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In a space of its own

The draw for the quarterfinals of the Champions League, 2014 served a mouth watering prospect as Europe’s most elite clubs are pitted against each other. This season the draw is touted to be one of the most interesting in recent years.

With English Champions Manchester United handed the toughest draw against defending champions Bayern Munich, Barcelona drew Spanish rivals Atletico. Real Madrid see familiar faces in Borussia Dortmund, where as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea face French hot-shots Paris St Germain.
There are several factors that give an impetus to the build-up of the  four draws. Let’s look at the matches to be played.

MANCHESTER UNITED VS BAYERN MUNICH

The English Champions have been out of sorts in their domestic league this term and manager David Moyes has looked mediocre in his first season in-charge after Sir Alex Ferguson’s exit. United have collected only 5 points against the top five teams this season in the Premier League. They lie a distant seventh in the EPL table.

In the Champions League their performances were good to start with unless their worst performance in recent times over Olympiacos in Greece saw them lose 2-0. Dutchman Robin van Persie’s brilliant hattrick at Old Trafford salvaged a much needed performance and they made their way to the last eight.  But they now play Bayern Munich who under Pep Guardiola is eying another treble this term in a repeat of last season’s achievements. Bayern have already won the Bundesliga with seven games to spare setting a new record.

Bayern have been emphatic. They are on a spree garnering wins after wins. On current form and team strenghth it looks most likely the Bavarians will torment United.

United are short in defence with injuries and Robin van Persie too is sidelined. Unlike Bayern who have no injury concerns. Bayern got the better off Arsenal comfortably in the Round of 16 tie and look favourites going into the tie unless United spring a major surprise.

For Manchester United winning this season’s title is the only way they can see themselves playing next season too and that starts on Tuesday at Old Trafford which has been a shocking place for the Red Devils to be in. Bayern will not take United lightly and the mood in the players suggested that.
 
CHELSEA VS PSG

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have been on top form this season and are the current leaders in England. With the magical feet of Samuel Eto’o who has looked fresh and rich in goals, Eden Hazard has been the catalyst. The Special One knows how to get on top of his opponents tactically and that has been near to perfect this term.

Chelsea travel to Paris in the first leg knowing a home tie in the second leg is of less significance against a top team like PSG. Laurent Blanc’s side lead the proceedings in France and with Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic as their spearhead they serve a serious threat to the Blues.

Ibrahimovic has been sublime to watch and has notched up 10 goals in the competiton. He is their best bet and Chelsea need to stick their skins out. Lucas Moura, Yohan Cabaye and Edinson Cavani are some of the other big shots that have been in good form for Blanc’s side. Laurent Blanc recently suggested he won’t pay heed to any mind games which his counterpart is so good at.

Mourinho will go with a guarded optimism and its a battle of tactics that he favours which could see Chelsea come out on top. The Blues hammered Arsenal 6-0 last week and their defence too has looked in great shape. John Terry alongside Gary Cahill has been a revelation to watch.

REAL MADRID VS BORUSSIA DORTMUND


Dortmund were the team that knocked Real Madrid out last term in the semifinals and this season too will hope for a familiar result. The scenario though is completely different. Real have been mercilless in Europe and the combined form of Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria serves a tough ask for Dortmund. Real have lost back to back La Liga matches recently but that will not hold any factor in their quest to come out on top against Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund. Under Carlo Ancelotti Real have risen their gameplay and have been a treat to watch this season in all competitons. The return of Xabi Alonso in the midfield have given them the much needed strength alongside Luka Modric. Ronaldo has scored 13 goals so far and has been unstoppable with his play that Dortmund need to look out.

For Jurgen Klopp’s side the season has seen a low compared to the previous seasons. They lie third in the Bundesliga and with injuries to major star players in the team shows they face crucial shortage in their strength that was visible last term. The absence of star striker Robert Lewandowski is the toughest blow as the Polish forward was the main man behind Dortmund’s rise in recent time and had single handedly knocked Real last term.

Dortmund lost to Zenit at home in the home tie and scraped 5-4 past them to reach the quarters. On the other hand Real thumped Schalke in both legs and will count that as an added advantage over the Yellow Submarine of Ruhr Valley.

BARCELONA VS ATLETICO MADRID


Gerrado Martino’s side face a stern Atletico Madrid side who are the current league leaders in Spain. Barca haven’t beaten their rivals in La Liga and the two games hold another show of intensity.

Barca beat Manchester City in the round of 16 and came up with two crucial results after that. They pipped Real Madrid in the El Clasico and before going their routine win over Almeria. Lionel Messi as usual has been the prolific player and along with Neymar and Pedro their frontline looks threatening at its best.

Martino knows his side must repeat the performance against Manchester City and Real Madrid to get hold over Atletico.

Atletico Madrid has risen to the top most level in Europe this term under Diego Simeone who has been the master of seeing his team perform with high pitched intensity game after game.

Atletico beat AC Milan in the Round of 16 and are the only team that are unbeaten in this season’s competiton. Such is the fervour Simeone has brought in his team.

Forward Diego Costa holds the card just as Lionel Messi and can make the difference for his side. Costa has scored 7 goals so far and will want to add to the tally against Barcelona. Atletico serve aa equally able opposition to Barca and the battle in Spain of the top two teams will add to a perfect two-legged encounter in recent times. Simeone needs to make sure thar his squad stay fresh to handle Messi and Co.

FIXTURES


(1ST APRIL) BARCELONA VS ATLETICO, MANCHESTER UNITED VS BAYERN MUNICH
(2ND APRIL) REAL MADRID VS BORUSSIA DORTMUND, PSG VS CHELSEA
(8TH APRIL) C HELSEA VS PSG, Borussia Dortmund VS REAL MADRID
(9TH APRIL) BAYERN MUNICH VS MAN U, ATLETICO MADRID VS BARCELONA
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