PARIS: Holders Bayern Munich will face last year’s beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals of this season’s Champions League, while Friday’s draw for the last eight also threw up a clash between Liverpool and Real Madrid. The draw also pitted Premier League leaders Manchester City against Borussia Dortmund, with Chelsea playing Porto in the other tie.
Hansi Flick’s Bayern side defeated PSG 1-0 behind closed doors in Lisbon last August to win their sixth European Cup and remain the team to beat, having won 18 and drawn one of their 19 games in the Champions League since the beginning of last season. The first leg is set to be played in Germany on April 7, with the return in Paris on April 13.
“The draw is of course a difficult one, and surprises exist, but we’re going to play against the team that is the best on the continent at the moment,” said PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino, who was appointed in January and oversaw a 5-2 aggregate win over Barcelona in the last 16. “We’re optimistic,” the Argentine told PSG’s official website.
The meeting of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Zinedine Zidane’s Real is another re-run of a recent final, with the Spaniards beating the Reds 3-1 in Kiev in 2018 to win the last of their record 13 titles to date. Liverpool then won the trophy for the sixth time in Madrid in 2019 but their Premier League title defense this season has unraveled, with the Anfield club sixth in the table having lost nine times in 17 games in 2021. Klopp’s side are due to be away in the first leg on April 6, but it remains to be seen where that match will be played.
Atletico Madrid’s home leg against Chelsea in the last 16 was moved to Bucharest due to restrictions imposed on travel to Spain by British authorities in the pandemic. The winner between Liverpool and Real will go onto a semi-final against either Chelsea or Porto, throwing up the possibility of an all-English last-four tie. Liverpool beat Chelsea in the semi-finals in 2005 and in 2007.
Real have often struggled this season too but they may be optimistic about their prospects in the wake of the draw. “I think they would have signed for that, in fact with two hands,” ex-Madrid player, coach and sporting director Jorge Valdano told Spanish TV channel Movistar Plus. “Liverpool are not what they were last year.” Real coach Zinedine Zidane said of Liverpool: “We know them, physically they demand a lot from you.”
Unbeaten in 13 games since the appointment of Thomas Tuchel as coach, Chelsea will be expected to get the better of Portuguese champions Porto, who ousted Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo in the last 16. However, that tie could also be relocated given travel restrictions between the UK and Portugal which prompted both legs of the recent Europa League clash between Arsenal and Benfica to be played at neutral venues.
“I’m happy we play an international game, not against an English team, because the Champions League is about that and I always prefer to play teams from other countries,” said Tuchel. “Clearly many people will maybe now make us favourites but you can ask in Turin their opinion about whether it helps you to be favourites,” referring to the Juventus defeat.
Meanwhile City will be strong favorites against Dortmund, with the winner of that tie going through to a semi-final against Bayern or PSG. The prolific Erling Braut Haaland will be Dortmund’s main threat, with City boss Pep Guardiola saying: “The numbers speak for themselves, he’s one of the best strikers in the world right now, at his age.”
Travel restrictions between the UK and Germany could also have an impact on that tie. Both legs of City’s last-16 tie against Borussia Moenchengladbach were played in Budapest, as was Liverpool’s tie against RB Leipzig. This season’s semi-finals are due to be played in late April and early May, with the final on May 29 in Istanbul. – AFP