PSG v Barcelona
Paris Saint-Germain aspire to heavyweight status, and have spent hugely to gatecrash the European elite.
Now they will know, intimately, the standards they must reach. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, pending an appeal, is suspended for the France leg, denying him a chance to inflict damage on the club he left, rather bitterly, in 2010.
There are plenty more agendas: look out for Thiago Motta, another Barcelona Ex, against Sergio Busquets, the player Motta blames for having caused his suspension from the 2010 Champions League final.
And, if the tie goes to form and Barcelona go through, here’s another chapter for David Beckham’s scriptwriters, as PSG’s veteran former England captain plays his last ever Champions League fixture at Camp Nou, the stadium where he won the trophy with Manchester United 14 years back.
Malaga v Borussia Dortmund
An impressive fearlessness and poise has defined Malaga’s debut campaign in Europe’s elite tournament.
Much credit for that to coach Manuel Pellegrini, who knows how to reach Champions League semi-finals with underdogs, having done so with Villarreal. Malaga overcame Porto with discipline and daring last week to set up a quarter-final where, almost whatever the outcome, they were likely to have to accept the status of second favourites.
They are that against Dortmund, but if they can resist the rapid blitzes of the German team’s counter-attacking at home and take a positive result into the away leg, they stand a chance.
Without alibis from the match in Spain, though, ousting a Dortmund who remain the most convincing dark horse in the field would look improbable.
Bayern Munich v Juventus
The closest looking match-up of all the ties. Bayern lead the Bundesliga by a distance, Juventus sit well clear at the top of Serie A.The Germans betrayed a rare vulnerability and indecisiveness in the second, home leg of their last-16 tie against Arsenal, progressing only on away goals despite their emphatic 3-1 advantage from the London game.
With Bayern’s Javi Martinez suspended for the first leg against Juve, the Germans lose perhaps their best marshall to close down Andrea Pirlo. The battle of the attacking full-backs, with four high-quality ones likely to be on show, also fascinates.
Real Madrid v Galatasaray
Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid’s head coach, might privately have chosen the Turkish champions as Madrid’s best possible scenario.
But the recent addition of two of his old allies to Galastaray’s roster has raised both their profile and their European Cup savvy.
Wesley Sneijder, who inspired Mourinho’s Inter Milan to victory in a Champions League final at the Bernabeu three years ago, and Didier Drogba, described by Mourinho as “one of the best I have coached and one of my most unforgettable friends”, have the calibre to hurt Madrid, as does striker Buruk Yilmaz.
It would be a shock, though, if Mourinho does not find himself in the semi-finals of the competition for a fourth year running.
First-leg ties to be played on April 2 and 3, with the second legs to be played on April 9 and 10.
Chelsea will play Russian side Rubin Kazan in their Europa League quarter-final, while Tottenham Hotspur will host Swiss club Basel.
Chelsea v Rubin Kazan
Tottenham v Basel
Fenerbahce v Lazio
Benfica v Newcastle
First legs to be played April 4 and second legs to be played April 11.
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