By: Brendan Burris ~Staff Writer~
The UEFA Champions League, the soccer world’s premier competition among the best teams in Europe, never fails to provide endless drama and excite fans all over the globe. This year has been no exception, whether it be the Cinderella story, Leicester City, continuing to impress as England’s last remaining hope in the tournament, or Barcelona’s historic comeback from down 4-1 through one leg to PSG, dubbed by some as the greatest comeback performance in sports history.
As the tournament nears its home stretch, we are left with eight of the world’s best vying for a spot in the semifinals and then a chance to compete for the richest prize in world soccer in Cardiff, England, this June. Just this past Friday, the quarterfinal draw was released, and it only excited fans more, setting up two heavyweight matchups in addition to two more intriguing contests sure to provide some great battles.
Barcelona vs. Juventus
Coming off the high of the aforementioned comeback against PSG, Barcelona looks to continue its hot hand in this tournament against Italian giant Juventus. Coming off a relatively easy matchup against Porto, Juventus will certainly not take the Spanish side lightly. As good a defense as Juventus is known for, it will without a doubt be a daunting task trying to stifle Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Look for Barcelona to prevail in this one.
Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
The second of the two giant matchups, this game is definitely one that many fans expected to see as the final of this competition. Bayern looks to continue its great play after dismantling Arsenal in the last round of the tournament and all but guaranteeing itself another German league title. Real Madrid, however, is the most successful club ever in this tournament and arguably the biggest club in the world, making this matchup all the more enticing. This matchup is a tossup.
Borussia Dortmund vs. AS Monaco
This matchup actually has the potential to be the best showing of soccer of any of these four games. The talent on display in this game, from Ousmane Dembele and Christian Pulisic for Dortmund to Radamel Falcao and Benjamin Mendy for Monaco, is incredible. This game also has the best showing of youth left in this tournament. Between both teams, more than five players are under 25, and solid performances can potentially set up for running transfer rumors and large money deals in the next few years. Dortmund most likely has the edge, but this will be a great display of soccer at the highest level.
Leicester City vs. Atletico Madrid
And finally, the Cinderella story of Leicester continues. Last season’s Premier League champions at 5000-1 odds are somehow the last English team in the competition, despite battling at the bottom of this year’s Premier League all season. The class that players like Jaime Vardy and Riyad Mahrez showed in their title-winning season last year has yet to be on display in league play but stood out in the Champions League and helped the team continue its dream run. However, it faces its toughest test yet in Atletico Madrid, firmly the third-best team in Spain after Barcelona and Real Madrid and boasting superstar talent such as Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres. While it may be easy to see how Madrid’s talent and experience at this level may be the deciding factor in this tie, never count out the magic that Leicester has again and again showed.
As the Champions League competition winds down and matchups like these come into play, soccer fans around the world rejoice in seeing the heavyweights of the game battle for the most important trophy in world football. This year is no exception, and these games will continue to live up to the extreme hype. The four games will take place on April 11-12 during the afternoon, where all eyes will be glued to TV sets.