The 2019/20 UEFA Champions League has come to the last eight teams, with the added spice of neutral venues and single legs. Italy and England have a team each while France, Spain, and Germany will be represented by two teams each. In the four quarter-finals to be played this week in Portugal, there are two very close matches but there are two almost certainties for the semis scheduled for August 18 and 19, also in Lisbon.
Atalanta B.C. v Paris Saint-Germain
Champions League debutants, Atalanta, have been the major European surprise this season – both in Serie A and in the UCL. The Bergamo-based side is the least ranked team in the quarters, but they are a potent force – especially offensively, having already scored 115 goals in 47 matches, in all competitions. They have also conceded 64 goals, which is where PSG may have an edge in this encounter. The Parisians have Neymar, whose mega transfer in 2017 was undertaken to help win the Champions League for the first time. Now they have a significant chance to fulfil that dream. In Greek mythology, Atalanta is a huntress who would marry only someone who could beat her in a foot race – PSG have all the tools to win this foot race. The duel is too close to call as Atalanta will score goals with the big question being: can PSG outscore them?
Verdict: This one is too close to call. The predicted scoreline is 4-3.
RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid
Leipzig lost their most potent weapon in Timo Werner, but just like Atletico Madrid, the team ethic is strong. In Atletico’s Diego Simeone, Leipzig have a kindred spirit in 33-year-old Julian Nagelsmann. Their teams will run all day, giving 110% as they tackle and harry. The neutral ground slightly pays the German team, as they have not been at their best on their home turf while Atletico have ensured that Estadio Wanda Metropolitano was the building ground for triumphs. Simeone cannot whip up any crowd as he patrols the touchline, which might take out part of the intensity from his team.
Verdict: Another of the quarters that are too close to call. The first goal will be pivotal.
FC Barcelona v Bayern Munich
As long as Barcelona have a fit Lionel Messi, they will have a chance, but against a well-oiled Bayern Munich machine, led by Robert Lewandowski, the Germans have the edge. I am calling this for the Germans, and they are one of my sureties for a semi-final place and also to win the competition. Hansi Flick’s side have all the players they need and the relentless desire to come good this season as they have shown in scoring 31 goals in eight UCL matches this season. Barcelona have been wobbly. Though they produced an outstanding performance against Napoli in the last round, in all, they have scored just 13 goals in their eight matches and have conceded six – keeping only two clean sheets. You suspect that if they are to get an excellent result against Bayern, then their defense will need to keep a clean sheet, a scenario that looks improbable.
Verdict: Bayern should win this because Barcelona will not set up defensively.
Manchester City v Olympique Lyonnais
After knocking out Juventus, should Lyon be fearful of Manchester City? Yes! While the ‘Old Lady’ was ponderous and pedantic in moving the ball in offensive positions, Pep Guardiola’s team have a tremendous work ethic that is encapsulated by the work by their three most forward players. This pressing led City to two wins over Real Madrid, and they are now obviously one of the favourites for the 2020 UCL edition. In the eight matches played in the competition this season, City have won six and drawn two – the two draws came in their inconsequential matches in the group stage. They have scored in every match – 20 goals – and conceded six times while Lyon have lost thrice in eight matches – scoring just 11 goals and conceding nine.
Verdict: City could demolish this Lyon team if they are not profligate in front of goal.