The UEFA Champions League and Europa League take centre stage, with the first legs of the quarter-final ties taking place. Will Leice...
The UEFA Champions League and Europa League take centre stage, with the first legs of the quarter-final ties taking place.
Will Leicester's fine run in Europe come to a halt against Atletico Madrid, will Juventus avenge their 2015 final defeat at the hands of Barcelona and can Real Madrid keep the defence of their crown on track against Bayern Munich?
Read on for our thoughts on these ties
Borussia Dortmund vs. Monaco
In what many fans expect to be the most entertaining tie of the quarter-finals, Borussia Dortmund host Monaco in the first leg on Tuesday. Both sides are filled to the brim with exciting attacking talents, many of whom are on the cusp of global superstardom.
Dortmund didn't have the best of dress rehearsals, losing 4-1 at Bayern Munich on Saturday, albeit with a depleted squad. Head coach Thomas Tuchel should be able to recall key midfielders Julian Weigl and Shinji Kagawa.
Leonardo Jardim will be without suspended midfield destroyer Tiemoue Bakayoko, scorer of the decisive goal in the frantic round-of-16 thriller against Manchester City, but he welcomes back Radamel Falcao to the ranks. El Tigre scored the winner against SCO Angers on Saturday, keeping them at the top of Ligue 1.
Monaco have showed some defensive frailties in big games in 2017, conceding a total of six goals to Man City and four to Paris Saint-Germain in the Coup de la Ligue final on April 1. The Black and Yellows, having scored a record-setting 21 goals in the group stage and four more against Benfica in the previous round, should have a good chance going into the second leg next week if they bring their shooting boots.
Juventus vs. Barcelona
A rematch of this competition’s 2015 final, this clash at Juventus Stadium sees two of the continent’s most decorated side’s go head-to-head, but they arrive in different circumstances.
Juventus have been in incredible form since losing to Fiorentina in January, their only defeat since coming in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final with Napoli, a tie they won on aggregate.
Barcelona, meanwhile, will arrive in Turin having tasted defeat in two of their last five outings, and have key midfielder Sergio Busquets suspended against the Bianconeri. The game is one between an irresistible force and an immovable object, a fact reflected in their previous Champions League outings this term.
There have been over 2.5 goals scored in seven of Barca's last eight games in the competition, but under that total in five of Juve’s last six, the home side keeping six clean sheets in their previous eight European outings.
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
Unquestionably the tie of the round will see two of the three most commonly named favourites square off when Bayern Munich host Real Madrid on Wednesday.
The two European giants have met a whopping 16 times since 2000 and, aside from a 4-0 away win for Los Blancos on their way to La Decima in 2014, those 16 games have usually been tight and come up with unexpected twists and turns.
With the tie being too close to call on paper, form on the day should make all the difference. Personnel, of course, will also be huge, with both Carlo Ancelotti and his former assistant, Zinedine Zidane, having to do without starting centre-backs.
Bayern's Mats Hummels has picked up an ankle distortion and will miss at least the first tie, while Real's Pepe fell victim to friendly fire on Saturday, breaking two of his ribs in a collision with Toni Kroos during the Madrid derby.
With Raphael Varane also still injured, Zidane will have to trust in comparatively inexperienced Nacho at the heart of defence, while Ancelotti will turn to Jerome Boateng, who has only played little over 200 minutes of competitive football in 2017 after struggling with nagging injuries himself.
The game on Wednesday and, really, the tie itself should come down to a few decisive moments, perhaps a set piece or that one individual mistake the opponent will pounce on ruthlessly.
Atletico Madrid vs. Leicester City
Both these sides had been on impressive runs recently, but while Atletico Madrid had a hard-fought derby draw at the weekend, Leicester rested several players and lost at Everton 4-2—so it's no secret where the Foxes' ambitions lie here.
The English club have done exceptionally well to reach this stage, but Atletico are a level above anything they've faced so far, a constant presence in the latter stages of Europe and with genuinely top-tier talent in the side.
It would be an enormous shock if Atleti didn't go through over two legs, and much of that will start with a solid platform from the home match. The experience, determination and firepower all points to a win for Los Rojiblancos.