As far as Champions League matchups go, there is a clear favorite in most of these ties, bar Chelsea and Real Madrid. Could Benfica, Atletico, and Villarreal pull off the unthinkable against European giants Liverpool, Manchester City, and Bayern Munich?
Read more for a full preview and prediction on these four Quarter-Final ties.
Liverpool vs Benfica
This tie will allow Jurgen Klopp’s Reds to prioritize their Premier League title race with Manchester City while still taking Benfica seriously as they should.
These sides meet this upcoming weekend in the Premier League, and it will likely be the game that decides both teams’ fate this season.
The Champions League Quarter-Finals sandwich that game, and I’m expecting Liverpool to get a solid result tomorrow to give them some breathing room for the 2nd leg.
We’ll see a nearly full-strength Liverpool side tomorrow, and I believe the key will be Klopp playing Thiago, Fabinho, and Henderson in midfield together.
The Reds’ depth has become so strong this season despite the few signings they have made, so they have options if they want to focus on the City match.
Mohamed Salah‘s form has slowed in the last few months; however, one of his attacking partners, Diogo Jota, is firing on all cylinders. It will be interesting to see which two of Jota, Luis Diaz, and Sadio Mane get the nod tomorrow. Given Benfica’s aging defenders, pace could be a critical factor, so I believe we will see Diaz, Mane, and Salah.
While Jan Vertonghen and Nicolas Otamendi may not be at their best anymore, they still have incredible experience and leadership that could help them pull off a miracle. Benfica also has an exciting young Uruguayan striker, Darwin Nunez, who will need to provide magic moments during this tie.
I love Benfica as a side; however, Liverpool are just too strong at the moment, and I believe they will cruise through this tie.
1st Leg Score Prediction: Benfica 0-2 Liverpool
2nd Leg Score Prediction: Liverpool 1-0 Benfica
Liverpool wins 3-0 on aggregate.
Manchester City vs Atletico Madrid
There is no doubt in my mind that Manchester City are the best team in world football, and I’m not expecting them to run into trouble against Atletico Madrid.
Atletico manager, Diego Simeone, is a manager that encourages his team to defend and counterattack their opponents, and to do that against City, you must be perfect.
Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, must start Jack Grealish against Atletico to help break their low block and create chances for City’s primary goal-scorers. Otherwise, it could get frustrating for the Citizens.
We have seen Atletico pull off incredible Champions League victories in recent years; however, I’m not confident that they will be able to defeat City, who are a team that so desperately wants an illustrious UCL trophy.
Leg 1 Score Prediction: Manchester City 1-0 Atletico Madrid
Leg 2 Score Prediction: Atletico Madrid 1-2 Manchester City
Manchester City wins 3-1 on aggregate.
Chelsea vs Real Madrid
From an entertainment standpoint, this is the most exciting fixture.
Los Blancos will look to get revenge on the Blues for knocking them out in the Semi-Final last year, and they are stronger since the defeat.
Karim Benzema was on the scoresheet last season against them, and he will need to be firing again if Real Madrid wants to break down Thomas Tuchel’s stellar defense.
Chelsea are coming off an embarrassing 4-1 loss to Brentford themselves, and have not looked like the best team in Europe this season.
For me, the key for Tuchel will be starting midfielder Mateo Kovacic, as they are so much better with him. He also has an elevated understanding of how his Croatian counterpart Luka Modric plays, and we know how he can pull the strings in a match.
Both teams should be at relatively full strength; however, one player that will likely be left on the bench that shouldn’t is Gareth Bale.
It’s going to be a cracking two legs; however, I’m expecting Chelsea to scrape out the win given how well we saw them play in this competition last season.
Leg 1 Score Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Real Madrid
Leg 2 Score Prediction: Real Madrid 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea wins 2-1 on aggregate.
Bayern vs Villarreal
Unfortunately for Unai Emery’s side, Bayern are nearly back at full strength, with Niklas Sule returning from injury, and they will be so difficult to beat in this Quarter-Final.
It has been an incredible Champions League run for Villarreal so far that can be dated back as far as their Europa League campaign last season, which they won.
In the final, their win against Manchester United earned them a position in this year’s Champions League competition, and they have taken advantage of it in some fashion.
I’m not pronouncing this tie over yet, but I am confident that Bayern will advance.
Leg 1 Score Prediction: Villarreal 1-2 Bayern
Leg 2 Score Prediction: Bayern 3-0 Villarreal
Bayern wins 5-1 on aggregate.