The Champions League hopefuls are now down to eight, with all restrictions waved for the quarterfinal draw in Nyon, Switzerland, on Friday. Four countries still have representatives alive, and for the first time in this season’s competition teams from the same nation will be able to be paired together.
Undoubtedly, the side breathing the heaviest sigh of relief to have made it through are Manchester United. After a torrid season was continued with a 2-0 defeat to Olympiakos in Greece, the English champions finally found some form to dispatch their opponents 3-0 in a thrilling return leg at Old Trafford.
In very different circumstances, last year’s losing finalists Borussia Dortmund were can also be thankful for their progress. Despite winning 4-2 against Zenit St Petersburg in Russia, they offered little in the second leg but survived despite a 2-1 loss. Few will currently put money on Jurgen Klopp’s side repeating their achievement of last season, something which certainly can’t be said of the team that beat them in the 2013 final.
Following their unique treble last season, Bayern Munich look even more dominant this campaign under Pep Guardiola. The former Barcelona manager is looking to lift the trophy for a third time as coach and his new side were impressive in dismissing of Arsenal 3-1 on aggregate in the last 16.
His former side form part of a strong trio of challengers from La Liga. Barcelona may not be the force they once were and have had a trying campaign off the pitch, but any team featuring Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Neymar is still going to be a threat to any side. And the Catalans showed signs of their former glory in dispatching of Manchester City 4-1.
On current form, Barcelona’s fierce rivals and current La Liga leaders Real Madrid may be the biggest threat to Bayern Munich retaining their trophy. Carlo Ancelotti has come up with a balanced side that still enables him to get the best out of his brilliant “BBC” forward line of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo.
It would be foolish, though, to write off Real’s neighbors. Atletico Madrid play with a ferocious intensity and determination that is the model of their coach Diego Simeone in his playing days. Having breezed past Milan, no side will relish heading to the Vicente Calderon.
And every team left in the draw will be wary, too, of coming up against a Zlatan-Ibrahimovic-inspired Paris Saint-Germain. Now joined by Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani in one of Europe’s most devastating front lines, the French champions will be looking to go further than the quarterfinal stage where they bowed out 12 months ago.
Finally, there’s Jose Mourinho and Chelsea. In the first season of his second spell at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho may not have the quality and makeup of squad that he desires, but looking to become the first coach to lift the European Cup with a third different club, he has both the nous and motivation to cause better-equipped squads difficulties.
Where to watch: The draw for the Champions League quarterfinals will kick off at 7 a.m. ET. A live stream will be shown on UEFA.com.