Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Barcelona too classy for Manchester United: Uefa Champions League draw analysis

Ian Hawkey reflects on the European Cup quarter-final draw and predicts which clubs will progress to the semi-finals

The completed draw for the Uefa Champions League quarter-finals. AP Photo
The completed draw for the Uefa Champions League quarter-finals. AP Photo

Ajax v Juventus

Juventus will not mind having landed Ajax one little bit. Not only are the Dutch team the outsiders in the last eight, they are also the last club Juventus beat in a Uefa Champions League final before the Italians’ long losing record - runners up in 1997, 98, 2003, 2015 and 2017 - began to haunt them like a curse.

Much reminiscing ahead, then, about the glorious peaks of 1996, when Juve beat Ajax on penalties in Rome. Danny Blind played for Ajax that night; his son, Daley, has helped lead Ajax’s fabulous adventure this year, with Real Madrid thumped aside in the last 16. But the Juve of Cristiano Ronaldo will be tougher to surprise.

Forecast: Juventus through.

Cristiano Ronaldo, right, and Juventus will be favourites against Ajax. AFP
Cristiano Ronaldo, right, and Juventus will be favourites against Ajax. AFP

Liverpool v Porto

Thirteen months ago, Liverpool went to Porto and won 5-0, with a Sadio Mané hat-trick and a goal apiece for each other member of the so-called Fab Three, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.

It was a resounding scoreline that helped the English club believe in their revived European pedigree, and a template for the sort of blitz they then inflicted on Manchester City and Roma to reach the final.

Liverpool may be not quite as thrillingly overwhelming in attack this season, but they are stronger overall, and Porto, without the suspended Pepe in defence for the first leg, will regard Mané’s current form as ominous.

Forecast: Liverpool into the semis.

Sadio Mane's fine form will be a concern for Liverpool's opponents Porto. Getty Images
Sadio Mane's fine form will be a concern for Liverpool's opponents Porto. Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City

Chances were always high that there would be an all-Premier League quarter-final. Tottenham will reckon they got the worst possible version of it. Spurs, 13 points beneath City in the English table, have lost their last three domestic contests with Pep Guardiola’s team, and now they face them three times within 11 days next month, with a Premier League contest following the two quarter-finals.

That’s a concentrated dose of Harry Kane versus Sergio Aguero. The good news for Tottenham, impatient to move into their new stadium, is that the arena should be ready to host the first leg. That might supply extra motivation. The atmosphere should certainly be lively.

Forecast: City to conquer Spurs.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has masterminded three straight wins over Tottenham. EPA
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has masterminded three straight wins over Tottenham. EPA

Barcelona v Manchester United

On Manchester United’s busy corporate schedule in the coming months is a tribute, veterans evening that will recreate the 1999 Champions League final, among the most dramatic ever, the 2-1 win from 1-0 down with the clock ticking down against Bayern Munich. The venue was Camp Nou. No visit there since by any United is clear of an extra frisson because of that memorable night.

This time, it will be more pronounced because the United manager will be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, scorer of the winning goal in ‘99. Can he mastermind another against-the-odds triumph? Tough. Barcelona will likely prove less brittle than Paris Saint-Germain were in the last 16, but there’s hope.

Forecast: Barcelona to impose their class and go through.

Lionel Messi, right, and Barcelona will take on Manchester United in the quarter-finals. AP Photo
Lionel Messi, right, and Barcelona will take on Manchester United in the quarter-finals. AP Photo

Updated: March 15, 2019 04:27 PM

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