After a four-week break, the quarter-final stage of Europe’s biggest club competition returns to action on Wednesday.
The draw produced some mouthwatering ties and a section of the bracket which will see one of either Napoli, Inter Milan, AC Milan, or Benfica reaching the Final.
Three Italian clubs reached the quarter-finals for the first time in 17 years, proving that Serie A is slowly bridging the gap between the rest of the top leagues.
Despite some heavyweights of the competition bowing out such as Liverpool and PSG, there is still plenty of quality on offer.
Here is a preview of the four match-ups.
This promises to be an entertaining and fascinating match-up. The English champions have been more consistent this season than Bayern, but are both nonetheless producing entertaining football and goals to show for it.
Julian Nagelsmann’s shock sacking during the recent international break has thrown a spanner in the works, as new manager Thomas Tuchel will want to make an immediate impact on the big stage. The last time he took over a club mid-season, the German went on to win the Champions League with Chelsea.
His appointment should inspire Bayern to play with more freedom and fluidity, but won’t be troubled to leave the possession with City, proving that this method worked when Chelsea was able to beat City in the 2021 Final.
For Guardiola, he needs to resist tinkering with the line-up and avoid making any out-of-the-ordinary changes. Consistency is vital from now until the end of the season, and a close title race in England and Germany helps both sides stay competitive for this tie.
You could point to the glaring difference of quality up forward as Erling Haaland (10 goals) is far superior to his opposite number, Eric Choupo-Moting (four goals), however, I’m giving Tuchel’s men the slight edge with the return leg at the Allianz Arena proving crucial. City is still yet to prove that they can overcome these major games.
Todd Boehly and Chelsea decided to follow Bayern’s lead and sack their own manager Graham Potter, replacing him with club legend Frank Lampard who returns in his second stint on the bench.
A 1-0 loss to Wolves on Sunday has the Blues stuck in 11th on the table, continuing their incredibly disappointing form. Despite the amount of talent on the team sheet, Chelsea’s biggest problem has been creating clear-cut chances in front of goal, lacking a real sense of creativity in the middle of the park. They lack a real No.9 who has the ability to score goals when required. Kai Havertz unfortunately is not the answer.
Real Madrid is 12 points behind rivals Barcelona in La Liga, but we know by now that this is Madrid’s competition. No matter their domestic form, the 14-time European champions always show up against the continent’s elite.
Carlo Ancelotti seems to have finally found the right balance in midfield with being able to rely more heavily on the likes of Eduardo Camavinga and Aurélien Tchouaméni, despite the ageless Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos providing the experience required to carry this squad to another potential crown.
Chelsea has just been too inconsistent this season, and with Karim Benzema still proving to be a menace and a goalscoring machine, it’s difficult to look past the Spanish giants in this one. The Frenchman scored four of the five goals against Chelsea last season in their quarter-final tie to help Madrid advance in extra-time. Another semi-final beckons for Ancelotti’s men.
To many, the first reaction while looking at this tie would be that it looks the most boring out of the rest of the match-ups. It still can’t be denied that it’s one of the most intriguing due to the amount of unpredictability it provides. The Portuguese powerhouse have sensationally only lost three matches in 2022-23, with two of those defeats coming at the hands of SC Braga.
They impressively topped a group containing PSG and Juventus, proving their worth as they play some fast, attractive football under coach Roger Schmidt. The lack of pace of former City defender Nicolas Otamendi should be a cause for concern, though, as Inter will look to exploit the counter-attack.
Former Inter player João Màrio will be one to watch, as the midfielder has moved to a more advanced role, scoring 17 goals and providing six assists in an impressive campaign.
As for Inter, coach Simone Inzaghi is feeling the pressure as his side has lost 10 matches in Serie A this season, four more than last year. Inconsistency has been the biggest issue as they can’t seem to get Romelu Lukaku firing and scoring the goals he once did under Antonio Conte.
Despite the second leg being hosted at the San Siro, I see Benfica advancing to the semi-finals and providing the nail in the coffin for Inzaghi’s sacking.
For the first time since 2005, two Italian sides face off against one another in the knockout stages. This for many is seen as the most intriguing tie out of them all due to both styles of football being very similar.
Napoli is the clear runaway leader in Serie A and is destined to claim their first Scudetto in 33 years, claiming the throne from their opponents Milan. The Neapolitans have been identified as dark horses to win the Champions League due to their brilliant football under coach Luciano Spaletti and the quality up front in Victor Osimhen and Georgian sensation Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Overall, they are a real unit with no real weaknesses across the starting XI as they understand each other’s roles.
Milan’s campaign has been similar to Inter’s in terms of inconstancy, sitting fourth in the league and not producing the same performances that won them the league last season. However, they comfortably dismantled Napoli 4-0 last week at the Maradona, with Rafael Leão proving that he is still a force to be reckoned with. It was a stern reminder to Napoli that they are very much in the tie.
In the first meeting late last year, Napoli beat Milan 2-1 at the San Siro despite the Rossoneri dominating for much of the match. Styles win fights, and Stefano Pioli’s side has the tools and personnel to really rattle this Napoli side.
With or without Osimhen, Napoli will it very difficult against their Italian counterparts. Milan to scrape through.