The Champions League quarter-finals have arrived with the Premier League launching a five-team assault on the the final four – but how many will succeed? Our Vieri Capretta predicts…
Tottenham v Manchester City
A Premier League special, as Spurs show off their new home in Europe’s top competition against one of the favourites to win it all. But make no mistake – Mauricio Pochettino’s men will be a very difficult opponent for City.
Pep Guardiola has faced Pochettino 14 times, losing twice, but it will be tough in a two-match encounter. A whole lot of points separate the two teams in the league, but this will be different. Of all the quarter-finals, this one is without a doubt the closest, and Spurs have shown great solidity against Borussia Dortmund – a sign of growth at a European level.
City have the squad depth and quality to come out on top, regardless, as Guardiola will target European glory just as much as the Premier League trophy in a quest for a quadruple.
PREDICTED WINNER: Manchester City
Liverpool v Porto
Porto just about managed to knock out Roma, being outplayed in Rome and then with a bit of luck and the right spirit turning things around in the return fixture at the Estadio do Dragao.
Liverpool are favourites on all levels: quality, squad depth, experience, spirit. To see Jurgen Klopp’s men exit the Champions League against the Portuguese side would be a huge surprise. Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Said Mane are too good not to get the job done, and with last year’s experience, Liverpool have returned amongst the elite of European football.
Their DNA has Champions League written all over it, and Porto don’t seem to stand a chance.
PREDICTED WINNER: Liverpool
Ajax v Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo might not be fit for both games, but Juventus have shown that even without the Portuguese star they can be one of the favourites to win the trophy. The Serie A side beat Valencia away in the opening match of their 2018/19 Champions League campaign down to ten men as Ronaldo had been sent off. Ajax were dominant against Real Madrid, and what they did at the Santiago Bernabeu will go down in the history of the competition.
But their surprise is over. Juve won’t make the same mistake as Real Madrid and underestimate the Dutch side. The Bianconeri are mature enough to handle any sort of situation and playing the return leg at the Allianz Stadium will be an even bigger challenge for Ajax.
PREDICTED WINNER: Juventus
Manchester United v Barcelona
A classic Champions League encounter. Back in the day it was Cristiano Ronaldo against Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi, when the Red Devils knocked out the Blaugrana thanks to a Paul Scholes wonder goal.
This time round, Messi is still there, but United’s firepower isn’t comparable to what they had a decade ago. Despite all the progress made under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, the Red Devils are still miles away, on paper, to the level of Barcelona. Knocking out Paris Saint-Germain is a big achievement, but United had a bit of luck in that too, and will need is just as much against a Barcelona side who remain amongst the favourites to win the competition.
PREDICTED WINNER: Barcelona