Champions League: Quarterfinals shootaround and predictions

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Juventus vs. Ajax

After two different heroics in their respective Round of 16 matchups, Juventus and Ajax are going to face in the quarterfinals. Ajax, as a supposed underdog, conquered the hearts of fans with an incredible 4-1 road win against three-time reigning champion Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabéu. There was, of course, one important factor missing from the Madrid side: Cristiano Ronaldo.

One of the best to ever set foot on the pitch was busy with his own heroics while his old club was getting slaughtered in its own stadium. Ronaldo carried Juventus on his back for a 3-0 win with a hat trick and a 3-2 aggregate score. Ajax will now have to beat Ronaldo and the Torino side. The matchup, perhaps, will prove how much credit for the last three Champions League titles is owed to one spectacular man.

Ajax is young and talented, while Juventus is experienced. Two different mentalities and two different stories. It is definitely fun to watch the up-and-coming Dutch side, so watch the games as carefully as possible — it might be the last two matches to watch them this season on the biggest stage.

Can Sarıöz

 

Predictions:

Jasper Sundeen: Ajax 3, Juventus 2

Jack Whaley: Juventus 6, Ajax 2

Spencer Golanka: Juventus 4, Ajax 1

Can Sarıöz: Juventus 4, Ajax 2

 

FC Barcelona vs. Manchester United

Two of Europe’s blue bloods clash in this year’s quarterfinals. With reigning champions Real Madrid now absent, Barcelona will look to make the semifinals for the first time since the club won the competition in 2015.

Manchester United has not seen this stage of the competition since 2014. After the club struggled for the first half of this season under José Mourinho, new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has breathed new life into this team.

Barcelona has the better team on paper. Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez lead the most dynamic attacking threat on the planet, and Marc-André ter Stegen will be nearly impossible to score on.

Manchester United has less talent, but after the Red Devils upset Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16, few will question their ability to win at the highest level. Barcelona has let its last three quarterfinal opportunities slip through its fingers. The Red Devils have the ability to extend Barca’s streak, with a frustrating defense that will clog up the center of the pitch and a counterattacking style that takes advantage of any opportunity.

Barcelona, for its part, must be clinical. Messi has a penchant for becoming anonymous when it matters most, and if he is inconsistent, Barcelona will struggle.

This is the most unpredictable of the quarterfinal matches, and it will likely be defined by which team is able to stay focused through both games. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes will advance to the semifinals.

Jasper Sundeen

 

Predictions:

JS Manchester United (away goals) 3, Barcelona 3

JW Barcelona 5, Manchester United 4

SG Barcelona 3, Manchester United 2

CS Barcelona 2, Manchester United 1

 

Liverpool vs. FC Porto

Familiar foes in Champions League knockout play, the Reds of Liverpool are heavily favored over their Portuguese counterparts in arguably the most imbalanced tie in this slate. Even as Porto runs toward its 11th straight victory, few observers doubt that their defense will be able to surmount the deadly trio of Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah at the forefront of Liverpool’s attack.

Last season in the Champions League, Liverpool beat Porto 5-0 in the round of 16 on the Reds’ way to being Champions League finalists. As for their current position as Premier League title hopefuls, the Reds are as good, if not better than they were last season, with defender Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker changing the complexion of Liverpool’s defense for the better. They are coming off a 3-1 win against Southampton and look poised as ever to make a deep run in this tournament.

Unlocking that stout defense has been nearly impossible so far this season for Europe’s top sides. If Porto is to have any chance in this tie, attackers Soares and Yacine Brahimi will need to play the tie of their lives, with maximal interchange and attacking prowess with the midfielders. It’s not impossible, but highly unlikely that Porto will get a semblance of success in this tie. 6-1 to Liverpool on aggregate.

Spencer Golanka

 

Predictions:

SG Liverpool 6, FC Porto 1

JS Liverpool 7, FC Porto 3

JW Liverpool 4, Porto 0

CS Liverpool 6, Porto 2

 

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur

The Man City and Tottenham draw is an interesting one, as the two Premier League rivals will be more than familiar with each other in April, playing three times in 11 days. The two sides’ familiarity with each other is sure to spark an interesting Champions League round.

Both teams have a few injuries going into the first match, but Sergio Agüero’s muscular strain appears to be the big question as Tuesday is right around the corner. Gabriel Jesus has done a fantastic job when his name is called upon and has netted four goals in his five Champions League appearances this season.

Kyle Walker also injured his hamstring Saturday against Brighton in the FA Cup semifinals, and his status for Tuesday’s match is still unknown, although he did play through his injury against Brighton. With defenders Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko also sidelined, City will surely be optimistic that Walker can make an appearance Tuesday.

Notably for Tottenham, Eric Dier, Erik Lamela and Serge Aurier will be sidelined. These injuries shouldn’t be too big of an issue for Spurs, though.

With how Manchester City has been playing this season, it’s hard to imagine the team falling to Tottenham in the Champions League this year. Comparing the teams’ Premier League play, City is currently second in the league with 80 points. Tottenham is right behind its rival in the standings in third place. Spurs, however, are still 16 points behind Man City, which shows the true gap between the two clubs.

Manchester City’s dominance over Spurs in the Premier League should carry over to the Champions League, and I predict a high-scoring 5-2 aggregate win for City.

Jack Whaley

 

Predictions:

JW Manchester City 5, Tottenham Hotspur 2

JS Manchester City 5, Tottenham Hotspur 3

SG Manchester City 5, Tottenham Hotspur 3

CS Manchester City 4, Tottenham Hotspur  3

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