The draw for the Champions League quarter-final has thrown up some tantalising ties, as the remaining eight clubs plot their way to club football’s ultimate glory.
Here’s a closer look at all four quarter-final match-ups.
Tottenham v Man City
There was bound to be one all-English tie, and though this one is slightly less glamorous than a Manchester derby, or either Manchester team facing Liverpool, there’s plenty of intrigue for Tottenham v Manchester City as well.
The biggest talking point will be the opening of Spurs’ new stadium. They’ll have played one game before they host City, but that will be against either Brighton or Crystal Palace.
There’s no doubt that this is going to be the marquee fixture for the new White Hart Lane during the stadium’s infancy, with no home game against a rival or Big Six side scheduled otherwise. The atmosphere for the first leg of this tie should be fantastic.
City are favourites, no doubt, though they’ve had their struggles with Tottenham at times in recent years. Spurs’ blend of physicality, aggression, and intense pressing has the capability of knocking Pep Guardiola’s team off their stride, though they’ll have to be at their absolute best to stand a chance. This is the second-straight season City are facing an English side in the quarter-finals, and memories of being knocked out by Liverpool last season will still rankle.
City and Spurs will actually play each other three times in ten days, as there’s a Premier League fixture at Etihad Stadium right after the two Champions League games. These two teams are about to get to know each other very well.
⚪️ @SpursOfficial will now play @ManCity 3 times in 10 days.— SPORF (@Sporf) March 15, 2019
📅 9/10 April
📅 16/17 April
📅 20 April
😳 Season defining. pic.twitter.com/WxWlFw3GsC
Prediction: Manchester City
Liverpool v Porto
This is a rematch of last year’s round-of-16 tie, and if those fixtures are any indication, Liverpool will be fancying their chances.
Porto were being considered the “easy” team in the quarter-final draw, and given the Reds beat them 5-0 in Lisbon last year before playing out a 0-0 draw at home to advance, Jurgen Klopp’s side are probably happy with the way the draw’s turned out.
But there shouldn’t be any complacency. Porto look a different side this season, and the way they came back against Roma in the last round – albeit a Roma that has hardly resembled the team that made last season’s semi-finals – was impressive.
There is more resilience, with former Real Madrid defender Pepe anchoring a back line that is unlikely to get turned over as easily.
And if Liverpool players and fans were annoyed with Sergio Ramos after last year’s final, Pepe, the Madrid captain’s former partner-in-crime, has the ability to be even more of a nuisance. This is a tie that could get spicy.
Liverpool have never lost to Porto in a competitive fixture:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 15, 2019
• 3 wins
• 3 draws
• 0 losses
They beat them 5-0 last season. pic.twitter.com/WPRUGnDuD4
Ajax v Juventus
Ajax’s reward for their stunning demolition of Real Madrid is to face another side of equally daunting pedigree.
Juventus pulled off a famous comeback of their own in the round of 16, and a team that can beat Atletico Madrid 3-0 is not one that will be afraid of Erik ten Hag’s young, vibrant side.
Of course, the same holds true for Ajax, who are probably ready to take on anyone after the way they dispatched Madrid, beating the reigning champions 4-1 on their own patch. Juventus are not a team in disarray the way Madrid were, but they’ll be treating Ajax with a healthy respect knowing what they can do to a favoured side.
There are plenty of subplots – this face-off of two of Europe’s most storied sides is a rematch of the 1996 Champions League final, which Juventus won, while young Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, considered one of the best young defenders in football, will relish going up against grizzled veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci on the other side.
And of course, there’s Cristiano Ronaldo and the possibility he can avenge former club Madrid’s defeat, though that is unlikely to be a prime motivation. More importantly, there’s that fourth straight Champions League title to win for himself, and a first one this century for his new club.
Frenkie de Jong, Ajax midfielder: "When I was around 10–12 years old, Cristiano Ronaldo was already one of the best players in the world. So it is nice that I will now face him for real."#UCLdraw pic.twitter.com/6ckkmTeAlv— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 15, 2019
Manchester United v Barcelona
If Ajax going from beating Madrid to facing Juventus seems like bad luck, Manchester United can be forgiven for feeling the same way.
Of course, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United feel they can beat anyone. Barca are one of the favourites to win the competition, but they’ve also lost at the quarter-final stage in three-straight seasons, all in ties they were expected to win.
United will believe they can join Atletico Madrid, Juventus, and Roma in that list of sides to knock Barcelona out.
The second leg will be special for Solskjaer personally, as he returns to the scene of the moment that made him a United legend: his winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final, scored at Camp Nou against Bayern Munich.
If he can bottle some of the spirit and stardust of that famous night, Barcelona will have to be wary of an upset. In the meantime, Messi can look forward to only his second appearance at Old Trafford, though of course, he has plenty of experience of hurting United: Barcelona beat the Manchester club in both the 2009 and 2011 finals, with Messi the star on both occasions.
"We want these games against the biggest clubs and the biggest teams," says Ole. "We had the final against them in 2009 and 2011 and the semi-final in 2008 when Scholesy scored, it’s these games our fans and this club crave. We are looking forward to this one." #MUFC #UCLdraw— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 15, 2019
Tottenham and Manchester City will face each other in an all-English quarter-final of the Champions League next month.
Last year’s beaten finalists Liverpool received arguably the most favourable draw after being paired with Porto, while Manchester United face a daunting tie against Barcelona.
United and Liverpool will meet in the semi-finals if they reach the last four, with Tottenham or City facing the winner of the quarter-final between Ajax and Juventus.
The first legs of the quarter-finals will take place on April 9 and 10, with the second legs on April 16 and 17.
City won both of their Premier League ties with Tottenham last season and also beat Mauricio Pochettino’s side at Wembley earlier in this campaign. The two teams meet again in the league just days after the second leg, on April 20.
United’s tie against Barcelona means caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will enjoy another trip to the Camp Nou, where he scored the winner in United’s Champions League final win over Bayern Munich in 1999.
United were drawn as the away team for the first leg but the tie had to be reversed, as UEFA had stipulated in advance following advice from local authorities that they and City could not play at home on successive nights.
Former Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland was delighted by the draw, telling Sky Sports News: “I’d prefer being at home for the second leg but I’m extremely happy.
“Let’s not disrespect Porto because they got to this stage for a reason, but they won’t be looking forward to that tie.”
Former City boss Stuart Pearce added: “I think Liverpool have gone as favourites now for the competition, being that side of the draw.”
Speaking about United’s tie with Barcelona, former Old Trafford boss David Moyes said: “It’s an incredibly tough draw but a great draw. After beating Paris Saint-Germain you can take anybody on.
“A great occasion, the sort of games that Manchester United are used to and it will be a great night.”
The Champions League has been a roller-coaster this season, casually dishing out upsets.
The youngsters have stamped their name on the competition and have displayed signs of taking it further in the games to come.
We take a look at five players of age 23 and under who can make a difference for their team in the remainder of the tournament.
Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)
Barcelona knew exactly what they were doing when the decided to splurge on Ousmane Dembele. The Frenchman’s pace, agility and quick – ambidextrous – feet have come handy for the Catalan giants in crucial situations.
The 22-year-old scored a spectacular goal following some brilliant piece of individual skill against Tottenham in the group stages of the competition earlier this season.
Against Lyon, the winger – who just returned from injury – was substituted on to nail the coffin which creaked open after Lyon pulled a goal back via Lucas Tousart. Dembele responded by scoring Barcelona’s fifth goal on the night.
The Frenchman is one of the best players in the world for his age group and while Lionel Messi steals the spotlight, Dembele too can run a show of his own in the games to come.
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Marcus Rashford is arguably Manchester United’s biggest direct threat on goal.
The Englishman’s versatility, ability to take on players and an eye for goal makes him a dangerous player – for someone his age or otherwise.
The 21-year-old attacker has scored two goals in this season’s competition – against Valencia in a losing cause and an all-important penalty to eliminate Paris Saint-Germain.
Rashford’s understanding with Paul Pogba will be crucial for United’s chances in the competition. His tendency to make forward runs into the box – often freeing space for the Frenchman – will come handy for the Red Devils.
Although all eyes will be on Romelu Lukaku – who has turned over a new leaf under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Rashford could very well make the front pages on the morning after the Champions League ties.
Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)
When we are talking about Matthijs de Ligt, we are talking about a player who has started a Europa League final at the age of 17, is an undisputed starter for country and the captain of his club at the age of 19.
The Dutchman’s leadership quality comes as an extra arrow in his quiver which is brimming with promising attributes. In the past year, the centre-back has stood tall to deny the world champions France and take Netherlands to the finals of the UEFA Nations League.
Also, he played a major role in ensuring that the European Champions Real Madrid failed to advance beyond the last-16.
However, the quarter-finals will house some of the best attacks in the league and the 19-year-old will have to deliver a chain of clutch performances to remind the world why he is arguably the game’s hottest prospect.
Leroy Sane (Manchester City)
Pep Guardiola surely knows how to nurture young guns and Leroy Sane’s development is turning out really well.
The former-Schalke winger scored a goal and set up three others in Manchester City’s 7-0 win over his former team. In what was one of the most perfect performances by any team, Sane emerged as the best of the lot.
The 23-year-old’s movements are extremely smooth and his ability to enter the final third with a drop of the shoulder and random bursts of pace makes him a nightmare for any defender.
Sane, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero constitute one of the fiercest attacking trios in Europe. A crucial part of that trident, Sane is surely a player you would want to keep your eyes on in the business end of the tournament.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Trent Alexander Arnold – when fully fit – is one of the first names on the Liverpool team-sheet. The right-back has made a name for himself and has five international caps with England to show for.
A full-back in Jurgen Klopp’s team is burdened with additional pressing duties and the 20-year has responded very well with whatever has been thrown at him.
Alexander-Arnold has won around 2.6 tackles per game on an average this season in the Champions League and intercepted a pass about 1.9 times every game.
The Englishman is part of one of the best defences in Europe and needs to come through in the crucial stages of the tournament to justify his status. Everything about the youngster points to the fact that he really could do so.