Friday, March 18, Nyon, Switzerland. UEFA headquarters hosted the ever-exciting Champions League event, where both the quarter-final and semi-final pairs were drawn. What are the match-ups and who will hope to advance to the semi-finals?
We don’t have to wait for long. The quarter-finals will start already on April 5 and 6 with the return fixtures on April 12 and 13. The four pairs were drawn as follows:
- Chelsea vs Real Madrid
- Manchester City vs Atletico Madrid
- Villarreal vs Bayern Munich
- Benfica vs Liverpool
Chelsea – Real Madrid
A repeat of last year’s semi-final and probably the most closely matched tie. Some nostalgia for Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois as they face the Blues once again. Last time around, the now defending champs drew 1-1 in the 1st leg match against Real and convincingly pulled off a 2-0 win in the return leg on Stamford Bridge. Head-to-head stats are clearly in Chelsea’s favor as they haven’t lost a single match against the Spanish side – 3 wins and 2 draws, alongside a rather convincing 7-3 goal difference.
In the domestic Premier League, Chelsea sits comfortably in 3rd place with little chance of moving up or down in the table. This means Tuchel’s side can solely focus on defending the CL title. Question-marks remain over Romelu Lukaku and the club’s possible new owner.
After an incredible come-back in the Round of 16 against PSG, Real will be confident to try and add the 14th CL title to their tally. In La Liga, Real has pulled away from the rest, securely sitting in 1st place, even after a dismal performance and embarrassing 0-4 loss in El Clasico over the weekend. Fair enough, they missed King Karim Benzema to a soleus injury. Two weeks will hopefully be enough for the in-form Frenchman to return to the squad.
As it stands, bookies see the 1st leg going Chelsea’s way (2.02 – 3.47 – 3.88). The odds for advancing are much closer with Chelsea at 1.83 and Real Madrid at 1.97.
Manchester City – Atletico Madrid
Can Diego Simeone conquer Manchester? Round of 16 saw Atletico narrowly eek past Manchester United, coming away with a 2-1 win on aggregate. However, if he manages the same feat, then it will be a much bigger upset this time around.
Manchester City took their foot off the gas pedal in the Round of 16 return leg, after trashing Sporting 5-0 away. Domestically, things are heating up, with Liverpool closing the gap. Still, the stars are very much aligned for Pep Guardiola to finally bring City their first-ever Champions League trophy.
Historically, the two sides have yet to meet in European fixtures, but Pep and Simeone have plenty of experience against each other. Atleti have reverted to their good-ol’ trustworthy approach of “defend at all cost” and expect City to have their hands full with trying to break the deadlock. Look out for Joao Felix, Angel Correa, Antoine Greizmann and Luis Suarez on the counter-attack.
Odds for the 1st leg: City at 1.40 to win, 4.75 to draw and 8.80 to lose. Overall, City is predicted to advance with 1.26 for and 3.90 against it.
Villarreal – Bayern Munich
The current Spanish league number 7 stunned Juventus 3-0 in the 2nd leg and advanced to the Quarter-Finals 4-1 on aggregate, much to everyone’s surprise. Villarreal is never a pushover when it comes to European fixtures. They are the defending 2020/21 Europa League champions, after all. Still, the Bavarians will be quite pleased with the draw.
Domestically, Bayern continues their Bundesliga dominance and Robert Lewandowski continues to score goal after goal. After a rather unexpected 1-1 draw against Salzburg in the 1st leg of Round of 16, Bayern cruised past the Austrian side 7-1 in the 2nd leg.
Expect games where Bayern will dictate the tempo of the game and dominate in possession. Villareal will try to park the bus, playing to their counter-attacking prowess. We anticipate a tough, physical match-up and of course, the ever-strong Bayern to advance to the semi-finals. Odds of that happening stand at 1.10 for and 7.10 against it.
Benfica – Liverpool
Benfica will be happy to have made it this far and Liverpool will be even happier to have drawn the Portuguese side, who should be the weakest of the last eight. The former surprisingly squeaked past Ajax in the Round of 16, with a late goal from Darwin Núñez seeing them advance 3-2 on aggregate.
In the Primeira Liga, they sit (again) quite comfortably in 3rd place. When asked about the draw, Liverpool’s Klopp stayed respectful, complimenting the Portuguese side on advancing and expecting a “tough one”. However, knowing that they will firstly meet in Lisbon and have the homecourt advantage for the second leg, The Reds will be confident to advance.
In the Premier League, Liverpool has been in tremendous form, putting together a winning streak that has seen them close the gap with Man City to only a single point. Something that looked quite unlikely just a month ago.
From the numbers side, the 1st leg sees Benfica’s odds of winning at 9.00, a draw at 4.80 and Liverpool’s win at 1.39. Overall, Liverpool is expected to advance comfortably: 1.045 vs 10.70.
The semi-finals will start on April 26 and 27 with the second legs on May 3 and 4.
- The winner of Benfica vs Liverpool will face the winner of Villarreal vs Bayern Munich.
- The winner of Manchester City vs Atletico Madrid will take on the winner of Chelsea vs Real Madrid.
And the Big Final?
The Champions League final is on May 28 at Paris’ Stade de France.