Bayern Munich to Win the Champions League and Exact Revenge For '99 Heartache?
We've been here before haven't we?
Down to the last eight of the 2008-09 UEFA Champions League and, yet again, English clubs are the flavour of the month.
This year, just as last, half of the qualified teams are English and, for many, it is Barcelona who seem most likely to prise away the trophy from the greedy mitts of Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United, thus denying them a historic quintuple.
Despite a recent stutter that has given Juande Ramos' Real Madrid an outside chance of snatching La Liga from their grasp, Barcelona has steamrolled their way through this season on all fronts, scoring at will and playing with breathless vim and verve.
On their day, they have torn teams to shred. Sporting Lisbon will be especially glad to see the back of their 'blaugrana' shirts after conceding 18 goals to the Catalan club on the four occasions they have dared get in their way.
Messi continues to draw comparisons with Maradona, Henry still knows where the back of the net is and Eto'o has not lost any of his striking prowess. Add to the mix, two marauding full-backs wreaking havoc and a world class playmaker in Xavi, and you have a pretty decent team I'd say!
However, scoring goals has never been Barcelona's problem.
The club's two encounters with a mediocre FC Basle in the group stage highlighted two key areas where Barcelona will ultimately come unstuck in their quest for glory. Two late goals in the 2-1 away win back in October did not mask the team's defensive frailties. Their home defeat to the same team proved that their squad is not as strong as some may believe.
Their excellent recent form has seen them stuff perennial European underachievers Lyon and smash six past Malaga over the weekend. But their opponents in the last eight, Bayern Munich, will still be on a high after their record 12-1 aggregate defeat in the last round.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has started at Bayern where he left off as German National Coach and his confident and attack-minded approach to the game has rubbed off on his charges. German footballers have a knack of pulling off unlikely victories and this double-header will prove too much too soon for the inexperienced Guardiola.
Elsewhere, Manchester United and Arsenal's progress to the last four is in little doubt. The holders face a Porto side who cannot rely on the genius of Jose Mourinho or the quality of Deco and Bosingwa to repeat their 2004 triumph. Arsenal will have a tougher time against the ever-improving Villarreal but the Spaniards have too many 'off' days to overcome a side which is unbeaten in 16 in the Premier League.
Chelsea's clash with Liverpool is perhaps the most difficult tie to predict and if anyone can mastermind a victory of Benitez's title-hunters it is Hiddink. If Anelka, Lampard and Terry find their form at the right, they could spring a surprise with Liverpool's mind on their pursuit of domestic honours.
It is Manchester United's for the taking but revenge for Bayern Munich's supporters would be so sweet after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer broke their hearts in extra-time ten years ago.
Quarterfinal Aggregate Predictions:
Man Utd 5-1 Porto
Villarreal 2-4 Arsenal
Barcelona 3-3 Bayern Munich (aet)
Liverpool 2-3 Chelsea
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