Champions League Quarter-Finals: Some left with more to do than others
By Dan Wheeler
At the half way stage of the quarter-finals, we have two teams clearly favourites to make the semi-finals and two ties seemingly in the balance.
Real Madrid 3-0 Galatasaray
Real Madrid will certainly feel the most confidence of making the last four after their commanding performance at home to Galatasaray delivered an equally comfortable-looking lead.
Christiano Ronaldo sparkled as usual, while a first Champions League goal of the season for Gonzalo Higuain will have pleased Jose Mourinho. The Real coach is right to dampen over-confidence though, wary of how intimidating Gala’s Istanbul home can be.
That said a record 24th appearance in the last four should be a routine exercise for the Merengues who know if they can score once, Gala will need five. Very unlikely.
Bayern Munich 2-0 Juventus
Hungry-looking Bayern Munich took a significant step towards a third semi-final place in the last four seasons with a 2-0 win over Juventus.
Another cultured display from Bayern proved too much for the Serie A leaders, who now face a tall order in trying to preserve their 100% record against German teams in European quarter-final ties.
Juve are unbeaten in their last 11 European matches at home, but extending that against a side hell-bent on avenging last year’s loss in the final will be very tough.
The other two ties are brilliantly balanced.
PSG 2-2 Barcelona
Blaise Matuidi’s last-minute equaliser at the Parc des Princes has really given Paris Saint-Germain hope that the mighty Barcelona can be toppled.
While Barca showed again why they remain such a beguiling side going forward, their defensive vulnerabilities were again exposed by PSG, who will travel to the Camp Nou with less trepidation than they might have done following their 2-2 draw in Paris.
The sight of Lionel Messi hobbling off at half-time with a hamstring injury will hearten them, although the Argentine has done his best to nip any doubt about him playing in the second leg in the bud by saying he expects to be fit.
Barca have not lost at home in Europe for more than three years and the last time they needed something special in their own back yard, they destroyed AC Milan 4-0 to make the quarter-final. It is set up to be a classic.
Just like David Beckham’s career it seems, you write Barcelona off at your peril. Although if Beckham plays in the second leg, that’s exactly what PSG will be in.
Malaga 0-0 Borussia Dortmund
“Dortmund denied by Malaga’s Willy” might have been one of the more daring headlines to have made the morning papers but, nevertheless, Malaga’s goalkeeper should get the credit he deserves.
Willy’s heroics, together with a collective off-day for Dortmund’s normally reliable strikers, earned the Spanish underdogs the opportunity to cause a massive upset.
They have achieved their first target: don’t concede an away goal. They now have a puncher’s chance. A goal in Dortmund will really put the German’s credentials on the line.
The Dortmund camp are promising goals in the second leg. They will want at least two to feel remotely safe.
It’s a real tightrope walk this one. Who’s got the balance to stay upright? Nine times out of 10, you'd back Dortumund. Is this other occasion though?