This is the first time in a while that I can remember that all of the quarterfinal ties in the UEFA Champions League later stages don’t have an outright clear winner after the first leg. This will make for an exciting, thrilling, and most likely stressful couple of hours if you support one of these soccer teams. In the first leg of a quarterfinal tie, as we saw last week, teams tend to play a little bit more conservatively because they know the first goal in a game is so important. However, in return legs, usually one of the teams has to score because of the result from the first leg. This makes the games more exciting and chaotic because the teams who must score often leave themselves vulnerable defensively. This causes an enthralling end to end match, which is what the neutral audience all wants to see. Let’s get to these predictions!
Barcelona vs Manchester United: Barca lead 1-0 on aggregate
Barcelona plays Manchester United at their home stadium, the Camp Nou, having a one-goal lead on aggregate thanks to United defender Luke Shaw’s own goal last week in Manchester. Barcelona has a clear advantage in this tie and it’s hard for me to see United advancing. Barcelona beat United 1-0 at Old Trafford last week but it seemed they had another gear. Manchester United is really struggling right now. Their attack that was previously flourishing under manager Ole Solskjaer is now stagnant. United beat PSG 3-1 at the Parc des Princes to advance, but Barcelona is a much more experienced team in this competition and they won’t gift United the goals that PSG did. I see Barcelona having the majority of the possession of the ball in this match with United trying to hit Barcelona on the counter. I don’t see it happening so I predict a comfortable win for Barcelona.
Barcelona 3 vs. Manchester United 1 (Barcelona advances 4-1 on aggregate)
Juventus vs Ajax: Tied 1-1 on aggregate
This will be a very interesting tie for both teams. Juventus, having scored an away goal through Cristiano Ronaldo’s magnificent header, have the advantage in this tie. I think Juventus will sit back and counter attack against Ajax because Ajax ultimately needs to score if they are to have any chance of advancing in the competition. However, Juventus cannot be complacent because this youthful Ajax team has shown to go out and attack no matter who they are playing. I expect them to come out and score early vs Juve. I think this will leave Ajax stretched and Juventus will score on the counter-attack. Ajax came back to beat last years Champion Real Madrid at the Bernebau, but Juventus this year is overall a much better team than Real Madrid. I think Ajax will put up a fight, and maybe even score a goal. However, I think the Italian’s experience and quality will be enough to advance past Dutch.
Juventus 3 vs. Ajax 1 (Juventus advances 4-2 on aggregate)
FC Porto vs Liverpool: Liverpool lead 2-0 on aggregate
This is the least competitive of the four quarterfinal ties. Liverpool holds a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, and Porto is lucky the score is only 2-0. However, I don’t think it will matter at all. The Liverpool front three seem to have found their stride again. Particularly Mo Salah is back in form after going through a rough stretch of one goal in ten games in all competitions. This is a problem for Porto because they must come out and attack, which will leave them exposed defensively. Liverpool may be the best team in the world at the moment at winning the ball in good areas and counter-attacking. This second leg in Portugal has the potential to get very ugly. Porto doesn’t have the quality to be Liverpool in this match. But credit to Porto, who are a smaller club but did really well to reach the quarterfinal of this competition. Their run ends here though.
Porto 1 vs. Liverpool 2 (Liverpool advances 4-1 on aggregate)
Manchester City vs Tottenham: Tottenham lead 1-0 on aggregate
This is the quarterfinal tie with the most questions headed into the second leg. How will Tottenham fare without star striker Harry Kane? This is a big question because Spurs will be missing their best player for this game (and I think the remainder of the season). This is big because Tottenham will not have the option of playing the long ball to Kane and they lose Kane’s ability to score from wherever on the field. I think Tottenham will start striker Lucas Moura and try to use the quickness of Lucas and forward Son Heung-min to counter attack vs. City. For Manchester City, they need to score to win, but they also don’t want to concede because if Tottenham scores one goal, then they have to score three goals to advance. City manager Pep Guardiola will field a different starting lineup compared to the one he played last week in London. I think midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, forwards Leroy Sane, and Bernardo Silva all return to the starting XI. This is going to be my upset pick of this tie. I don’t trust Manchester City defensively and it seems that City struggles in these scrappy, cagey affairs. I think Tottenham score once on the counterattack and hold off Manchester City.
Manchester City 2 vs. Tottenham 1 (Tottenham advances 2-2 on aggregate)
Those are my predictions! I hope you are able to watch the games, which you can find on TNT Tuesday and Wednesday starting at 12 pm PST.