Juventus [1 vs 1] Ajax
The Old Lady returns to Turin to take on Europe’s youngest and brightest. Juventus is one member of European football’s venerable nobility, while Ajax is basking in a youthful renaissance after the dark ages of the last decade.
Juventus may have had the best chances, but Ajax was unfortunate not to leave the first leg in Amsterdam with a win. Cristiano Ronaldo, who still faces allegations of rape in the United States, scored to end the second half, giving Juventus a lead which lasted all of halftime.
Ajax’s David Neres scored in the 46th minute, evening up the score and setting the stage for a tense second half.
Douglas Costa was Juventus’ standout, displaying footwork and skills which were as deadly as they were beautiful. The Brazilian zipped through Ajax’s defense and even sent a shot that rattled the far post of the Dutch side’s goal before skipping away.
Ajax, for their part, failed to take advantage of multiple opportunities, blowing multiple chances to take a lead against favorites Juventus.
The Italian champions will be wary as they return home. Ajax decimated Real Madrid 4-1 in the Spanish capital after trailing in the first leg. Juventus will not want to bear such an embarrassment, and they are likely a better team than Real Madrid.
While Ronaldo returning to full health will certainly make a difference, Ajax will remain a force to be reckoned with, if an unpredictable one, as the old meets the new on a Tuesday in Turin. Our weather forecast: fireworks.
Spencer Golanka: Juventus 3, Ajax 0 (4-1 on aggregate)
Jack Whaley: Juventus 1, Ajax 0 (2-1 on aggregate)
Jasper Sundeen: Ajax 3, Juventus 2 (4-3 on aggregate)
Can Sarıöz: Juventus 2, Ajax 1 (3-2 on aggregate)
Manchester United [0 vs 1] Barcelona
Manchester United’s game plan for their home leg against the Catalan juggernauts of FC Barcelona was textbook and, theoretically, one which would lead to victory.
Despite bus driver/coach extraordinaire José Mourinho’s recent departure, the Red Devils sat back, played defense and looked for the lucky counterattack goal. Barcelona was, in fact, unable to score against the large, yellow and black, schoolgoing vehicle parked across Manchester United’s goal.
This is where, on paper, Manchester United’s strategy worked to perfection — the Red Devils broke the deadlock early, as a deflection from Luke Shaw found his way onto the score sheet in the 12th minute. The plan had worked, and United had scored.
Unfortunately for the Old Trafford faithful, the home side scored on the wrong net, as Shaw deflected Luis Suarez’s header into his own goal.
The rest of the game saw Barcelona dominate possession and look uncharacteristically inaccurate against the brick wall that is David de Gea.
Despite their loss, Manchester United is still very much in the mix for a semi-final appearance. The Red Devils came back from a two-goal deficit to win against an elite PSG side, and if they can muster the same kind of performance this week at the Camp Nou, they will surely pull the upset.
Expect the same defensive-minded plan from manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The buses will be defiantly parked in Catalunya.
Barcelona, for their part, should practice kicking the ball at the goal for the next few days. The ability to score, which most professional soccer players have, seems to desert superstars Lionel Messi and Suarez at this stage in the competition. If Barcelona is efficient in front of goal, they should be victorious.
JW: Barcelona 3, Manchester United 0 (4-0 on aggregate)
JS: Manchester United 2, Barcelona 1 (2-2 on aggregate, Manchester advances on away goals)
SG: Barcelona 2, Manchester United 2 (3-2 on aggregate)
CS: Barcelona 1, Manchester United 1 (2-1 on aggregate
Liverpool [2 vs 0] Porto
After a dominant display at Anfield, Liverpool already has one foot in the door on their way to a second-straight Champions League semifinal appearance. Midfielder Naby Keita and striker Roberto Firmino struck early for the Reds, appeasing Liverpool supporters who were expecting a dominant and free-flowing performance. As the minutes ticked on, however, Porto was able to find pockets of space on the counter-attack through winger Moussa Marega, who threatened Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson on multiple occasions.
Marega’s performance shed light on Liverpool’s tendency to lose focus when jumping out to early leads on big occasions. In their 2-0 win over Chelsea on Sunday in Premier League play, two quick goals early in the second half from the Reds allowed Chelsea’s Eden Hazard to break through their back line with ease. On another day, Hazard would’ve tied the game just minutes after Liverpool’s second goal, but the ball hit the post awry en route to an easy clearance away from danger.
Despite Liverpool’s 1-3-0 away record in this season’s competition and their ability of an occasional hiccup at the back, the Reds are far too talented and creative for Porto’s defense. The atmosphere in Portugal will be electric, but a 5-0 thumping for the second year in a row wouldn’t hurt, right?
SG: Liverpool 4, Porto 1 (6-1 on aggregate)
JW: Liverpool 2, Porto 0 (4-0 on aggregate)
JS: Liverpool 2, Porto 1 (4-1 on aggregate)
CS: Liverpool 3, Porto 1 (4-1 on aggregate)
Manchester City [0 vs 1] Tottenham Hotspur
A Sergio Agüero missed penalty at Tottenham Hostspur Stadium leaves Manchester City in an uncomfortable position: down 1-0 to Tottenham going into the second match of the quarterfinals. Son Heung-Min put in one of the goals of the season to shock soccer fans everywhere and give Tottenham the home victory and a huge advantage as they head to Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s coaching strategy in the first match was very questionable, as he subbed in both Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne with no time to make an impact and rolled out a starting 11 that you would usually see Man City use in a game that doesn’t matter.
Man City is still a much better team on paper, and their 16-point lead over Tottenham in the Premier League shows the true gap between the clubs. Harry Kane will be out for Tottenham in the second game after suffering an injury to his foot last Tuesday, leaving Tottenham down an elite striker.
If Tottenham puts in just one goal in this game, City will likely see themselves with a disappointing exist from Champions League. If there’s any team that can hold an opponent scoreless and turn around a 1-0 deficit at home, however, that team is Man City, and Pep’s squad will bounce back and advance to the semifinals.
JW: Manchester City 2, Tottenham Hotspur 1 (2-1 on aggregate)
JS: Manchester City 3, Tottenham Hotspur 1 (3-2 on aggregate)
SG: Manchester City 3, Tottenham Hotspur 1 (3-2 on aggregate)
CS: Manchester City 2, Tottenham Hotspur 1 (2-2 on aggregate, Tottenham advances on away goals)
Contact Daily Cal Sports at [email protected].