UCL Quarter-Finals: Bayern Munich v. Juventus profile

Bayern Munich finished last season without a single trophy, despite reaching the finals of both the DFB Pokal and the Champions League. They’ve rebounded this season with a vengeance, beating out Borussia Dortmund for the German Super Cup and going on to dominate the league while staying alive in both the DFB Pokal and the Champions League. However, while their league form has been emphatic, they’ve struggled in the Champions League, conceding more goals than any quarter-finalist but Real Madrid and moving on from the Round of 16 only on the away goals rule. It’s difficult to figure out how to judge Bayern Munich right now; on one hand, they’re still among the favorites, but on the other, it’s not really because they’ve been so convincing in this particular competition this season.

Juventus, on the other hand, have also had strong league form this season and reached the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia before being knocked out by Lazio. They also have a much more impressive Champions League record so far: they’re undefeated in the competition this season (the only quarter-finalist besides Borussia Dortmund that’s true for), and have conceded just four goals. Celtic were certainly one of the easier runners up from the group stage, but that doesn’t diminish Juventus’s accomplishments, particularly considering that they were in one of the tougher groups.

By the numbers:

Bayern Munich Juvenus
Record 5-1-2 5-3-0
Average Possession 58% 49%
Goals Scored 17 17
Shots (on target) 136 (50) 144 (48)
Conversion rate 12.5% 11.8%
Goals Conceded 10 4
Saves 12 28
Clean Sheets 1 5

The first leg of the tie is on April 2 at Munich. The second leg at Juventus will be played on April 10.

Bayern will be playing Hamburger, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Nurnberg around the two fixtures. All are reasonably solid teams, but they could be playing Borussia Dortmund all three times for all the good it would do Juventus. Bayern currently have 20 points on second-placed Dortmund. They could field youth players and lose all three games and still be assured of winning the title. If they need to rest players, they will.

Juventus, on the other hand, will be playing Inter, Pescara, and Lazio – Pescara currently sit in the relegation zone, but Inter and Lazio are both fighting hard for a place in Europe next season, and will be tough competition. Juventus also can’t afford to drop too many points – Napoli are nine points behind them, but that’s a cushion that could quickly evaporate if they end up with a couple draws and/or losses during the quarter-finals.

Objectively, Juventus should probably be regarded as favorites. They’ve been more impressive in the Champions League this season, and they’ve also had a strong showing in Serie A. On the other hand, Bayern have been dominating the Bundesliga – which is a stronger league – to an even greater extent, and while there have been some close calls, they’ve done enough to move on. They can also perhaps be forgiven for getting a bit complacent against Arsenal, and it’s a mistake I doubt they’ll make again.

This one is tough to call. I’m going to predict a Bayern win, though.


UCL Quarter-Finals: Paris Saint-Germain v. Barcelona profile

Surprisingly, given their status as favorites to win the competition, Barcelona have struggled at times to reach the quarter-finals. They were forced to come from behind twice in the group stage (when they hosted Spartak Moscow and Celtic), and in the Round of 16 they had one foot out of the competition before mounting a historic comeback at the Camp Nou. Despite these difficulties, they should not be underestimated, especially since their coach will be returning before the quarter finals after being absent for more than two months to receive cancer treatment in New York.

PSG have their own strengths, though, and shouldn’t be underestimated. They’ve put together one of the most expensive teams in Europe and have several major superstars, most notably ex-Barca man Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who may feel like he has a bit of a point to prove, especially after Barcelona dropped his Milan out of the competition last season. They’re favorites to win Ligue 1 this season, and have an impressive record in the Champions League thus far, including having the best shots-goals ratio of the last eight.

By the numbers:

Barcelona Paris St-Germain
Record 5-1-2 6-1-1
Average Possession 74% 48%
Goals Scored 15 17
Shots (on target) 121 (49) 102 (46)
Conversion rate 12.4% 16.7%
Goals Conceded 7 5
Saves 19 21
Clean Sheets 4 3

The first leg of the tie is on April 2 at PSG. The second leg at Barcelona will be played on April 10.

Barcelona will be playing relegation-threatened Celta Vigo, Mallorca, and Zaragoza around the two fixtures, and they have room to drop a couple points here and there if necessary without putting the league title in much danger.

PSG’s league title is far less assured – they only have four points on Lyon right now – and they’ll also be playing tougher opposition on paper. They face Montpelier ahead of the first match with Barcelona and Rennes in between the two quarter-final ties. Both teams are vying for a spot in Europe. Following the second match they’ll play relegation-threatened Troyes, who they probably won’t be too concerned about.

On paper, PSG actually look like they’ve got a decent shot. However, with Vilanova returning to the team, I think that many of Barcelona’s problems will resolve themselves, and as long as they don’t get complacent, they should be able to move on to the semi-finals once again.

UCL Quarter-Finals: Málaga v. Dortmund profile

There’s no doubting that Málaga have earned their place in the quarter-finals. They weren’t in a group of death like Borussia Dortmund, but they did have to see off two teams with much more experience in Europe, and did it in expert fashion to win their group. They were also matched up against Porto in the Round of 16, who were one of the strongest runners up. Not only did they get past Porto, but they did it by conceding the fewest goals of any other team in the Round of 16. Their domestic league form is a little more suspect, but they’ve still run a strong campaign so far and currently sit in fourth.

Borussia Dortmund have earned their place, too, probably in the most emphatic fashion of any team in the Champions League this season, entering the quarter-finals undefeated in the competition. They ended up in this year’s especially deadly group of death, and were so dominant that they beat out the Dutch, Spanish, and English champions to win the group with a game to spare. They also beat out Shakhtar Donetsk – another very strong runner up – with ease in the Round of 16. However, like Málaga, their league form hasn’t been great recently this season, and unlike Málaga, this is a team that has managed to win the Bundesliga for the past two seasons.

By the numbers:

Borussia Dortmund Málaga
Record 5-3-0 4-3-1
Average Possession 44% 48%
Goals Scored 16 14
Shot (on target) 123 (54) 85 (38)
Conversion rate 13% 16.5%
Goals Conceded 6 6
Saves 27 30
Clean Sheets 3 4

Their stats so far are quite similar, but it’s important to note that Dortmund have been doing it against tougher competition overall.

The first leg of the tie is on April 3 at Málaga. The second leg at Dortmund will be played on April 9.

Buffeting the fixtures for Dortmund are Bundesliga matches with Stuttgart (likely on March 29), Augsburg (April 6), and Greuther Furth (likely on April 13). All three are relegation-threatened teams, which toward the end of the season can be a bit of a wild card. Still, Dortmund can afford a few slip ups and still qualify for the Champions League next year through the league, and will probably take the opportunity to rest players.

Málaga, on the other hand, are very much in danger of not qualifying for the Champions League through the league this season (assuming their ban on playing in Europe next season is overturned). They also have a tougher run of fixtures leading up to the match: they play Rayo Vallecano (likely on March 30), Real Sociedad (likely on April 6), and Osasuna (April 14). Rayo and La Real are both battling for a spot in Europe, while Osasuna are battling relegation.

On paper, the reigning German champions look likely to win this one. There’s always the possibility of an upset, but I see them going through.