All possibilities are on the table as the final eight teams in UEFA’s Champions League await the quarterfinal draw in Nyon, Switzerland, on Friday. For the first time in this season’s competition, teams from the same country will be able to take on each other, as can group winners and those who competed in the same group during the opening stage. It means’ the possibility of an early El Clasico duel over two legs between Barcelona and Real Madrid, as well as a meeting between Europe’s current most in-form teams Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will all be part of a final eight that is becoming increasingly consistent. Indeed, five of the quarterfinalists were in the last eight 12 months ago, with Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-German also returning to the sharp end of Europe’s premier competition. Joining them this time around are Italian champions Juventus, Ligue 1 side Monaco and Portugal’s experienced European campaigners Porto.
While predictable in many ways, the last 16 provided a couple of notable surprises in defeats for Arsenal at the hands of Monaco and the ousting of last season’s semifinalists and 2012 winners Chelsea by PSG. Along with Manchester City’s defeat by Barcelona, it means that for just the second time in 19 years there will be no representatives from the Premier League in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. It is now very much Spain’s La Liga that leads the way, with three members of the last eight, following on from last year’s all-Spanish final.
Real Madrid came out on top of city rivals Atletico Madrid in Lisbon last May, but the record 10 times winners of the European Cup so nearly relinquished their grip on the trophy in stunning fashion when losing at home to Schalke and only just hanging on to win 5-4 on aggregate. Barcelona’s path was more serene, having played scintillatingly to beat City in a tie they could have won by far more than the 3-1 score line. Bayern Munich, looking to atone for their heavy semifinal defeat to Real Madrid last season and reclaim the trophy they lifted in 2013, were in ominous form, too, beating Shakhtar Donetsk 7-0 in Germany to progress by the same score line on aggregate.
Those three look to be a class apart, although in the knockout format nothing can be taken for granted. Last season’s runners up, Atletico, certainly can’t be ruled out, and PSG will fancy their chances against anyone after adding to their win over Barcelona in the group phase by getting the better of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Juventus have a top quality midfield and look better equipped to replicate their domestic success on the continent under manager Massimiliano Allegri. In their first quarterfinals in six and 11 years, respectively, Porto and Monaco are the outsiders. Yet Porto have an exciting young side featuring the likes of Algerian attacking midfielder Yacine Brahimi, while Monaco, despite a fire sale last summer, have the joint meanest defense in the Champions League this season.
Draw start time: 7 a.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1