Champions League Favorites Avoid Facing Each Other in Quarterfinal Draw
The four biggest teams remaining in the Champions League can be fairly happy about their quarterfinal draws, as they have managed to avoid playing each other – at least for one more round.
Italian champions Juventus, English Premier League champions Manchester City, La Liga winners Barcelona, and Liverpool – last year’s Champions League runner-up – are set to meet up in the semifinals, but will play relatively weaker competition in the quarterfinal round.
Klopp Says Porto Poses a Challenge
That’s not to say that these matches will be easy for the favorites. Liverpool faces a test in the form of Porto FC. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made it clear that if there were easy marks left in the tournament, the defending Portuguese champions are not one of them.
“I could not be further away from thinking it’s the best draw because it isn’t,” Klopp told the club’s website. “Porto were not on my wish list, but now they are our opponent, it is how it is and we have to play them.”
Of course, Klopp may simply be trying to avoid allowing his team to become complacent. Of the teams remaining, it would have been hard to pick a better opponent for the Reds than Porto, which is now listed as a 100/1 longshot to win the Champions League according to Irish bookmaker Paddy Power.
Solskjaer Leads United Into Camp Nou
Barcelona may have drawn the most compelling matchup of the quarterfinals, as they will take on Manchester United in a clash that has played out several times in the course of European soccer history. The match will be particularly meaningful for interim United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who will be returning to Camp Nou, where he scored the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final for the Red Devils over Bayern Munich.
But while a resurgent Manchester United side promises to put up a fight, they still come in as severe underdogs to a Barcelona squad that has eyes on winning the Champions League. The Spanish side is a 1/4 favorite to advance to the quarterfinals over United (11/4).
EPL Rivals Clash in Quarterfinals
Of particular interest to EPL fans will be the meeting between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. City currently leads the Premier League, while Tottenham sit in third place. Not only will the squads now face off in two matches to determine who moves on to the Champions League semifinals, but they will also meet days later in a critical league clash.
Oddsmakers see Man City (1/7) as a clear favorite to advance past Tottenham (19/5), but City manager Pep Guardiola doesn’t believe his side has an advantage in the two-leg tie.
“They are a top side, so it’s 50/50,” Guardiola said after the draw was revealed. “It’s a tough side but any other team in the Champions League would be the same. Any team has its strong points and weak points, the same as us. We must try to discover that.”
Juventus (2/7) is also widely expected to advance past Ajax (23/10), though the Dutch side has come a long way this year in reclaiming its former European glory.
Overall, Manchester City (23/10) remains the favorite to win the title, ahead of Juventus (3/1), Barcelona (7/2), and Liverpool (4/1). That puts the quarterfinal favorites well ahead of their opponents, as Man United (16/1), Tottenham (25/1), Ajax (33/1) and Porto are all given only an outside chance of winning the competition.
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