Before the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, we took a look at the matchups and predicted which teams were the favorites to move on. Nobody is completely eliminated from contention yet, but some teams are sitting in far better position than others. Four matches are in the books, and four more next Tuesday and Wednesday will wrap up the quarterfinals.
By this time next week, the field in the Champions League will be winnowed from eight to four. Some of the results in the first leg were more surprising than others, leaving us to reevaluate which teams will be favored in next week’s matches. Let’s break down what happened in the opening legs over the past two days and see which teams are most likely to push through to the penultimate stage of Europe’s preeminent club competition.
Atletico Madrid v. Real Madrid
Real Madrid has yet to defeat its cross-town rival since its comeback victory in last season’s Champions League final, the winless streak extended to seven matches after the two teams played a scoreless stalemate at Estadio Vicente Calderon on Tuesday. But despite failing to put the ball past Atletico keeper Jan Oblak, who was bombarded by eight shots on target in the first leg, Real has to feel confident about its chances of advancement in the return leg. The defending kings of the Champions League were only thwarted by Oblak’s superhuman effort, and while Carlo Ancelotti’s crew are understandably disappointed with a draw they gave themselves a good chance to return to the semifinals in the home leg.
That said, Atletico has had Real’s number all season, and they will not be timid traveling across the capital for the away match next week. Dating back to last season, the little brother in Madrid has lost just once in its past five trips to the Bernabeu — winning 1-0 on September 28, 2013; losing 3-0 in the Copa del Rey semifinals on February 5, 2014; drawing the Supercopa first leg 1-1 on August 19, 2014; winning 2-1 in league play on September 13, 2014; and, most recently, pulling off a 2-2 draw to bounce Real from this year’s Copa del Rey on January 15, 2015. Given that their past two draws would have been enough to advance, all Atletico needs is one timely goal and for Oblak to stand on his head once again.
PREVIOUS PREDICTION: Atletico Madrid advances 4-4 on away goals
REVISED PREDICTION: Atletico Madrid advances 1-1 on away goals
Juventus v. Monaco
A second-half penalty conversion by Arturo Vidal gave Juventus the 1-0 victory at home in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal draw against AS Monaco. The Italians dominated possession, controlling the ball for nearly two-thirds of the match, but curiously it was the Ligue 1 squad that generated more chances on goal. The difference came down to a hard challenge by Ricardo Carvalho in the box 12 minutes after the intermission, which Vidal coolly slotted past Danijel Subasic for the only goal of the match. After reinventing itself into a defensive stalwart in the wake of the James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao sales, Monaco has shown renewed offensive vigor but has not quite been rewarded for its efforts.
With a 12-point lead in the Serie A standings and a chance to effectively seal its title over the weekend against second-place Lazio, the bianconeri cannot simply rest on its laurels in domestic play to prepare for the return match in Monaco. While Juventus is in better position, Monaco has shown flashes of offensive brilliance against Arsenal last round as well as in recent domestic play, scoring 13 goals in its past six Ligue 1 matches. Working against Monaco is the fact that it has played far more confidently away from home than at Stade Louis II. All Juventus needs is a draw, and it should be able to eke out at least that much on the road to reach its first Champions League semifinal since losing the final to AC Milan in 2003.
PREVIOUS PREDICTION: Juventus advances 4-1 on aggregate
REVISED PREDICTION: Juventus advances 3-1 on aggregate
Barcelona v. Paris Saint Germain
Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain played yet another classic, the third straight match between the two clubs that ended with the victor scoring three goals. With PSG undermanned thanks to suspensions to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti and injuries limiting the effectiveness of both Thiago Silva and David Luiz, Barcelona ran roughshod on the hosts at the Parc des Princes in the French capital. Neymar opened the scoring 18 minutes in after PSG had thwarted several challenges, and Luis Suarez went off in the second half for a brace. Jeremy Mathieu’s own goal in the 82nd minute was the only thing preventing the visitors from leaving Paris with a clean sheet and a three-goal advantage, as Barcelona dominated both possession and offensive opportunities.
PSG has a tall mountain to summit if it is going to advance to its first Champions League semifinal since 1995. Barcelona has lost just twice at home all season, and Barcelona has not lost by more than two goals at all this season. Thanks to the three away goals scored by the Catalans, the defending Ligue 1 champions have to either win by three goals or score at least four in a two-goal victory. Both of Barcelona’s home losses this season were by 1-0 scorelines, and the only team to score even two goals against Barca at home was Villarreal — which went up 2-1 and promptly gave up two goals in three minutes to lose 3-2. Unless Suarez, Neymar, and Messi are all unavailable, there is little PSG can do to change its fate.
PREVIOUS PREDICTION: Barcelona advances 4-3 on aggregate
REVISED PREDICTION: Barcelona advances 6-1 on aggregate
FC Porto v. Bayern Munich
Well, there were certain signs that the trip to Portugal was not going to be an easy one for Bayern Munich. Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, David Alaba, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Medhi Benatia, and Javier Martinez were all unavailable to Pep Guardiola thanks to injuries. While the Bavarians still had a wealth of talent to put on the pitch, they were going up against a strong side that was destined to present a tactical challenge. While I can’t say that I was completely surprised that Bayern conceded three goals and lost, the rapidity with which Porto took control was stunning. Ricardo Quaresma had two goals inside of the first 10 minutes, captain and leading scorer Jackson Martinez returned from his own injury frustrations to add a third, and defensive solidity held the Germans to a single away goal.
That one away goal could be the one thing standing in the way of Porto’s advancement, amazing as their match today was to witness. Bayern proved last round that they are capable of exploding on any opponent, as they turned a 0-0 first leg away to Shakhtar Donetsk inside out by pouring seven goals on the Ukrainians. They have lost once at home all season, a 2-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach. They have also only drawn once, meaning that it will come down to Porto scoring at least once on the road and staving off a goal glut by the hosts in the second leg. Given that Bayern has shut out 14 of its 19 opponents at home this season, scores an average of three goals per match at home, and only allows one goal every third contest at Allianz Arena (six goals in 19 home matches), that Thiago Alcantara goal midway through the first half could be Guardiola’s salvation.
PREVIOUS PREDICTION: Bayern Munich advances 5-3 on aggregate
REVISED PREDICTION: Bayern Munich advances 4-3 on aggregate