Sportsmail assesses the Champions League quarter-final draw

Tottenham face a tough ask to beat Manchester City over two legs while Liverpool will be ecstatic with Porto… Sportsmail assesses the Champions League quarter-final draw, each team’s route so far and the key players left

  • The Champions League quarter-final draw threw up some mouthwatering ties
  • Tottenham and Manchester City will meet in a thrilling all-Premier League clash
  • Manchester United take on Barcelona in a repeat of the 2009 final in Rome
  • Liverpool and Juventus will be happy with their draws against Porto and Ajax 
  • Sportsmail takes a look through each side’s route so far, their form and key man

The Champions League quarter-final draw threw up some mouthwatering clashes with Tottenham and Manchester City to do battle and Manchester United to take on Barcelona.

Cristiano Ronaldo and his Juventus team-mates will play Ajax, who eliminated Real Madrid in the previous round, while Liverpool will be relieved to have drawn Porto for a place in the semi-finals. 

Here, Sportsmail takes a look through each side’s route to the quarter-finals, their current form, their main man and who will win each tie as all eight teams go in search of European glory. 

The Champions League quarter-final draw threw up some mouthwatering clashes on Friday

The Champions League quarter-final draw threw up some mouthwatering clashes on Friday

Here is the Champions League quarter-final line-up in full after the draw on Friday morning

Here is the Champions League quarter-final line-up in full after the draw on Friday morning

Liverpool vs Porto

Liverpool

How they got here?

After losing all three away games in the group stage, Liverpool faced an uphill task to even qualify for the knockout stages. Fortunately for them Anfield remained impenetrable and wins over Paris Saint-Germain, Red Star Belgrade and Napoli saw them squeeze through in second place.

Liverpool the produced arguably the most assured performance in the last-16 as they went to Bayern Munich and guided themselves to a 3-1 win at the Allianz Arena. It was a game littered with errors but Jurgen Klopp’s side managed proceedings perfectly and a sensational showing from Sadio Mane, coupled with more heroics from Virgil van Dijk, helped them book their place in the next round.

Virgil van Dijk was immense as Liverpool eliminated Bayern Munich in the last-16 this week

Virgil van Dijk was immense as Liverpool eliminated Bayern Munich in the last-16 this week

Form?

Liverpool very much remain in the hunt for the double this season and look to be returning to top form after a recent string of a draws saw their lead over Manchester City slashed domestically. The win in Germany followed a victory over Burnley while a routine win over Watford was sandwiched in between away draws at Manchester United and Everton.

Key man?

Van Dijk. For all of Liverpool’s swashbuckling attacking football it has been their vast defensive improvement that has put them in contention for two major trophies. Since the Dutchman arrived he has been a talismanic presence at the heart of defence and his goal at the Allianz Arena proved he can affect games at both ends of the pitch. 

Porto

How they got here?

Porto flew through the group stages to book their place in the next round thanks to five wins from six games in Group D. They may have benefitted from a slightly easier group, consisting of Schalke, Lokomotiv Moscow and Galatasaray, but nevertheless they progressed with ease. Things got tougher in the last-16 with last season’s semi-finalists Roma taking a 2-1 lead from the first leg in the Italian capital. Porto were not fazed though as they produced a stunning comeback to win the reverse 3-1 in extra time thanks to an Alex Telles penalty.

Form?

Sergio Conceicao’s side are locked in a huge tussle with rivals Benfica for the Portuguese title. They are locked on the same points with exactly the same record after 25 games with their Lisbon rivals only top by virtue of a better goal difference. They lost to Benfica at the start of the month in their only major recent blip but do look set to reach the Portuguese Cup final thanks to a comfortable semi-final first leg win over Braga.

Moussa Marega has lit up the Dragao in European competition this season with four goals

Moussa Marega has lit up the Dragao in European competition this season with four goals

Key man?

Malian striker Moussa Marega has lit up the Dragao in European competition this season, scoring in all four of Porto’s home games so far. After arriving from Maritimo in 2016, Marega struggled for playing time and even joined Vitoria Guimaraes on loan for the 2016-17 campaign. However, after 17 goals in 34 games this season, the 27-year-old recently signed a new contract that includes a release clause reportedly to be worth £34million but that has not put off Premier League suitors in the form of Leicester and West Ham.

Verdict:

Liverpool beat Porto with ease in last season’s competition and should once again progress comfortably and booked their place in the semi-finals. 

Tottenham vs Manchester City

Tottenham

How they got here?

A woeful start to the group stage left Spurs staring elimination in the face. They picked up just one point from their first three games and then needed a late winner to see of PSV Eindhoven at Wembley to spark a run to the knockout stages. A 1-0 win over Inter Milan followed and then the most spectacular of draws in the Nou Camp saw them edge the Italians into second place. Spurs were comfortable winners over an impressive Dortmund team in the last-16, beating them 3-0 at Wembley before controlling the reverse fixture as Harry Kane struck to seal a 1-0 win last week.

Form?

It’s been a mixed bag for Mauricio Pochettino’s team of late. They were brief candidates in the race for the Premier League title but defeats to Southampton, Chelsea and Burnley, as well as a draw in the north London derby, has left them looking over their shoulder in the top four race. They are also out of the FA Cup but Dele Alli’s return will be priceless as we enter the business end of the season.

Harry Kane struck early in the second-half as Spurs comfortably beat Dortmund in the last-16

Harry Kane struck early in the second-half as Spurs comfortably beat Dortmund in the last-16

Key man?

Kane. The Englishman missed six matches with torn ankle ligaments but, although Spurs crashed out of two cup competitions in that time, they still won all four league matches. However you got the sense that they were riding their luck at times in narrow wins over Fulham, Watford, Newcastle and Leicester. His absence proved just how key Kane is to this team and he must be at his very best to steer Tottenham to Champions League glory. 

Manchester City

How they got here?

City were stunned in the opening group game when they lost in Lyon but recovered to win four of their remaining five group games to finish top of the standings. They were then handed one of the easier draws in the last-16 and made light work of Bundesliga side Schalke, winning the second leg 7-0 to finish with an aggregate score of 10-2.

Form?

Since a surprise defeat away at Newcastle in the backend of the busy Christmas period, City have gone on a remarkable run of nine wins from 10 matches (the only game they didn’t win in 90 minutes was the Carabao Cup final that they eventually won on penalties). Their form has propelled them back to the top of the Premier League over Liverpool. They already have one piece of silverware in the bag and are very much in the running for an unprecedented quadruple.

Sergio Aguero has 27 goals in 36 games this season and could be pivotal to City's title chances

Sergio Aguero has 27 goals in 36 games this season and could be pivotal to City’s title chances

Key man?

Sergio Aguero. The Argentine’s penchant for goals never seems to diminish and his goal scoring form could carry City to those other three elusive trophies. He has 27 goals in 36 appearances this season and, aside from Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Aguero is probably the next best goal scorer left in the competition. Pep Guardiola will be hopeful he can maintain this level of form for the rest of the campaign.

Verdict:

City have already beaten Tottenham this season and will be confident of beating them over two legs. Spurs will need to be at their very best to deny Guardiola’s side a semi-final berth. 

Manchester United vs Barcelona 

Manchester United

How they got here?

The best thing Jose Mourinho did before he was sacked by United in December was to get them out of their group. They lost two and drew one of their six games but a win in Turin proved priceless while they also beat Young Boys both home and away. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in and, after an impressive start, his first major challenge came in the form of PSG in the last-16. The French giants outclassed United at Old Trafford, winning 2-0 and leaving the Red Devils on the brink. United went on to stage one of the most dramatic comebacks in Champions League history though with Marcus Rashford scoring a stoppage time penalty after a dramatic VAR review as they won 3-1 and went through on away goals.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has completely turned around Manchester United's fortunes as boss

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has completely turned around Manchester United’s fortunes as boss

Form?

United’s form since Solskjaer came in has been superb. They have won 10 games out of 13 in the Premier League and his only defeats have come in the home leg against PSG and in the Premier League to Arsenal last time out. The run has put United firmly back in contention for a top four finish and seen the Norwegian become the leading candidate for the manager’s job on a permanent basis.

Key man?

Paul Pogba. The Frenchman struggled under Mourinho after returning to his boyhood club from Juventus but has looked reinvigorated since Solskjaer arrives. His level of performance remains erratic but on his day Pogba can dominate games and turn the tide in his team’s direction. He missed the second leg in Paris after being sent off in the first game and will be desperate to prove his worth in the quarter-finals. 

Barcelona

How they got here?

The Catalan giants came through the group stage unscathed with four wins and two draws. Messi was imperious at Wembley as they eased past Spurs and there was never really any threat to their chances of progressing. Barca were handed a favourable draw in the last-16 but were still held to a goalless draw in the first leg by Lyon. A trip to the Nou Camp is daunting for any side and Lyon were put to bed inside 31 minutes as Ernesto Valverde’s side ran out 5-1 winners.

Form?

With Real Madrid’s current plight you get the feeling that Barca can just coast through Spanish football and still win the domestic double. They have drawn six and lost two games this season but are still seven points clear of Atletico at the top of La Liga. They won two Clasicos inside four days recently to move further ahead in the league and also reach the Copa del Rey final as they seem to be hitting their stride.

Lionel Messi single-handedly destroyed Lyon on Wednesday night as they ran out 5-1 winners

Lionel Messi single-handedly destroyed Lyon on Wednesday night as they ran out 5-1 winners

Key man?

Messi. 36 goals in 36 games this season tells you all you need to know about whether the Argentine is past his best. His presence in this Barcelona team is as crucial as ever and he single-handedly destroyed Lyon on Wednesday night, drifting into space and launching attacks with his trademark mazy runs. He has not won the Champions League since 2015 and it would be a surprise if he didn’t lift the famous trophy one more time before he called it a day. 

Verdict:

If United can keep a clean sheet at Old Trafford in the first leg then they have a good chance of progressing and  have their heroics in Paris to call on. Messi looked in inspired form on Wednesday night though and he may prove too hot to handle. 

Ajax vs Juventus 

Ajax

How they got here?

The Dutch giants finished second in Group E behind Bayern Munich with three wins and three draws. They impressively drew both games against Bayern though and also earned a point away at Benfica before beating them at home and winning both games over minnows AEK Athens. It was in the last-16 that Ajax enjoyed their best performance though as they overturned a 2-1 home defeat to Real Madrid to progress. Dusan Tadic produced the performance of his life at the Bernabeu as they shocked the most dominant side in the competition’s recent history and ran out 4-1 winners to book their place in the next round.

Form?

Since losing at home to Real, Ajax have embarked on a run of six straight wins as they continue to fight on three fronts. They trail PSV by two points in the Eredivise with the two teams to meet on March 31 in a title showdown in Amsterdam. If they can win that then Erik ten Hag’s side will be confident of completing the double with a Dutch Cup final against Willem II to come in May.

Frenkie de Jong's composure on the ball and driving runs in midfield crippled Real Madrid

Frenkie de Jong’s composure on the ball and driving runs in midfield crippled Real Madrid

Key man?

Frenkie de Jong. The 21-year-old will join Barcelona in the summer and his career at his new club could not have started any better as he dumped their bitter rivals out of the competition in the previous round. His composure on the ball and driving runs from the heart of midfield crippled Real in the second leg and left Luka Modric, voted the best played in the world in 2018, watching on his backside. The €75m rising to €85m was a huge price to pay for De Jong but already he looks worth every euro as far as Barcelona supporters are concerned. 

Juventus

How they got here?

Cristiano Ronaldo and Co finished top of Group H, despite losing at home to Manchester United and away to Young Boys in the final round of group matches.

Further European disappointment appeared to be on the cards for the Italian giants though when they lost the first leg of their last-16 tie at Atletico Madrid without scoring an away goal. But where there is Ronaldo, there is hope and the Portuguese star showed exactly why Juve paid the big bucks to sign him from Real Madrid as he scored a dazzling hat-trick to put his former rivals Atletico to the sword.

Cristiano Ronaldo and the Champions League have gone hand in hand in recent seasons

Cristiano Ronaldo and the Champions League have gone hand in hand in recent seasons

Form?

Juve have bounced back from losing a Coppa Italia clash to Atalanta at the end of January by winning five of their last six matches. They are still unbeaten in Serie A and boast an incredible 18-point lead over nearest rivals Napoli. That advantage could prove crucial in the latter stages of the Champions League with Massimiliano Allegri able to rest players in the league ahead of decisive European ties.

Key man?

Ronaldo. There is no doubt that Juve signed the 34-year-old for the sole reason of winning the Champions League. He won three in-a-row with former club Real and you would not bet against him returning to the Spanish capital to lift the sixth European crown of his career in June. He has scored 24 goals in 36 appearances this campaign and appears to be as clinical as ever. 

Verdict:

This Juventus team look hell-bent on ending their European drought and Ronaldo and Co should have too much quality for their Dutch opposition. 


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