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UEFA Champions League: Previewing the Quarterfinal Draw

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There are still favorable matchups for Spurs

LONDON ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17:  A detailed view of the UEFA Champions League Trophy during the UEFA Champions League Final 2011 Ticket Launch at City Hall on February 17 2011 in London England.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
LONDON ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17: A detailed view of the UEFA Champions League Trophy during the UEFA Champions League Final 2011 Ticket Launch at City Hall on February 17 2011 in London England. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Tottenham Hotspur are one week into their 22-day break in action that will resume with a trip to Anfield on March 31. Given Spurs run of poor form in the league, the break is welcome. The club also went to Barcelona for a group training session to get away from the noise in London before the international break hits.

While this run of form is forgettable, sprinkled in between those terrible league matches were two impressive victories over Borussia Dortmund to take one of the coveted final eight spots in this years European Club Championship. There are going to be some familiar faces in this competition, while others are crashing the party. Let’s take a look at who is remaining and analyze a potential matchup.

FC Porto (Primeira Liga - Portugal)

Current League Standing: 1st (60 points)

Group Stage Result: Winners, Group D (16 points)

Round of 16 result: def. AS Roma, 4-3 on aggregate

FC Porto currently sit in first place in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, just one point ahead of SL Benfica. There are some familiar names on this side, such as former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas an defender Pepe. Moussa Marega currently leads the way in scoring for the Portuguese side with six goals in seven matches. The 27-year-old Mali international has picked some big matches to show up, netting a crucial goal against Roma that sent the Round of 16 matchup into extra time, eventually ended with a 117th minute penalty kick by Alex Telles. Tiquinho Soares is another attacker to watch out for as he has scored 10 goals in league play, but has mainly been held out of UCL matches. He’s made just two appearances with one goal.

Outlook for Spurs: This is one of the more favorable matchups. Porto are not a team that strikes fear into the heart, but they are still a good side. Ten different players have scored a goal in the Champions League while nine have chipped in an assist. They will hit you from different angles at every opportunity, but they are definitely beatable.

Manchester United (Premier League - England)

Current League Standing: 5th (58 points)

Group Stage Result: Second place, Group H (10 points)

Round of 16 result: def. Paris Saint-Germain, 3-3 on aggregate (3-2 away goals)

Firstly, let’s all have a moment of silence for PSG’s annual collapse in the knockout rounds. This may not have been as bad as the Barcelona collapse, but you have to hand it to them: When they go down, they go down in flames. Manchester United went to Paris with a bag of potato chips in midfield and four youth players on their bench. Somehow, they pulled out a 3-1 win on the road to send them through. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to pull a rabbit out of the hat with this United squad that was left for dead back in December. United are in a dogfight for a crucial top four spot in the Premier League with Spurs, Arsenal, and Chelsea, all of whom are left in European competition in some facet.

Outlook for Spurs: United have been flying under Solskjaer. His restoration of players such as Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba have been critical for the success the Red Devils have been enjoying in the second half of the season. Recent loss to Arsenal aside, this is a good team but they are not unbeatable (unless David de Gea gets on a heater, of course) and do have some flaws primarily in defense. A two-legged matchup with our Sky Six rivals wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Ajax (Eredivisie - Netherlands)

Current League Standing: 2nd (59 points)

Group Stage Result: Second place, Group E (12 points)

Round of 16 result: def. Real Madrid, 5-3 on aggregate

Let’s get this out of the way right now: Ajax were the better side in both matchups against the three-time defending European Champions. Real Madrid certainly missed Sergio Ramos in the second leg, who decided to take a deliberate yellow card in the first leg to clear the way for the remainder of the competition as he assumed his side would crush Ajax in the second leg. Instead, Ramos will be serving that suspension next year while Ajax move on. Their 4-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu is nothing short of a work of art. Dušan Tadić put on a masterclass in midfield, becoming just the ninth player ever to earn a 10/10 rating from L’Equipe. Tadić has been relishing his role, scoring 17 goals in 23 league matches to go with his six goals and three assists in the Champions League. To say he is their engine may be an understatement.

Outlook for Spurs: Ajax are now the darlings of this tournament, so nobody needs to ask the question “Are we the baddies?” if drawn against the Dutch side because they will be. This is a team nobody wants to face right now. They fear absolutely nothing if they can waltz into the Bernabeu and dismantle Real Madrid, aging squad or not. Besides Tadić, some players to watch for are Kasper Dolberg, Klass-Jan Huntelaar, Donny van de Beek, Frenkie De Jong and Matthijs de Ligt As expected, there is a great mixture of veteran players and quality youth. Would Spurs feel good about this matchup? Perhaps, but they have the momentum of a freight train at maximum speed. It might be best to avoid them.

Juventus (Serie A - Italy)

Current League Standing: 1st (75 points)

Group Stage Result: Winners, Group H (12 points)

Round of 16 result: def. Atletico Madrid, 3-2 on aggregate

Cristiano Ronaldo continues to find ways to get his teams deep into the Champions League. Juventus were helped out by one of the most abysmal performances by Atletico Madrid I’ve ever seen. They looked completely inept in the second leg of their tie in Turin. Juventus are also running away with Serie A, enjoying an 18 point advantage over Napoli with 11 matches remaining. Needless to say, they are going to cruise to the title and may not lose along the way, allowing them to put almost all of their focus on the Champions League.

Besides Ronaldo, Juventus have plenty of familiar faces. Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic, Douglas Costa, Miralem Pjanic, and captain Giorgio Chiellini are just a few of the players to watch for with this team. They aren’t unbeatable, but they are a dangerous side.

Outlook for Spurs: A tough draw, to say the least. Spurs could have knocked Juventus out of the competition last year but fell at home in the second leg. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind some revenge, even if it would be a massive challenge.

Manchester City (Premier League - England)

Current League Standing: 1st (74 points)

Group Stage Result: Winners, Group F (13 points)

Round of 16 result: def. Schalke 04, 10-2 on aggregate

Right after the Juventus-Atletico tie finished up, I did a quick check of the score in Manchester and just shook my head. Schalke were never going to beat Manchester City unless some insanity happened, but 10-2? It was a fitting end for a Schalke squad that have just been awful this year and only advanced to the knockout round because of an insanely weak Group D. City benefited and destroyed them. City, of course, are in a dogfight with Liverpool for the Premier League title, so they can’t just ignore the league like Juventus can and focus on the Champions League.

There’s not much else I can tell you that you don’t already know about City: Aguero, Jesus, De Bruyne, both Silvas...they’re lethal when they’re on and still a dangerous side when they’re off.

Outlook for Spurs: I’d like to avoid them as long as possible, personally. If Spurs advance to the semi-finals, at that point you expect to face a juggernaut.

Liverpool (Premier League - England)

Current League Standing: 2nd (73 points)

Group Stage Result: Second place, Group C (9 points)

Round of 16 result: def. Bayern Munich, 3-1 on aggregate

Liverpool barely survived the group stage, finishing in a tie with Napoli and advancing by way of head-to-head results. Their matchup with Bayern Munich in the Round of 16 was one of the more compelling matchups, but after watching both matches between the two, it’s safe to say the better team advanced. Liverpool forced Bayern to play wide through Gnabry and Ribery most of the second leg, effectively removing James Rodriguez from the match entirely. It doesn’t hurt that Sadio Mane is in tremendous form, bagging a pair of goals to send the Reds through. They are going to be a tough out for anyone, though the dogfight they’re in with Manchester City for the league title is going to force them to stretch their squad as thin as possible.

Outlook for Spurs: Across two legs, this would be more than a heated affair. The two clubs do not like each other in any way. Liverpool are flying right now, arguably the toughest matchup for Spurs outside of Manchester City. Let them draw City or Barca and have about 30 bookings between the two legs.

FC Barcelona (La Liga - Spain)

Current League Standing: 1st (63 points)

Group Stage Result: Winners, Group B (14 points)

Round of 16 Result: def. Lyon, 5-1 on aggregate

Barcelona advanced to the knockout round by winning a competitive Group B. We know this because we pulled a rabbit out of a hat in the same group to advance. Barcelona had unexpected trouble with Lyon, with the first leg being a 0-0 affair in France before the tie shifted to Camp Nou. A Lucas Tousart goal in the 58th minute gave Lyon hope as they were just one away goal from sending Barcelona home.

Then Barcelona turned out the lights.

Goals by Messi, Pique, and Dembele within eight minutes turned a 2-1 slugfest into a 5-1 blowout. They can turn it on just like that and are absolutely loaded at almost every position, never mind that the have arguably the best player in the world at their disposal. Barcelona are seven points clear of Atletico Madrid in La Liga, who are the only threat to their league title aspirations. The two clubs face off on April 6 in a match that will determine whether or not the race goes down to the wire or Barcelona go into cruise control.

Outlook for Spurs: Spurs hung tough with Barcelona for most of their first match in the group stages before ultimately losing 4-2. The match at Camp Nou that Spurs nipped that all-important final point was not a full strength Barcelona side as Messi, Suarez, Pique, and a couple of other important players all sat out. A full strength Barcelona side is pretty terrifying, so slot them in with Liverpool and Manchester City.

Final Outlook

The draw is Friday morning at 11:00 CET (7:00 AM ET) at UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

There are no more restrictions for the draw based on association or group matchups, so Spurs can draw any of the remaining clubs for their quarterfinal matchup.

We’ve talked extensively in our writer’s room about the order of teams we’d want to face from first to last. Our thought is that the best matchup is going to be Porto, followed by one of Manchester United or Ajax. After that, it’s a crap shoot. Juventus are damn good, but they are not in the same class as City, Pool, and Barca. We all agree that drawing Juventus wouldn’t be instant death and the revenge factor is absolutely there. Drawing any of those final three clubs mean a colossal task to get to the semi-finals.

You have to beat the best in the world to get to the Final, but there’s nothing that says it has to be done in every round. Liverpool drew Porto, City, and Roma on their way to the final before succumbing to Real Madrid, so the luck of the draw can certainly help out.

We’ll have the draw results for you tomorrow morning if it’s too early to watch.