The UEFA Champions’ League is back in action with the first leg of quarterfinals taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday. The usual suspects such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are all still in contention for European glory, but there are few dark horses left in the field as well, including Leicester City. The DC Sports Staff debates which of the eight teams will be lifting the Champions’ League trophy at the end of the season in this week’s Roundtable.
No team has been hotter than Bayern Munich in Champions’ League play or league play, winning or tying in every game in 2017 except one. Out of those 19 games, they have won 16, including two wins over Arsenal by a margin of 10-2 and Champions’ League team Borussia Dortmund by a score of 4-1. Bayern leads the final eight teams pass completion percentage at 91 percent, possession at 66 percent and shots on goal with 158. Yes, they have the tall task of playing Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo in the quarterfinals, but Bayern is built to to defeat them and move on in the competition, due to their world class midfield and goalie Manuel Neuer. As long as Bayern can avoid drawing Barcelona until the finals, they should easily move on to the semifinals and then be in position to raise the trophy at the end of competition.
I’m not sure if the old adage “defense wins championships” is prevalent in European soccer, but if it holds true, then Juventus is in good shape. Led by an elite Italian backend, spearheaded by keeper Gigi Buffon, who have been playing with each other for quite some time and have tremendous chemistry, the boys in black and white have only allowed two goals all competition. Their defense puts them in a position to win or at least draw every contest. After losing to Napoli last wednesday, Juventus will have a little extra motivation to get back to their winning ways as they have no other losses in the previous three months of the year. At this point, almost all the teams do, but Juventus’ depth, defense and experience makes them standout to me.
Defending champions Real Madrid have no reason not to repeat if they can move past Bayern Munich in the quarterfinal stage. A win for Los Blancos would make them the first team since A.C. Milan in 1988-1990 to be repeat champions in the competition. Madrid blew by Napoli and the Round of 16 and have also had domestic success recently. Bayern has been eliminated in the semifinal stage three years in a row and have brought in Carlo Ancelotti in an attempt to buck this trend. Meanwhile, Madrid has won two of the last three editions of the competition and has all of the tools to repeat. With a player like Cristiano Ronaldo in their squad, Los Merengues have to be considered a strong favorite. Every single major contributor for Madrid has won the Champions’ League at least once, and that pedigree will surely pay dividends in them defending the crown.
This one’s easy for me. It has to be Barcelona. After their unbelievable comeback against Paris St. Germain in the Round of 16, there is no question they are the favorites. Yes, the Catalans just experienced a rough loss to Malaga in league play, but with the trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar on the attack and loads of talent and experience throughout the starting XI, Barça is a hard team to ignore.
Plus, they came back from a 4-0 first leg deficit with a 6-1 win the second leg against PSG, so teams will be hard pressed to count out Barcelona after a first leg victory. In fact, I think the remaining teams would always have it in the back of their minds that Barcelona could come back from a deficit, which is a big psychological advantage. I expect Barça to outplay the Juventus defense in the quarterfinal round, a rematch of the final two years ago, and continue to play with the same level of dominance that they have shown since Messi became the galaxy’s greatest footballer. Regardless of who they are matched up against in the semis or final, it's Barcelona’s title this year.
For me, this year is all about the black and yellow in the Champions’ League. Borussia Dortmund are still looking to repeat their 1997 glory. The club has done a whole transformation since then, and almost won in 2013. Dortmund seems to have more luck in European competition than their domestic race. They are more than capable to compete against Monaco and win. They have 21-year-old Julian Weigl coming back. He has 93% pass accuracy, second in the tournament. American wonderboy, Christian Pulisic will also add to Dortmund’s attack. So far he has been one of the most dynamic players for this team. Dortmund is a team that has had magical nights in front of their own crowd.
It is tough to pick in this quarterfinal draw due to Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid all looking impeccable as the season draws to Championship season. If Juventus centerbacks Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are able to keep the back line anchored, then I think they are probably the only club in the tournament who can stop the firepower coming from teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona. It would only be the Italian side’s third Champions’ League win, so it probably means a lot to this side to win it for the first time since 1995-1996. Bayern fluctuates too much in this competition. Lastly, if Leicester City wins this competition, then I will officially believe in the Illuminati.
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Antonio Salazar is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Joe Burns is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.