The soccer news starts with the Champions League quarterfinals. Tuesday sees Spurs host Manchester City and Porto open at Liverpool. Wednesday has Ajax vs Juventus and Manchester United playing Barcelona. With half the field Premier League teams and one semifinal slot guaranteed, the pressure is on the English clubs.
Considering Barcelona is most people's favorite to end up lifting the trophy, that might not be fair. Beating Barcelona should be the goal for every other team left in the Champions League. That puts Manchester United in the underdog role with the opportunity to disrupt the bracket. It would also mean knocking off another favorite after beating PSG in the round of 16.
"Look what happened with Paris Saint-Germain," Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo said. "We went over there, apparently without any chance whatsoever, people were saying it was a given that PSG were going through and then everyone saw what then happened. You should never write anyone off out of hand. Of course, Barcelona have huge experience of playing in lots of finals and semi-finals in the Champions League for a good few years now. But we have our own strengths too, and we have to know how to make best use of them."
Maybe. The round of 16 saw two major upsets with Manchester United advancing and Ajax knocking out Real Madrid. It's an open question which was the bigger surprise. Manchester United's revival under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got help from a weak Premier League schedule and an unlikely comeback in Paris. It's made United a tough team to judge, perhaps not telling us as much as the club would like when facing a team like Barcelona.
Ajax became everybody's underdog by knocking out title holders Real Madrid. That too wasn't as much of a shock as it might seem, especially since now Ajax is everybody's favorite underdogs. We can enjoy key parts of that squad when they're playing for Barcelona next season.
This is still the Champions League, where the Premier League is finally seeing a return on the massive amounts of money they spend. PSG should feel slighted by not getting that same value for money, but it's still a tournament where the favorites are the ones at the top of the incoming transfer table. Manchester City, Juventus, Barcelona, and Liverpool. Any other version of the semifinals requires the kind of upset that seems unlikely at this stage.
Fansided's Graham Ruthven argues that this is the season for Manchester City in the Champions League. The Independent's Jack Pitt-Brooke explains Ajax's issues with their 1996 Champions League final loss to Juventus. Inside World Football's Paul Nicholson explains the money at stake in the Champions League quarterfinals. FourFourTwo's Jack Beresford makes the case for the Europa League.
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