The UEFA Champions League quarter-finals will get underway with five former winners, who have been crowned continental champions 20 times between them, and three ambitious sides yet to get their names on the famous trophy.
League leaders in their respective national championships, Bayern Munich and Juventus meet in the only tie between previous kings, while ambitious Paris Saint-Germain will put their credentials to the test against Barcelona. Real Madrid’s quest for a tenth continental crown continues with a home meeting against Galatasaray, and competition first-timers Malaga defend their unbeaten home record against the impressive Borussia Dortmund. FIFA.com sets the scene for the week’s four games.
This week’s fixtures
Tuesday 2 April
Wednesday 3 April
Match of the day
Bayern Munich-Juventus, Allianz Arena, Munich, 20:45 CET
With six titles and 16 finals between them, these two clubs know more than most about big European nights. Strangely, this is the first time they have ever faced each other in the knockout phase of the tournament, having met six times in the group stage, the Italians edging the head-to-head record with three wins, two draws and one defeat. While Bayern have reached two of the last three finals, only to lose them both, Juve are making their return to the last eight after a seven-year absence.
Both sides are in excellent domestic form and are well-poised to win their respective championships. The Bavarians underlined their domination of the Bundesliga by crushing Hamburg 9-2 at the weekend, four of their goals coming from Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro, while Juventus recorded a fine 2-1 win away to Inter Milan.
Antonio Conte’s side pose quite a threat in all departments, with no fewer than 15 different players having got on the score-sheet this season. No less impressive is Bayern’s haul of 78 goals in 27 league games, an average of nearly three per match, though they will need all their firepower if they are to improve their record against Italian clubs, which reads 12 wins, eight draws and 15 defeats in 35 meetings.
The other matches
There is much more to this tie than a duel between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi, as the big-spending Parisians pitch their high-profile recruitment policy against Barcelona’s belief in home-reared talent. The French side certainly have less to lose, with defeat regarded as a logical phase in their development, while victory would thrust them into the continental elite. The statistics certainly offer PSG some hope. They ousted Barça 3-2 on aggregate in their only previous Champions League quarter-final, under Luis Fernandez in 1995, and have gone unbeaten in their last 23 home games in Europe, a record stretching back more than six years. Yet when it comes to quarter-final experience few sides can match Barcelona, who are making their 15th appearance in the quarter-finals of the competition, having lost only twice at this stage before. Star man Lionel Messi is also in a rich vein of form, even by his high standards. A scorer in 19 consecutive league matches, the Argentinian ace has now found the back of the net against every single side in La Liga this season. On the downside for the Catalans, livewire forward Pedro will miss Tuesday’s match through suspension, while injury will prevent their dependable skipper Carles Puyol from manning the centre of defence.
Twelve years have elapsed since these two clubs last met at this stage, the Spaniards winning through 5-3 on aggregate on that occasion after going down 3-2 in the first leg in Turkey. The tie reunites Merengue coach Jose Mourinho with two of his former players: ex-Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and former Inter Milan midfielder Wesley Sneijder. With 13 wins, two draws and a solitary defeat in their last 16 home games in the competition, Real are a daunting proposition at the Bernabeu, while Mourinho has a perfect record in Champions League quarter-finals, having won six out of six with four different clubs. Nevertheless, Galatasaray are better travellers than they used to be and have won their last three European games on the road. In Burak Yilmaz they also boast the competition’s joint-top scorer with eight goals, a distinction he shares with Real’s Portuguese inspiration Cristiano Ronaldo. The Turk has scored his goals at a slightly faster rate, taking 43 minutes less than Ronaldo to amass his haul.
Few expected debutants Malaga to still be in the running at this stage, but after qualifying alongside AC Milan in the group phase and edging out Porto in the Round of 16, the Andalusians are now preparing to take on yet another former European champion. Unbeaten at home in five games so far and defeated just once away, Manuel Pellegrini’s side are a winning blend of experience and youth, with 20-year-old Francisco Roman Alarcon, better known as Isco, proving a revelation in his attacking midfield role. However, the Spaniards face a stern test against Jurgen Klopp’s well-drilled unit. The Germans emerged from the toughest of the eight sections in the group phase, edging Manchester City and Ajax out in the process, and remain undefeated in the Champions League this season. The 1997 winners have also scored in each of their last 12 European outings.
Men to watch
Barcelona have received not one but two important psychological boosts ahead of their quarter-final against PSG. Following a ten-week absence, coach Tito Vilanova has just returned from New York, where he had been receiving further treatment for a throat tumour, while the Catalans’ French international defender Eric Abidal is also fully fit again after receiving a liver transplant last April.
103 - The number of Champions League matches Real Madrid have won over the years, one more than Barcelona and Manchester United.
What they said
Jurgen Klopp, Borussia Dortmund coach: “Dortmund and Malaga have surprised people with their Champions League results this season, and there’s sure to be a surprise guest in the semi-finals."