Atalanta v PSG (Wednesday)
On the one aspect, the fairy story of this season’s Champions League, the only remaining Italian membership within the competitors with their annual revenues of €188.6m. On the opposite, the routine French champions with their annual revenues of €635.9m. Atalanta are delighted even to be within the Champions League, by no means thoughts to have gotten this far, whereas Paris Saint-Germain are weighed down by the burden of by no means having bought past the semi-final, and by no means having bought past the quarters below their Qatari possession.
Stylistically they’re very completely different as nicely. Beneath Gian Piero Gasperini, Atalanta play breathless attacking soccer, urgent exhausting and seeking to create overloads throughout the pitch. Beneath Thomas Tuchel, though PSG have turn out to be extra cohesive than they had been beforehand, they’re nonetheless a aspect that performs by means of its two large celebrities, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. Atalanta are very clearly greater than the sum of their components; for PSG, it appears a relentless wrestle to show they don’t seem to be much less, a gaggle of stars searching for a constellation.
PSG are maybe essentially the most absurd of all of the absurdities of the superclub period. Till six years in the past, there had by no means been a home treble in France. Prior to now six years there have been 4, but all PSG’s success feels empty as a result of it’s been achieved towards a lot weaker, much less well-resourced opponents and has by no means translated into actual success in Europe. Within the Champions League the sample has been for them to break down within the face of the primary correct problem, largely as a result of they’re so unused to being examined.
PSG clearly have a greater squad than Atalanta, however a lot is determined by how they deal with Atalanta’s press. It’s sufficient to unsettle anyone, however PSG could also be particularly inclined given no aspect in France would ever play so aggressively towards them. An absence of matches after the abandonment of the French league – solely two cup finals previously 5 months – may additionally rely towards PSG.
Prediction Slim Atalanta win.
RB Leipzig v Atlético Madrid (Thursday)
The prognosis might need been very completely different had Leipzig met Atlético in March, when the quarter-finals had been imagined to be performed. Again then Atlético appeared out of types, scuffling with yet one more season of tried transition to a supposedly extra progressive strategy, whereas RB Leipzig nonetheless had Timo Werner. 5 months later Atlético are buoyed by ending their home season in nice type, profitable seven and drawing 4 of their ultimate 11 video games to assert third within the league and qualification for the Champions League subsequent season, one thing that was certainly not assured when lockdown started.
And having eradicated Liverpool, the defending champions, within the final 16, and progressed additional than Actual Madrid, their bêtes noires on this event, for the primary time since 1996-97, there’s no purpose for them to not consider this may very well be their yr – offering, that’s, the 2 optimistic Covid exams don’t presage a wider drawback. The one-legged format might play into their palms as nicely, given there may be in all probability no coach higher at recreation administration than Diego Simeone.
Leipzig have been vastly spectacular this season, each domestically – the place they ended up being undone by too many attracts – and in Europe. Their demolition of Tottenham within the final 16 urged them as a sensible outsider to win the event itself. However that was with Werner. That he has been allowed to maneuver to Chelsea earlier than the top of the season is a shame, yet one more instance of contemporary soccer’s prioritisation of cash. There’s nonetheless sufficient firepower on this Leipzig aspect to bother Atlético, significantly with Patrik Schick again in type, however Emil Forsberg, who presumably will take Werner’s place on the left of the entrance three, doesn’t provide the identical risk.
Prediction Comfy Atlético win.
Barcelona v Bayern Munich (Friday)
The one former champions who stay meet, however they might hardly achieve this in additional contrasting conditions. Bayern are favourites for the Champions League and with good purpose. Their 4-1 dismissal of Chelsea on Saturday was their 26th win of their previous 27 video games. Beneath Hansi Flick they’ve rediscovered the swagger that had gone lacking below Niko Kovac. They press higher than anyone in Europe, they’ve large tempo in attacking areas and in Robert Lewandowski they’ve the most effective centre-forward on this planet. Two objectives and two assists within the second-leg win towards Chelsea took his tally to 13 objectives and 4 assists within the Champions League this season. With their rejuvenation nicely below manner and different giants stuttering or stagnating, and Liverpool gone, the one unfavourable for Bayern is being on, by far, the harder aspect of the draw.
Barcelona are a type of stagnating giants. Even in beating Napoli 3-1 on Saturday they appeared oddly tentative, insecure on the again and closely reliant on Lionel Messi going forwards. Their midfield has been weak to direct runners for years, partially due to how stretched they turn out to be as a aspect with the shortage of urgent from the ahead line. Antoine Griezmann was signed presumably partly to enhance that, however he hasn’t settled on the left and is but to gel with Luis Suárez and Messi.
Barça and Bayern haven’t met for the reason that semi-final in 2015 when Pep Guardiola’s Bayern took a surprisingly aggressive strategy on the Camp Nou and ended up being overwhelmed 3-0, ultimately shedding the tie 5-Three on combination. On type, although, this appears prone to be extra much like the earlier assembly two years earlier, additionally within the semi-final, when Bayern demolished Barça 7-Zero over the 2 legs.
Prediction Very comfy Bayern win.
Manchester Metropolis v Lyon (Saturday)
Lyon completed seventh in Ligue 1, 28 factors behind PSG, who had a recreation in hand. And that was after solely two thirds of the season had been performed. For them to get previous Juventus on away objectives was a minor miracle, and proof of simply how shambolic the Italian champions have been this season, nevertheless it’s extraordinarily troublesome to see the way it might pull off one other miracle towards Metropolis – even when they did shock them on the Etihad Stadium within the group stage final season.
Metropolis have a glass jaw. They’ve deficiencies on the coronary heart of their defence. They’re weak to the counter-attack and it might be that Memphis Depay can damage them together with his direct operating – the previous United ahead is fortunately recovered from the cruciate damage that will have stored him out of a quarter-final in March – however the difficulty is quite on the different finish. After 5 months with out soccer, Lyon have performed simply two aggressive video games and in each of them they’ve primarily sat deep and appeared to cling on – in shedding on penalties towards PSG within the Coupe de la Ligue ultimate after a 0-Zero draw and in shedding 2-1 at Juve to win on away objectives.
Their strategy will presumably be related towards Metropolis, however Metropolis are a quite extra cohesive and fluid attacking aspect than both even when they’re maybe not fairly so ruthless as they could be. Lyon conceded lower than a purpose a recreation within the league and haven’t let in additional than two in Champions League defeats towards Benfica, Zenit and Juve this season, nevertheless it’s nonetheless exhausting to consider they are going to be capable to maintain out. Rudi Garcia’s solely earlier two conferences with Guardiola, when Roma met Bayern in 2014-15 resulted in 2-Zero and 7-1 defeats.
Prediction: Comfy Metropolis win.