This week’s international break comes in the middle of the Champions League’s last 16 matches. That’s all the more disappointing given the face that these last 16 matches have already been stretched out over the best part of a month. Regardless of a confounding schedule, it’s still worth looking at who is likely to make the Quarter Finals of this seasons Champions League.
AC Milan hold a 4-0 lead over the Gunners and even the most optimistic of Arsenal supporters must be thinking that qualification for next season’s tournament is a more likely outcome. Arsenal fans were confident when the draw was originally made but not only were they dealt a footballing lesson by the Italians, concerns are also sure to have been raised in Robin van Persie’s mind regarding his club’s ability to compete against Europe’s elite.
Barcelona scored 3 away goals against Bayer Leverkusen to lead 3-1 on aggregate and a minor miracle is needed for the Germans to overcome this deficit. The reigning holders do still look the team to beat though a lot will depend on who they draw in the next round (obviously). They’re the bookies favourites and at this stage you’d be pretty foolish to bet against them.
Napoli beat Chelsea 3-1 in their first leg but this is Andre Villas-Boas’ chance to prove his potential. Not many managers manage to overcome a 2 goal deficit in Champions League knockout matches. There have been some memorable European nights at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea will need one if they are to proceed for the next round. Yet, I for one wouldn’t be surprised if they did make the Quarter Finals.
Real Madrid, Barcelona’s big rivals when it comes to Champions League glory toiled to a 1-1 draw away to CSKA Moscow. You have to fancy the Spanish giants to get the win and result they need to make the Quarter Finals as Jose Mourinho seeks Champions League success with his 3rd different club.
Mourinho’s former employers Inter Milan have a 1-0 defeat to overcome against Marsielle. With home advantage in their second leg you would fancy the Italians but the French side may cause a problem or two. I think Inter Milan will have enough about them and should at least go through to the next round – though they may struggle when they meet Spanish opposition.
My personal tip Bayern Munich suffered an away 1-0 defeat to Basle and as Manchester United found, the Swiss are not frightened of any reputations. I think the German giants will end up victorious but you can’t see Basle not scoring so that means Bayern realistically need 3 goals.
Lyon won 1-0 at home to surprise package Apoel Nicosia. The Cypriot side will have home advantage in the second leg but Lyon have been in this stage too many times to let their advantage slip. Their last away Champions League match was a 7-1 win, so that should stand them in good stead.
The final tie is interestingly poised between Zenit St.Petersburg and Benfica. The Russians won the home tie 3-2 but the Portuguese showed they are a side to fear going forward. A win will see Benfica go through and that is where my tip will go to.
On historic value and proverbial paper my 8 qualifiers will be AC Milan, Barcelona, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Benfica and Lyon but that said at least one of those names is going to have an early exit.
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