The Champions League quarter finals kick off tonight, with no English participation for the second time in three seasons. And the two headline games involve Spanish clubs as Real take on Atletico in the Madrid derby and the ambitious Paris Saint-Germain will once again meet Barcelona.
This week’s fixtures
Tuesday 14 April: Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid and Juventus v Monaco
Wednesday 15 April: Paris Saint v Germain-Barcelona and Porto v Bayern Munich
Match Of The Week: Paris Saint-Germain v Barcelona in Paris
These two sides are familiar rivals, having met in the quarter finals in 2013, and the group stages earlier this season. Barca have never beaten PSG in Paris, but Wednesday might be their best chance in a long time as PSG coach Laurent Blanc must cope with a raft of absences, including suspended trio Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Verratti and Serge Aurier, plus injured centre-back David Luiz.
As for Barcelona, they lead the way in La Liga’s title race thanks largely to in-form forward trio Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. PSG’s defence will thus play a crucial role, particularly given past experience. Barça have scored twice on their last two trips to Paris, and their two goals at the Parc des Princes made all the difference in 2013. The injuries and suspensions I think will be too much for PSG to overcome and I expect Barcelona to prevail here.
The other games
On course for their fourth successive Serie A title, and through to the Coppa Italia final against Lazio, Juventus are the dominant side in Italian football at the moment. Translating that domestic dominance has been difficult though as Juve have went in the quarter-finals at the last three attempts. That said, they have never lost at home to a French side in the European Cup, while Monaco have yet to win in Italy. This should be the season that Juventus breaks through and reaches the Champions League semi-finals.
Atletico Madrid-Real Madrid
These city rivals meet for a seventh time this season and amazingly Atletico have yet to taste defeat. Not only did Los Colchoneros win the Spanish Super Cup 2-1 on aggregate, they prevailed 4-2 over two legs in the Copa del Rey and took the spoils in both La Liga fixtures, posting 2-1 and 4-0 successes. But with Modric and Rodríguez fit again, Real are starting to look like the side that dominated everyone in 2014, and I expect them to end their losing streak against Atleti and advance to the semi-finals.
These sides are crossing paths for the third time at this stage, with Bayern targeting a hat-trick of victories after drawing 1-1 away and winning 2-0 at home on both previous occasions. Josep Guardiola has a frightening array of talent at his disposal, but Porto will look to trouble his charges via the gifted likes of Yacine Brahimi, Cristian Tello and Hector Herrera. Anything other than a comfortable Bayern win here would be a major upset.
Will PSG and Atletico gain revenge and progress to the semi-finals?