UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals: Predicting the 2nd Legs
The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals are halfway finished. After four more matches next week, the competition will be reduced to four semifinalists.
After the first legs, the storylines are plenty. Bayern Munich dominated Juventus in a matchup of runaway league leaders. Meanwhile, mighty Barcelona face the prospect of playing without Lionel Messi in the second leg.
Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo scored again as Real Madrid routed Galatasaray. And two offensive-minded sides managed to play out a scoreless draw that featured plenty of chances.
How will the second legs play out? Keep reading for our predictions.
Barcelona vs. PSG
Match details: Wednesday, April 10, Camp Nou, Barcelona
This one has become even more interesting, hasn't it?
Lionel Messi, the four-time defending Ballon d'Or winner, left Tuesday's first leg at halftime with a hamstring injury. Barca assistant Jordi Roura called the problem "small" after the match (via Daily Telegraph), and on Wednesday, Messi echoed those comments on his Facebook account.
According to a Barcelona statement, Messi will miss this weekend's league match against Mallorca. His status after that remains uncertain.
If Messi doesn't play, it would be big news, both for Barca and Paris Saint-Germain. The first leg ended 2-2 in Paris, giving PSG some hope of advancing. Their odds, of course, would be reduced if Messi misses the second leg in Camp Nou.
As B/R's Will Tidey wrote:
With Messi absent for the second half, Barca were a far less convincing proposition. The world's best player will undergo further tests tomorrow, but there appears a good chance he will not be fit to play in next week's decisive second leg.
Barcelona have a world-class squad, but any team without the four-time Ballon d'Or winner is considerably maligned. In his absence, PSG will feel victory is possible in Spain.
Then again, Barcelona's record without Messi isn't all that bad, either (link in Spanish), and this is still Barcelona we're talking about. It's just that without Messi—and defender Javier Mascherano, who is also facing an injury layoff—this could be a much different-looking Barca than normal.
Prediction: If Messi plays, Barcelona should win somewhat comfortably at home, even with a thin defense. If he doesn't, Barcelona will squeak through anyway and regroup ahead of the semifinals.
(UPDATE: According to Sky Sports, "after tests revealed his hamstring injury is not as bad as first feared," Messi could be fit for the quarterfinal decider.)
Juventus vs. Bayern Munich
Match details: Wednesday, April 10, Juventus Stadium, Turin
After surviving a scare against Arsenal in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie, Bayern Munich had a bunch of pundits worried, including this one. After Tuesday's comprehensive destruction of Juventus in Bavaria, those worries now seem unfounded.
The result left Juve with a chance in the second leg, especially as they play as hosts. But the flow of play was so one-sided, it's difficult to see any way out for the Turin side.
Bayern were the better side tactically and technically, and their experience and pedigree made a huge difference in Tuesday's game. The hosts' high pressing exploited weaknesses in Juve's 3-5-2 formation…
Juventus will benefit from home-field advantage in the second leg, but unless manager Antonio Conte can reverse Bayern's dominance and find a way to involve Pirlo more, the Italian leaders will crash out.
Prediction: Juve will improve, but it won't be enough against Bayern. The Germans will advance narrowly.
Borussia Dortmund vs. Malaga
Match details: Tuesday, April 9, Westfalenstadion, Dortmund
Wednesday's first leg ended in a scoreless draw, but it wasn't for a lack of chances. Both teams played attacking football, and both had chances to score.
Malaga's Javier Saviola shot went wide in the seventh minute, when he had options available in the box. BVB's Mario Gotze twice failed to score from one-on-one situations. Robert Lewandowski appeared to put Dortmund ahead midway through the first half, but his header was correctly ruled out for offside.
With better finishing, in fact, Dortmund could have already finished off Malaga. Fortunately for Jurgen Klopp's side, the second leg will be played in the familiar confines of their home stadium.
Signal Iduna Park is one of Europe's most intimidating venues. With BVB hosting the second leg of a Champions League quarterfinal, the home fans will surely produce an electric atmosphere.
With these two attacking sides, it might also produce a few goals.
Prediction: BVB to advance after a high-scoring thriller.
Galatasaray vs. Real Madrid
Match details: Tuesday, April 9, Turk Telekom Arena, Istanbul
Speaking of intimidating venues, Galatasaray used to play in one of the most imposing of them all, the Ali Sami Yen Stadium—which was nicknamed "Hell" for the home fans' ability to create a disturbing atmosphere.
Their current home, the Turk Telekom Arena, isn't Hell, but it is rather loud in its own right. The question is: Will it affect an experienced squad like Real Madrid?
Here's guessing it won't, at least not enough.
In all honesty, we already knew most of what we learned from Wednesday's 3-0 Real Madrid win. Cristiano Ronaldo is a beast, Real Madrid love to counter-attack, and when it all works together Real are immensely hard to beat.
Simply put, it all worked Wednesday, and the three-goal cushion should be enough next week. Galatasaray didn't play especially poorly on Wednesday. Real Madrid are just the better team.
Prediction: Real advance comfortably