Football Features

Champions League predictions for every quarter-final: ‘ Man Utd need an all-time shock’

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 13:50, 15 April 2019

After an interesting round of midweek action, we are now halfway through the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

The first legs are in the book and already eyes are turning to next week’s second legs, the hype is building. People are looking past this weekend’s games (well, mostly) to get things revved up ahead of some decisive clashes that will decide Europe’s final four.

But who has the best chance of making that final four? Well to figure out who has the advantage going forward, then we have to look back at the first leg and analyse what happened there and what kind of bearing that will have on the return fixture. With that in mind, we’ve had a look at the four first legs to determine who holds the edge in this year’s Champions League quarter-finals!

Barcelona vs. Manchester United

What happened in the first leg?

It was a match surprisingly lacking in quality. Barcelona began the game playing very well and when they took the lead 12 minutes in, they seemed to shut up shop. Ernesto Valverde’s side have a tendency to play down to the opposition and as United were fully set-up to restrict the Blaugrana we ended up with a kind of nothing game.

United set up very smartly with five across the back, removing Barcelona’s use of Jordi Alba as an attacking weapon. Without him it was down to Messi or Suárez to produce some magic and Messi was thrown off when Chris Smalling smacked him very hard in the face, whilst Suárez was just exhausted having gone hard for 90 minutes twice in the week preceding.

Who Has The Edge?

Barcelona, undoubtedly. They are 1-0 up on aggregate, an away goal 1-0 at that, and now they travel home to the Camp Nou where they haven’t lost in the Champions League since May 2013. Obviously PSG threw it away against United and under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer they never give up – but some mountains are too tall to climb.

After all, it’s unlikely Messi is that poor again, and Suárez will have a week of rest ahead of the game instead of two draining matches. Moreover, with Ousmane Dembélé fit enough to feature, Barça will have the electric pace needed to break the game open if need be. Anything is possible, sure, but it would be one of the all-time great shocks if this wobbly United were to topple the brilliant Barça.

Prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United

Juventus vs. Ajax

What happened in the first leg?

The Bianconeri went to the Johan Cruyff Arena and, rather predictably, got splattered all over the place. Ajax’s young side played with a tremendous conviction and truly dominated the game. They kept the Italian Champions penned back inside their own half for vast stretches of the game, yet their defence opened up and allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to give Juve the lead. But Ajax were undaunted and they roared back, equalising with a superb David Neres strike. Despite both sides going for it, the tie finished a draw.

Who Has The Edge?

It has to be Juventus. Ajax showed in the last round that they have no problem going away to a European juggernaut and turning them over when they splattered Real Madrid all over the Santiago Bernabeu. But Juve are a much stronger side than Los Blancos and have won a staggering 18 games at home this season, drawing twice and losing just once.

Now, that loss was to José Mourinho’s Manchester United so it’s definitely not 100% over because if that shower of shambolic soccer can win there then anyone can, but with an away goal to their name and the quarter-final’s most prolific marksman on their team (Cristiano has scored 24 goals at this stage over the years), you’d be foolish to bet against Juve.

Prediction: Juventus 2-1 Ajax

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Porto vs. Liverpool

What happened in the first leg?

Liverpool dominated proceedings and quite predictably ended up winning. The Reds were clearly better than Porto, especially in a first-half that saw them score twice. First through a Naby Keita shot deflected into the net just five minutes in, and then doubling their lead with a delicious move that saw Roberto Firmino sweep home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s low cross. Porto missed a couple of colossal chances in the second half and Porto could (maybe should?) have been awarded a penalty for handball, but in the end The Reds triumphed.

Who Has The Edge?

Liverpool, without a doubt. Obviously Porto are a better side at home but Liverpool have a big 2-0 advantage and what’s more, they won in the Estadio Dragao as recently as last season. And that game ended 0-5! Porto will throw everything they have at The Reds but will likely fail to genuinely impact the tie as a whole. Liverpool are too solid of a team to throw away a lead this solid.

Prediction: Porto 0-0 Liverpool

Manchester City vs. Spurs

What happened in the first leg?

Manchester City went to the brand new Tottenham Stadium and played a very cagey game. They seemed happy to play it very safe, hoping to knick a win but ultimately very comfortable with a draw. The trouble with this kind of approach is that Pep Guardiola’s sides really stagnate when they don’t have intensity, and as a result City didn’t really pressure Spurs.

Spurs, meanwhile, broke at speed and had the better chances on the night. And even losing Harry Kane to injury wasn’t that much of a problem for them as Heung-min Son stepped up to hammer home the opening goal, giving Spurs a huge 1-0 lead that they managed to hold onto despite City trying to up the pressure late on.

Who Has The Edge?

Manchester City, just. This one is honestly almost even, but City hold the finest of margins for a variety of reasons. Firstly Harry Kane is injured. Now, it’s one thing to cope with his injury mid-match, but to have to prep for a match without his considerable talents? Not so easy. Secondly it’s at the Etihad Arena, where Manchester City are much better than they are on the road.

Pep Guardiola has lost 10 of his 27 away knockout matches in the Champions League, he has always struggled on the road in Europe. But at home? He’s won 18 matches and in particular had won 7 quarter-final home legs in a row before losing last year to Liverpool. Guardiola’s sides are much better at home and now that they’ve had their feeling-out period, they can go full-swing into Spurs. And the last time they did that at the Etihad they won 4-1, a scoreline that would see them qualify with ease.

Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Spurs