca.
Before getting into this round lets take a quick look back at what was predicted back in February for the Round of 16.
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FC Basel – Manchester City: As predicted Man City won easily with an aggregate score of 5-2. The surprise is that Basel actually pulled off the upset in the second leg defeating City 2-1 at the City of Manchester Stadium. But Man City, having won the first leg by a whopping 4-0 had little to play for and was more focused on finishing 90 minutes injury free.
Juventus – Tottenham: Going in all the experts had this matchup as a coin flip and what was to be one of the most entertaining pairings in the round. And it turned out exactly that. Juventus won on a 4-3 aggregate in two well played matches by both sides. Quality and entertaining soccer. Unfortunately, as in sports, somebody had to lose and in this case it was the Spurs.
Porto – Liverpool: Another toss up with the caveat that IF Liverpool showed up that they would likely win. Well the Reds showed up in a big way in the first leg crushing the home side Porto 5-0 giving them a huge goal differential going into the second leg. And much like the Man City second league Liverpool had to merely play for 90 minutes and not press matters which they did coasting into the Quarterfinals with a 5-0 aggregate.
Real Madrid – Paris Saint Germain: This one was set up to be as close as two teams could be. Historically they had faced each other 6 times with each side winning twice and having two draws. And the total goal differential in those historical meetings only had PSG tallying one more score than Real. I suggested (which was probably more hope) that Real might come away with this one. Both sides feature true difference makers in Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo and PSG’s Neymar. Well Real moved on winning both matches with an aggregate of 5-2. Ronaldo scoring three of the five Real goals. PSG still had a chance going home for the second leg but unfortunately they were without the services of an injured Neymar. Then to make matters worse midfielder Marco Verratti got sent off in the 66th minute with a second yellow card and that was game over.
Bayern Munich – Besiktas: The prediction was “Bayern and don’t think it will be close.” Well it was and it was. Bayern just was way to much for the Turkish side stomping them in both games en route to an 8-1 aggregate. Not much more to say on this one. The German side is clearly one of the top sides in all of Europe and Besiktas is not.
Shakhtar Donetsk – Roma: Predicted to be close with a nod given to Roma for having a bit more big match experience and playing in the tougher league. Exactly how it turned out. Roma advanced with an aggregate of 2-2 having to rely on the away goals tie breaker.
Chelsea – Barcelona: Well we already tipped this one off with the cover photo. It was clearly the Lionel Messi show as Barca advanced 4-1 aggregate and Chelsea never really mounting much of a threat to the Spanish side.
Sevilla – Manchester United: Well flat got this one wrong. Predicted Man U to win and they didn’t. The first leg went according to manager Jose Mourinho’s script. Keep a clean sheet and earn at least a draw which they did. Then they just needed to rely on their history of winning at Old Trafford and they’d move on to the Quarterfinals. The problem is somebody forgot to tell Sevilla to follow the script. They didn’t play along in the second leg stunning the Red Devils and pulling off the 2-1 upset to advance. This left many fans clamoring for Mourinho’s removal but hard for club ownership to do so when they are still second in the English Premier League. Still with one of the largest sports budgets on the planet Man U fans expect more.
So with that background lets take a look this round.
Juventus – Real Madrid
Talk about two sides on fire! Real comes in having won their last five matches outscoring their opponents 18-6. Juventus has won four and drawn once in their last five matches outscoring their opponents 9-3. So both teams come in playing well and to their plan. Real just keeps attacking and score a lot of goals. Juventus relies on a stout defense and enough of an effective counter attack to win in the end.
Previous History – These two clubs have faced each other 19 times and are about as even as it gets. With Juventus having eight victories while Real has posted nine. And both sides have scored 22 times in those meetings.
Prediction – Ronaldo has scored seven goals in their last five matches against Jeventus. Nod here to Real Madrid.
Sevilla – Bayern Munich
Bayern comes in having won four of their last five outings by a combined score of 21-3. They have just turned into an offensive juggernaut this season in both UCL and the Bundesliga. Sevilla on the other hand comes in having a so so two wins, two losses and a draw of late and only outscoring their opponents seven to five. That simply will not cut it against Bayern. The one glimmer of hope for Sevilla is that amazingly enough Bayern has lost their last five matches on Spanish soil.
Previous History – This will be the first ever meeting between these two sides.
Prediction – Bayern Munich still has a long road to go to claim the UCL crown. But this isn’t the side that will eliminate them.
Liverpool – Manchester City
A most unfortunate draw for EPL fans. The remaining two teams from the English league must face each other. Guaranteeing only one EPL side in the Semifinal Round. Man City comes in having won four and lost one match in their last five. Their only lost coming to Basel in the last round of the UCL, a game which they had little to play for. Not counting that match, City comes in having outscored their opponents 9-1. If their defense keeps that up Liverpool will have a tough time. Liverpool comes in winning three and losing once in their last five so they are also playing well. And their defense has only allowed 3 goals in that five game stretch. This could be a pretty fun set of matches.
Previous History – While never having faced each other in UCL competition they are certainly very familiar with each other having faced off over 200 times in the EPL!
Prediction – Close but Man City has a chance to win both the EPL and UCL titles. Having fell out of the chase for the FA Cup they are hungry. Man City….maybe…..
Barcelona – Roma
Both sides come in having won four and drawn once in their last five matches. And they both have a +8 goal differential in that span. Another matchup that could be a classic. Two historically great sides playing well and in solid form.
Previous History – They have met four times in European competitions each having a win and two draws. Barca has scored eight goals to Roma’s six.
Prediction – When in doubt go back to the lead in photo. Barcelona has Messi. Roma doesn’t.
So there you have it. The next round of the best soccer on the planet starts today. And given the game times being in Europe still plenty of time to watch them and catch the O’s later tonight.
Steve is an avid fan of all things soccer and the O's. Originally from the west, he grew up in the Baltimore area. He returned to the west for college where he earned a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University and spent 36 years working at the Idaho National Laboratory prior to retiring in 2013. It was during his school years in Baltimore where he learned to play soccer and that developed into a life long passion. He played competitively for over 40 years and was a four year starting goalkeeper at MSU. He also coached and refereed in the Idaho premier soccer and High School programs for many years.