Soccer Talk

With little over a week before the Champions League quarterfinals kick off, the speculations and predictions are at the peak of intensity. Europe’s premier club football tournament is now in its 59th season and the matches could not be more competitive. The last eight teams remaining are all historic clubs in their own right and face off in one of the most anticipated Champions League years in recent memory. As the teams prepare for the first leg of quarterfinals play and bracket predictions rise to attention, who are the favorites to head into the Champions League semi-finals?

FC Barcelona, currently third in La Liga, are definitely the team to look out for in the quarterfinal round. Atletico Madrid, currently first in La Liga, will have to be weary of Barcelona’s top goal scorer Lionel Messi. Messi is arguably the best player in the world, and comes into the quarterfinal round with eight goals scored in the Champions League. Atletico Madrid’s forward Diego Costa heads into the first leg with 7 goals coming right behind Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Costa and his squad lead the Spanish division La Liga and after defeating AC Milan in the previous round, they are a force to be reckoned with. Atletico Madrid has not advanced to the quarterfinals of the Champions League since the 1996/97 championship. Going up against a highly consistent team can be difficult and that just might give Barcelona FC the edge towards defeating Atletico.

PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani will face Chelsea’s Czech goal stopper Petr Cech and defense guardian David Luiz. Putting up an impressive 6-1 aggregate score against Leverkusen in the previous round, Paris Saint-Germain head into the quarterfinals goal hungry and with the upper hand. With 10 goals to his name Ibrahimovic is not afraid to take shots from the long range. Shadowing right behind Zlatan, Cavani will serve the pure purpose of a solid number nine and often have opposing defenses scrambling to man mark. Chelsea’s speed will give the club the upper hand over PSG however. Brazilian center attacking midfielder Oscar will be the man on the lookout for the match as he is quick to find false winger Ramires and Hazard on the wings. PSG’s defense will need to be quick to shutdown the counter attacks in order to maintain their dominance over Chelsea. However Chelsea lacks a solid forward who can score, as they have no goal scorers in the top ten of the Champions League.

Current champions Bayern Munich strolled into the quarterfinal round after beating Arsenal with a aggregate score of 3-1. Bayern, probably the strongest squad in the tournament so far, has proven themselves why they are the current champions of Europe. Bayern’s intimidating midfield will be the deciding factor for the match as they pack all attributes ranging from Frank Ribery’s speed to Bastian Schweinsteiger’s vision on the pitch. Manchester United’s aging midfield will have to be superior over Bayern’s young and dominant midfield in order to create a lead in the first leg. Bayern Munich should not struggle to beat Manchester United in this round.

Real Madrid stormed past Schalke 04 with a tremendous victory of 9-2 (aggregate score) while Champions League favorites Borussia Dortmund struggled to beat Zenit FC with a aggregate score of 5-4. Borussia Dortmund head to the quarterfinal round with a loss on their hands. Hoping to recover from doubtful injuries, last year’s runner-up will have trouble shutting down Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo, leading the league with 13 goals to his name, is an ultimate danger to Borussia Dortmund with Angel di Maria and Gareth Bale out wide for the Ballon d’Or winner. The doubtful recovery of Borussia’s Marco Reus will put their midfield in danger as they have 6 injuries in the squad, 4 coming from the midfield. Speed and health are the deciding factors that will give Real Madrid the victory.

While these matches can easily go either way, these clubs cannot put their guard down, as one single mistake might be the only way these teams can get past each other. Surprises are yet to come however and that is what the Champions League is known for. The quarterfinal legs will be held on April 1-2 and 8-9.