Liverpool to get revenge? Haaland to upset Metropolis? Bayern to beat PSG?


We’re right down to the ultimate eight groups vying for UEFA Champions League glory; can Liverpool get revenge on Actual Madrid for defeating them within the 2018 closing? How will Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain fare in a rematch of final yr’s decider? Are Man Metropolis dealing with a straightforward highway, or will Erling Haaland and Dortmund take them down? And the way about FC Porto? They might be thought of “minnows,” however that they had sufficient expertise to stun Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus; are Chelsea subsequent?

ESPN breaks down every thing you might want to know forward of this week’s first legs, together with the place the video games will likely be received or misplaced and key gamers, in addition to predictions as to who will undergo.

Bounce to: Actual Madrid vs. Liverpool | Man Metropolis vs. Dortmund | Bayern vs. PSG | FC Porto vs. Chelsea


Actual Madrid vs. Liverpool
3 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. GMT

Overview: “Revenge, redemption and Ramos” is how one can subtitle this conflict of Euro Titans, who’ve lifted the trophy a mixed 19 instances and are nicely acquainted (from six matches, there have been three wins apiece, two finals cut up evenly and, once they have fought not too long ago, oodles of objectives.)

Revenge? Properly that is uniquely for Liverpool. Final time the edges met was the 2018 Champions League closing in Kiev and Jurgen Klopp’s Reds noticed crimson. Mohamed Salah was carted off injured after being run over by Sergio Ramos, then concussed goalkeeper Lorius Karius gifted Madrid two objectives handy Zinedine Zidane his third-straight UCL title.

Revenge, irrespective of how usually it’s denied as an idea, is a spur, and each groups’ seasons want redemption. Madrid are nonetheless in competition for La Liga however their title defence has been pock-marked by ugly, unpredictable defeats. Liverpool all the time need this trophy however, sitting sixth within the Premier League as this tie kicks off, they now require it.

And Madrid captain Ramos. Injured, once more. Not current to torment Liverpool, or to encourage his personal membership. Out of contract in June, not sure to remain. May this tie, if Madrid are eradicated, prematurely finish his love affair with the Champions League?

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The place Actual Madrid will win or lose: Their identify has been etched on this trophy 4 instances within the final six years, however alongside the way in which, not simply this season in opposition to Inter and Borussia Monchengladbach, there have been close to disasters, unattainable rescues and football-escapology of the grandest form. Bear in mind Dortmund and Atletico in 2014? Wolfsburg and Atletico (once more) two years later? Bayern Munich in 2017 or Juventus 12 months after that? Examples all of brinksmanship extraordinaire.

Madrid are hooked on conquering Europe and, ought to they knock Liverpool out, this vitamin of absolute dedication to lifting the trophy will undoubtedly have nourished them. However, in taking part in phrases, they will not win this tie until three compartments of their magic field are working fluidly: Striker Karim Benzema, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and that immense midfield of Luka ModricCasemiroToni Kroos. In different phrases: “Rating, save and scintillate.”

The place Liverpool will win or lose: Liverpool barely resemble Barcelona, in that accidents have compelled them to look inward to resolve issues they did not have a clue they have been going to undergo. Simply because the Catalans have been elevated from the mire by kids like Pedri, Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza and Ilaix Moriba, Klopp has discovered in-house sustenance from competitors debutants Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams, Curtis Jones, Neco Williams and Caoimhin Kelleher. Common age 20, however 18 Champions League appearances between them this season.

Throw in Kostas Tsimikas and 21-year-old Ozan Kabak sharing the load of their first season at Anfield and you would be forgiven for branding this “all change.” However the identical outdated components of flying wing-backs, hostile urgent, lightning counter-attacks and the Sadio ManeRoberto FirminoMo Salah trident stay Liverpool’s DNA.

Key gamers: There’ll, in such an historic tie, inevitably be a jack-in-the-box participant who excels like Divock Origi or Gini Wijnaldum (who popped up for Liverpool in opposition to Barca in 2019), or how substitute Gareth Bale and Ferland Mendy did for Madrid in, respectively, that 2018 closing and the last-16 first leg in opposition to Atalanta this season.

However the principal threats favour Liverpool. First, once they muster up that hurricane-football that has trademarked Klopp’s reign, it’s exactly what this slightly-ageing, one-paced Madrid hate. Second, Liverpool’s principal power is devastating ahead play and mixtures, which immediately threaten a Madrid backline lacking gnarled warriors in Ramos and Dani Carvajal. That Klopp integrated the prolific, and now absolutely match, Diogo Jota alongside the star trio in a 4-2-3-1 formation while destroying Arsenal 3-0 on the weekend is ominous.

Neither is Zidane averse to tactical tinkering. Frankly, his experiments with 3-5-2 look sick suggested, but when he does make use of that system in opposition to Liverpool it is going to require Marcelo (nonetheless ultra-talented and eccentric, however in decline) to utterly excel and to make higher positional judgements than regular. The important thing 5 for Spain‘s champions are Courtois, who has been at or close to his best kind this time period; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos, who can take a recreation away from the most effective opponents as a result of, technical abilities apart, they reside and breathe the successful mentality; and Benzema, who not solely has 11 objectives in his final 10 matches, however the effervescence of his play, his invention, imaginative and prescient and technical abilities are sheer magic to observe. On kind he can win this tie. Madrid, have been they to lose him, could be misplaced.

Prediction: Like Rafa Benitez mentioned this week: “I do not see a transparent favorite.” Madrid can win and it’s to their benefit they will not face the coliseum ambiance of a full, rabidly loyal Anfield. Nevertheless, Liverpool appear like they’re coming again to kind. They’ll depend on extra of their confirmed winners again within the squad, are spurred by the revenge intuition and are marginal favourites if they’ll press Madrid out of their most popular tempo. — Graham Hunter



Julien Laurens fears an out-of-sorts Borussia Dortmund won’t put up a lot of a struggle in opposition to Man Metropolis.

Man Metropolis vs. Borussia Dortmund
3 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. GMT

Overview: Current kind suggests this quarterfinal will likely be one thing of a mismatch, with Metropolis on the right track for a quadruple after successful 26 of their final 27 video games in all competitions and Dortmund slipping seven factors adrift of the Bundesliga prime 4 following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt — their fifth loss in 11 video games. However whereas Metropolis are overwhelming favourites, Pep Guardiola’s staff have repeatedly been crushed by unfancied opponents within the Champions League knockout phases, with Monaco, Tottenham and Lyon eliminating them lately.

In Erling Haaland, this season’s main scorer (10 objectives) within the Champions League, Dortmund possess a striker able to hurting Metropolis and triggering a repeat of their earlier shock exits, however the possible absence by damage of Jadon Sancho, a former Metropolis teen, will blunt the German staff’s leading edge.

The place Man Metropolis will win or lose: Whereas the deal with Metropolis usually falls on their attacking capabilities, their run to the quarterfinals this season has been constructed on their stable foundations on the again, with Guardiola’s staff conceding only one aim in eight video games. Ruben Dias and John Stones have shaped a formidable central defensive partnership, though Aymeric Laporte has not too long ago been paired with Dias, so Guardiola has choices to include Haaland.

As a staff chasing a quadruple, Metropolis’s weaknesses are briefly provide, however they do lack a centre-forward able to deciding a decent recreation. Sergio Aguero, who will depart when his contact expires this summer season, continues to be wanting health after accidents and interval recovering from COVID-19, whereas Gabriel Jesus is just not elite high quality. However objectives from extensive and midfield have made up for that shortcoming this season.

The place Dortmund will win or lose: Dortmund’s huge power is Haaland, the 20-year-old who has taken the Champions League by storm since scoring a debut hat trick for FC Salzburg in September 2019. Since shifting to Germany the next January, the Norwegian striker has continued to attain at an unbelievable charge of consistency. His tempo and power, allied with a nerveless method to ending, have made him probably the most sought-after participant in world soccer.

But Dortmund have conceded 9 objectives within the competitors this season at a mean of 1.13 objectives per recreation, so are more likely to have to attain a minimum of twice to beat Metropolis. Furthermore, one huge benefit that Dortmund can normally rely on within the Champions League — a full and noisy Sign Iduna Park — will likely be denied them this season due to the restriction on supporters because of the pandemic.

Key gamers: The power of Metropolis is borne out by the truth that they do not have a single “key” participant. Whereas Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden have match-winning qualities, the staff has carried on regardless. Guardiola can rotate his gamers with out worrying concerning the absence of 1 pivotal participant; even goalkeeper Ederson has been changed by American Zack Steffen with out consequence.

It’s a totally different story for Dortmund, the place every thing revolves round Haaland, particularly with Sancho anticipated to overlook each video games. That mentioned, if Metropolis permit midfielders Marco Reus, Jude Bellingham, Julian Brandt and Thomas Delaney to get a grip of the sport, it may make for a troublesome tie for Guardiola’s facet.

Prediction: Man Metropolis to advance. Dortmund have the gamers to win over 90 minutes, however in a two-leg tie, it’s unattainable to envisage Guardiola’s staff not defeating the Germans to say a spot within the Champions League semis for less than the second time. — Mark Ogden



Jan Aage Fjortoft assesses how Bayern Munich will lineup with out the injured Robert Lewandowski.


Bayern Munich vs. Paris Saint-Germain
3 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. GMT

Overview: A rematch of the 2020 Champions League closing, which Bayern received 1-0, was prefaced by each groups taking part in important league recreation on the weekend. Whereas Bayern received 1-0 at RB Leipzig to stretch their cushion on the prime of the Bundesliga to seven factors, PSG misplaced at dwelling to Lille by the identical scoreline.

The Bavarians received their recreation due to a Leon Goretzka aim and one other nice efficiency from goalkeeper Manuel Neuer; PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino, in the meantime, was outsmarted tactically by Lille counterpart Christophe Galtier and Neymar, in his first league begin in two months, was despatched off late on after a disappointing show. Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski and PSG midfielder Marco Verratti will likely be essential absentees on this tie, however just one staff has proven it could cope with out a star man.

The place Bayern will win or lose: Even with out Lewandowski (and his 42 objectives in 36 video games in all competitions this season), Bayern are positive of their strengths and have self-belief that they’ll beat anybody. Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich kind the most effective midfield duo on the earth and until PSG can cease them dictating the sport, Bayern will come out on prime. To exchange Lewandowsi, supervisor Hansi Flick performed former PSG striker Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting in opposition to Leipzig, whereas he additionally has the choice of utilizing Serge Gnabry or Thomas Muller.

Nevertheless, regardless of Neuer’s brilliance, this Bayern staff concedes probabilities and objectives — 35 already on this season’s Bundesliga — and their excessive defensive position could possibly be a problem in opposition to PSG’s fast assaults.



ESPN FC’s Frank Leboeuf says Neymar’s lack of health would doom PSG vs. Bayern Munich.

The place PSG will win or lose: PSG should play with depth and self-discipline, and be environment friendly within the press and counterpress. Kylian Mbappe will even should be the star and exploit Bayern’s excessive line. If he shines like he did when scoring a hat trick in opposition to Barcelona within the earlier spherical, the French champions have an opportunity.

But PSG have additionally appeared weak in defensive transition throughout huge video games. Pochettino must change Verratti — an enormous loss as no-one within the staff has his inventive contact — whereas Neymar, whereas a certainty to play as a result of he’s so proficient and might win the sport with one second of brilliance, is just not 100% match and struggles to be decisive in such conditions.

Key gamers: Collectively there is no such thing as a staff higher than Bayern, however Kimmich is the chief. The Germany worldwide dictates the tempo of the sport, assaults, defends, recovers the ball and retains issues shifting ahead. In aim, the 35-year-old Neuer is his finest, whereas Muller is without doubt one of the most clever forwards within the recreation. Former PSG winger Kingsley Coman, who scored the winner in final yr’s closing, will likely be motivated to interrupt his outdated staff’s hearts once more.

For PSG, Mbappe holds the important thing. On a superb day he’s unstoppable, as he confirmed in opposition to Barcelona, and he needs to make amends for the prospect he missed in opposition to Bayern in 2020’s closing when the rating was 0-0. Keylor Navas has additionally been incredible in aim and has saved PSG many instances whereas, with out COVID-stricken Verratti, Neymar and Angel Di Maria would be the two major sources of creativity.

Prediction: Bayern will undergo. Shedding a participant like Lewandowski is a big setback, however PSG are dropping as a lot, if no more, with Verratti out. Bayern are a machine; beneath Pochettino, PSG have solely simply began to assemble their engine. –– Julien Laurens



Janusz Michallik feedback on the play of Pulisic, Werner and Havertz in Chelsea’s defeat to West Brom.

Porto vs. Chelsea
3 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. GMT

Overview: Porto are underdogs, however underestimate Sergio Conceicao’s facet at your peril. Their last-16, away objectives, win over Juventus was exceptional; taking part in for an hour with simply 10 males within the second leg and handing over a efficiency of defensive stability and ruthlessness in entrance of aim to knock out Andrea Pirlo’s facet. On the home entrance, they’re unbeaten within the Primeira Liga since October, however solely second within the desk, a way off leaders Sporting.

Chelsea appeared settled and resilient beneath Thomas Tuchel, till they got here up in opposition to relegation-threatened West Brom, who stormed Stamford Bridge to win 5-2 after Thiago Silva was despatched off within the twenty ninth minute. It was a exceptional capitulation, given Chelsea have been unbeaten since Tuchel took over in January and had conceded simply two objectives. However they may hope that was a mere freak end result, reasonably than their bubble bursting.

As a consequence of COVID-19 quarantine and journey restrictions, each legs of this quarterfinal conflict will happen on impartial floor in Seville.

The place Porto will win or lose: Judging by their two legs in opposition to Juventus, Porto are accustomed to being underdogs and comfortable to stack their defence — typically working with six on the again within the earlier spherical — then deal with counter-attacking. They are going to be with out Mehdi Taremi and Sergio Oliveira by suspension for the primary leg, which is able to make a agency dent of their attacking energy, however will look to squeeze the center of the sector, reasonably than stress excessive up the pitch.

Chelsea will likely be given license to play out from the again, with Porto seeking to tempt them into shifting numbers ahead. Porto’s proper flank is superb, with Jesus Corona a menace, however with Taremi suspended, they could go together with only one attacker, Moussa Marega, up entrance. Veteran defender Pepe missed out their weekend recreation by damage, however is optimistic he will likely be match to face Chelsea.

The place Chelsea will win or lose: Chelsea will look to boss proceedings in the identical means they did in opposition to Atletico within the Spherical of 16 and might count on to have loads of the ball — Porto had simply 34% and 31% possession in opposition to Juventus of their two legs — however must make that depend. Timo Werner continues to be discovering his toes with simply 5 objectives in 29 league matches, however there’s sufficient class within the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount to supply the objectives.

Porto will take discover of how weak Chelsea appeared defending crosses in opposition to West Brom, as nicely how inclined they have been to counter-attacks. Chelsea look set to be with out N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic on Wednesday by damage, however count on them to line up of their common fluid system of three centre-backs, two wing-backs, two sitting midfielders and three attackers.

Key gamers: Pepe, 38, is Porto’s major man on the again and was sensational in opposition to Juventus. That they managed to stop Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring in both leg is testomony to their defensive stability, however they have to be ruthless in entrance of aim. Corona is an excellent menace, whereas Chelsea will even be aware of Malang Sarr, who’s on mortgage from the London membership. And maintain an eye fixed out for left winger Luis Diaz, attacking midfielder Otavio and ex-West Ham striker Toni Martinez.

Mount is Chelsea’s major man, however Tuchel must juggle the remainder of his assault. Will probably be fascinating to see whether or not he opts with Werner as the only No. 9 or, like he did within the first leg in opposition to Atletico, picks Olivier Giroud as considered one of two recognised strikers. On the different finish, the double pivot of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic will likely be important in holding Porto’s counter at bay whereas Marcos Alonso or Ben Chilwell could have their arms full with Corona.

Prediction: With each legs performed on impartial territory, the primary leg will likely be a nervy affair with Chelsea and Porto battling out a draw, earlier than Chelsea go on to win the return fixture subsequent week. Tuchel is aware of what it takes to succeed in the ultimate of the Champions League, having finished that with PSG final season, and has the nous to steer Chelsea by this difficult tie. — Tom Hamilton



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