The UEFA Champions League quarterfinal draw Friday provided four fantastic matchups that create a ton of great stories and intrigue ahead of the first legs on April 6-7.
The big questions that come to mind immediately: Does the favorite Manchester City have what it takes to get past an Erling Haaland-led Borussia Dortmund and then face Bayern Munich and Robert Lewandowski or Paris Saint-Germain and Kylian Mbappe? Can Real Madrid or Liverpool recapture the magic of past European successes to get to the final from the arguably weaker side of the draw? Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea have only allowed two goals since the German took charge in late January; could they ride their defense to the final?
Let’s dive deeper into the matchups one-by-one and predict the outcomes. Now would be a good time to put the Champions League theme song on loop.
Quarterfinal 1: Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund
First Leg: April 6
Second Leg: April 14
Semifinal Opponent: Winner of Quarterfinal 3
Going into the draw, the two clear favorites were Manchester City and Bayern Munich. Undoubtedly the most in-form teams remaining in the competition, neither looked in any trouble in the round of 16.
Manchester City easily dispatched Borussia Monchengladbach with a 4-0 aggregate win courtesy of a pair of 2-0 victories. They are 14 points clear in the Premier League, and their only loss in 32 games across all competitions was against Manchester United on March 7. The squad is deep, the coaching is excellent, the path forward is clear.
Of all City’s successes over the past decade—and there’s been a lot—the hurdle they have not been able to overcome is the Champions League. And now they have to face the leading scorer in the tournament, Haaland, and a very tricky Dortmund side.
An attacking threat when in the mood, Dortmund should not be overlooked despite the mouth-watering City vs. Bayern/PSG semifinal tie possibly ahead. Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, Julian Brandt and more, along with Haaland, could cause problems for Pep’s near-impenetrable back line with their creative movement and counterattacking prowess.
It won’t be enough though, as City is a machine. The first leg will be close, but quality will win out as the blue side of Manchester pushes forward to the semifinal stage for the first time under the Spaniard.
Prediction: Manchester City
Quarterfinal 2: Porto vs. Chelsea
First Leg: April 7
Second Leg: April 13
Semifinal Opponent: Winner of Quarterfinal 4
This is the least sexy of the four ties but one that could give be among the more interesting. Chelsea have been so sound under Thomas Tuchel since he took over for Frank Lampard that you have to put them in the discussion for making a run to the final.
Porto provided us with the shock of the tournament with a thrilling victory over Juventus in the round of 16. Showing strength, resilience and determination, the Portuguese side went blow-for-blow with the Italian champions and outlasted them in a chaotic second leg in Turin.
At the center of it all is the 38-year-old brick wall known as Pepe. The former Real Madrid star has entered his twilight playing years leading the club he broke out with in the mid-2000s. He was immense against Juve and will relish another test with the ball-dominant style of the Blues. With Sergio Oliveira and Mehdi Taremi providing the goals, they will be a tricky ask for the London side.
Having said that, Tuchel has Chelsea powering ahead with confidence, and if the trio of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech can keep building momentum, it’s hard to go with anyone but the Premier League side here.