This week, the best eight teams in Europe will be whittled down to four. We saw some unexpected results in the first leg, with Wolfsburg stunning Real Madrid and Man City holding PSG in Paris. Here, we take a look at how these teams performed in their respective weekend league outings in the lead up to their second leg Champions League quarterfinal fixtures
Real Madrid v Wolfsburg (Second Leg- 12 April, 2016)
Wolfsburg:- Four of the eleven that stunned Real Madrid were rested by coach Dieter Hecking for Mainz’s visit to the Volkswagen Arena, with a fifth, Julian Draxler, out through suspension. The Wolves drew the game 1-1, reducing their already slim hopes of qualifying for Europe next season.
Real Madrid:- Real bounced back from their loss in Germany to register an easy 4-0 win at home against Eibar. The match was done and dusted by half time (all four goals came in the first half), and the gap between Zinedine Zidane’s side and Barca has now been cut to four points. A look at odds aggregator portal Hityah suggested that Real were very firm favourites ahead of the Eibar clash despite their continental setback, and they lived up to their reputation against their Basque opponents.
Real will have 80,000 fans baying for opposition blood at the Bernabeu, with the Champions League representing their best chance of silverware this season. However recent history is against Los Blancos- the last eight times they’ve lost the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie, they’ve failed to progress. It is a statistic that will give Wolfsburg real hope. Striker Andre Schurrle has already told the media that Wolfsburg “will be at 100 million percent, we’re going to run as if our lives depended on it”
The last time Real won a Champions League knockout tie after losing the first leg was way back in 2002 against Bayern. Their strike force will be bolstered by the expected return of prolific French forward Karim Benzema, who missed the Eibar game through injury. Benzema’s compatriot Raphael Varane, who also sat out the Eibar visit, should return to bolster their defence.
Manchester City v Paris Saint-Germain
PSG:- The Parisians drew the first leg of their CL clash against Man City, and with the Ligue 1 title wrapped up, could afford to take things lightly against Guingamp. However they did beat EAG 2-0 and now have a 28 point lead at the top with five games to go. This will be Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s final season at Parc des Princes, and the mercurial Swede will be keen to go out on a high.
Man City:- The Premier League title is already out of City’s reach, but they did beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 over the weekend. Manuel Pellegrini’s side are slight favourites given the two away goals they have from the first leg and PSG’s injury and suspension problems in midfield
SL Benfica v Bayern Munich
Benfica:- Benfica have been in smashing form- they had won eight in a row before the narrow first leg loss to Bayern, and normal service resumed with a 2-1 away win at Academica. They looked in trouble in Munich when Arturo Vidal scored after just 100 seconds for Bayern, but didn’t concede any further goals, and are still very much in this tie, but will have to do this tough task sans suspended striker Jonas.
Bayern:- Benfica are a very well supported club, and their supporters will look to intimidate Bayern’s superstars. The Bavarians continued their great league run with a 3-1 win at Stuttgart, but their real focus would have been on this game. Adding to Pep Guardiola’s worries is the fact that four of his key players- Juan Bernat, Joshua Kimmich, Robert Lewandowski and Vidal will all miss the first leg of any semi if they are booked in Lisbon.
Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona
Atletico: Atleti coach Diego Simeone put out his strongest side against Espanyol, and the Torres-Koke partnership, plus another goal for Antoine Griezmann (sixth straight game he’s scored), gave Los Colchoneros a 3-1 win.
Barcelona: It’s suddenly gone off the rails for Barcelona. A loss to Real Sociedad means they have now taken only one point out of a possible nine in their last three La Liga games, and their lead at the top of the table has been cut to three points. Lionel Messi has not scored for FOUR games (stop the press!) and is stuck on 499 career goals.
You’d still back Barca to do the job at the Calderon, but should they lose here, their season could be in serious danger of crashing.