With just eight teams remaining, the 2017/18 Champions League has reached the business end of the competition.
Hopes of a vintage year for the Premier League side have fallen apart somewhat, with Tottenham, Man United and Chelsea all crashing out in the last 16. Nonetheless, Man City and Liverpool find themselves in the quarter finals alongside European royalty.
The Champions League ‘Big Four’ Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus are all, as expected, in the draw for the quarter finals, while Sevilla and Roma are in relatively unchartered territory.
Ahead of Friday’s draw, how are the last remaining contenders shaping up, and who stands the best chance of winning the trophy in Kiev in May?
8. Sevilla. Showed great spirit and determination to defeat Man United in the last round, but they are still arguably the weakest team left in the competition. As Liverpool also found out, Sevilla can punish mistakes at the drop of a hat – but this is also a side that have conceded five goals in one match on five separate occasions this season (including a 5-1 loss at Spartak Moscow). Any team with an attacking impetus will fancy their chances.
7. Roma. Did really well to emerge from a group containing Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, and battled hard to knock Shakhtar out in the last 16, but this Roma side are limited. They rode their luck at times against Shakhtar and their away goals progression won’t have sparked too much fear in potential opposition. They will pose a threat though, especially through Edin Dzeko, have a superstar in goal in the form of Alisson Becker, and in Cengiz Under they possess one of the brightest young prospects in Europe.
6. Liverpool. Liverpool have been rampant in Europe this season, with two 7-0 wins in the group stage and a 5-0 thrashing of Porto in the last round, there are plenty of goals in that team – but while Virgil van Dijk has made them stronger at the back, the defence still doesn’t inspire 100% confidence. Jurgen Klopp’s side will feel that they can outscore anyone (and at Anfield they are capable of it), but progression will rely on keeping it tight at the back.
5. Juventus. Juve were second-best for so much of the clash against Tottenham, and yet they did just enough to progress. If ever a perfect example could be found of a textbook European performance, that was it. Somehow, they found a way to go through in the face of a side who were playing better than them. There’s a reason that Juve have been in two of the last three finals, and every other side should be looking to avoid them.
4. Bayern Munich. With the Bundesliga safely wrapped up for another year, Bayern can focus fully on winning the Champions League for the first time since 2013. The man who managed them to victory that night, Jupp Heynckes, is back in the dugout after the indifferent Carlo Ancelotti era, and his strong record since retaking the job suggests the players are responding to his methods. Whomever they draw, they will fancy their chances of making the semis at least.
3. Real Madrid. Don’t let Real’s indifferent La Liga form fool you, this is a side fully capable of beating anyone to win the Champions League for the third year in succession. Zinedine Zidane’s side swatted PSG aside with relatively little fuss, they know this competition like the back of their hands at this stage, and in Cristiano Ronaldo they possess a goal machine. Whomever they draw, the chances of another semi-final appearance will outweigh those of an early exit.
2. Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s Premier League champions-elect looked unstoppable at the early stages of the season, but while they still look ruthlessly strong, it still remains to be seen if they can live up to their tag of Champions League favourites. They have ability in spades but their mentality will have to be just right for the battle.
1. Barcelona. No Neymar, no problem. Barca have adapted effortlessly to the loss of the €222m Brazilian playmaker, and have threatened to run away with the Spanish title. They punished every single one of Chelsea’s mistakes on Tuesday night, and in Lionel Messi they possess the greatest player to have graced the earth. With a combination of ability, form and European pedigree, it’s hard to look past Ernesto Valverde’s men as the stnadout challengers.