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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pure glamour in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League

Por Fidel Orihuela

After a new exhibition from Leo Messi, the FC Barcelona advanced to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for 11 times thus being in the group of 8 teams that will compete in the greatest soccer competition in Europe. The Real Madrid, the last champion for two times consecutively just like other four teams that have won the tournament in some occasions present themselves as favorites to advance or maybe win the competition.

Real Madrid: It is valid to say that not many thought that the last champion could make it in the knockout phase against the PSG but they defeated a team that seemed very difficult and got to the quarterfinals. The experience and expertise of Zinedine Zidane made the Spanish won over the French, who could not take advantage of the opportunities they had when they were dominating the first game. Now the Real Madrid is a rival to take into consideration because they have nothing else to fight for and the Champions seems like their best shot to redeem themselves.

Manchester City: All the odds have Pep Guardiola’s team as the favorite to win the cup at the end of the tournament, something that The Citizens have been looking forward to for some years now. Their expensive sign ups and unstoppable investments did not pay dividends in other seasons but now the team from Manchester seems more mature and with mutual understanding among the players. The City has amazing players like De Bruyne, Sane, Sterling, Agüero and others, which was clearly demonstrated when they played against the FC Basel and won 4-0.

Juventus FC: Without last season’s drive, the leaders of the Italian League are still in the competition after having won against Tottenham in Wembley, where the Real Madrid lost 3-1 in the group stage. The “Vecchia Signora” counted with Gonzalo Higuain y Pablo Dybala to won over the English, which came to the round of sixteen with ambitious intentions. However, the Italian defence survived the attacks of Harry Kane, Delle Ali y Christian Eriksen, contained for a long time in the knockout phase. The Juventus will be a hard rival to beat in the quarterfinals, in which for sure they will count with the suspended Juan Guillermo Cuadrado.

Liverpool FC: A high number of goals (0-5) in Portugal allowed The Reds to face calmly the return game in Anfield, where they accomplished their classification to the quarterfinals facing the Oporto. The electric connection between Sadio Mane y Salah were decisive for Jürgen Klopp’s team, who has found the players he needed to put into practice his strategies in spite of having lost Phillippe Coutinho to the FC Barcelona. The German director has turned the Liverpool in a fast team that plays a very vertical game when they get hold of the ball, qualities that make the rivals to retreat very quickly not to be beaten in the counter-attacks.

Sevilla FC: The Andalusians were the great surprise of the quarterfinals when they eliminated the Manchester United, a team that all took for granted as the winner. However, the ones from Sevilla, who have been characterized in the last years for a tremendous ability when it comes to signing up cheap but very good players, mock the expensive English roster and with a modest but hard working group of players, the Sevilla eliminated Jose Mourinho’s team, who was surpassed by the tactics of the Italian manager Vincenzo Montella, which used the forward Ben Yedder when was needed and conquered Old Trafford turning the dreams of the United into nightmares.

A.S. Roma: Faithful to the Italian Style, the Olympic was the stage in which the Romans decided their fate against the FC Shakhtar Donetsk, who could not win in the return game as they did in the first one. With only one goal, the Ukrainians did not show in the Italian capital the same drive they had in the first game as home club and it took a toll on them when Edin Džeko’s goal took them out of the competition. Taking advantage of a defence that was excessively ahead without the reaction capacity to control the ball in the air after a long pass, the Shakhtar was left at the mercy of the Romans, which won the match maybe not so brightly but with efficiency. However, to think that they can make it past the quarterfinals is a dream.

Bayern Munich: The winner of the Bundesliga literally brought down to reality the Beşiktaş in the group stage and scored 8 goals when they matched in the knockouts. Jupp Heynckes’ team put a clear and definitive distance from the Turks, which experienced roster could not do anything against the demolishing pace of Lewandowski, Arturo Vidal, Thomas Müller, James Rodríguez and others. Now that they have won the Bundesliga, the Bayern Munich is going to put much pressure into the Champions League, thinking about getting even from the failures of the past two years. Undoubtedly is that ambition and Heynckes’ magic touch what makes of the Germans one of the most feared teams of the quarterfinals.

FC Barcelona: With a Leo Messi that seems more tuned every time, a Dembélé that seems to be perfectly at home with his new team and with a solid defence, the Catalonians are for sure one of the rivals to beat. Fortune has been good to Ernesto Valverde’s team throughout the season and that could be fully appreciated in the games facing the Chelsea FC in which the English team ended up losing by a high amount of Barcelona goals in the Camp Nou. This team does not need much to take over the quarterfinals, given their efficiency in the matches they face and the trust you can place in its defence, perfectly escorted by a royal goalkeeper like Ter Stegen.