That’s Odd: Titans to collide in Champions League quarter-finals
The new-look UEFA Champions League returns this week as eight teams brace themselves for the one-off ties in Lisbon, Portugal for the quarter-final round of the tournament.
With Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Estádio José Alvalade jotted down as two neutral venues for the round, it is safe to say that all bets are off, and we could well and truly be witness to some shocking results.
Barcelona vs Bayern Munich
Both Barcelona and Bayern Munich produced stunning displays in their respective second-leg games of the round-of-16. Bayern, up against Chelsea, hammered four past the Blues, winning the tie with an aggregate score of 7-1. Barcelona, on the other hand, scored thrice against Napoli to get through with an aggregate of 4-2.
The two teams have not crossed paths for five years, but shared a brief history, with Barcelona scoring six across both legs to reach the final in 2015. Prior to that, Bayern put seven past Barcelona over two legs to reach the final in 2013. Ironically, both teams went on to win the title that year.
Barcelona, following a victory over Napoli, have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for 13th season in a row. No other team has managed to match this dominance. In fact, no other club has managed to put together a run of more than eight seasons in a row in the last eight of the competition. As far as semi-finals are concerned, the blaugranes have failed to reach the final four on just four of the last 12 seasons.
Bayern, for their part, have been truly ruthless in the Champions League, having scored a whopping 31 goals; 11 more than any other team. The closest competitors are Manchester City and PSG, who have scored 20 goals in the campaign.
Watch out for: Robert Lewandowski
What a season Robert Lewandowski has had. It’s a shame that the prestigious Ballon d'Or has been called off.
The Polish striker, who is now the fourth-highest scoring player in the Champions League history at 66, has bagged 52 goals in 44 appearances this season, which is actually more than anyone else across Europe's top 5 leagues this season.
Across both legs against Chelsea in the round-of-16, Lewandowski was involved in all seven of Bayern Munich’s goals (3 goals, 4 assists), which now makes him the first player to score more than three and assist more than three against an opponent in the Champions League since Luis Figo in 2004-05 against AS Roma. He is duly tipped to make an impact against Barcelona.
Manchester City vs Lyon
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are yet to lose a game in year’s Champions League campaign. Having topped their group, the Cityzens dismantled Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid in the round-of-16, eliminating them by an aggregate scored of 4-2.
Lyon, on the other hand, finished second in their group after losing two games, but picked the momentum as they squared off against Juventus in the eliminators. Heading into the second leg with a 1-0 advantage, Memphis Depay made the difference in the second leg as his penalty goal was enough for his team to set up a quarter-final clash with City on the back of away goal advantage.
History means little in the current era, but City are yet to register a win against Lyon, having lost one and draw one in their head to head count.
Watch-out for: Gabriel Jesus:
The absence of striker Sergio Aguero seems less impactful now as Gabriel Jesus now leads City’s lethal attack alongside Raheem Sterling.
The Brazilian forward was on target in both the legs against Real Madrid as City beat the record European champions 4-2 on aggregate. Pep Guardiola will be hoping the striker can add to his six goals and three assists tally against a side which has shipped in 10 goals in the Champions League; second-most amongst the quarter-finalists.
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Feature image courtesy: AFP / Tobias Schwarz