Champions League quarter-finals – repeats of finals, underdogs and more subplots

A repeat of two recent finals, three ties with English teams and a close-up scouting mission – the Champions League quarter-finals could prove to be some of the best yet.

The first leg ties take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the second legs next week.

So who is playing who, and what is on the line in each game?

Real Madrid v Liverpool – revenge for Kyiv?

Sergio Ramos and Mohamed Salah
Sergio Ramos is injured and will miss the quarter-final against Liverpool

When Liverpool’s name was drawn with Real Madrid’s, there was one thing on most people’s minds.

While winning the Champions League the following year and the Premier League the year after will have helped, there is still a lot of resentment in Reds circles about how the 2018 final went.

At the end of an unbelievable first season at the club, Mohamed Salah lasted only 30 minutes when he suffered a shoulder injury after a tussle with Sergio Ramos.

Real went on to win 3-1 thanks to two howlers from goalkeeper Loris Karius, two goals from Gareth Bale and one from Karim Benzema.

Liverpool and Real’s teams have been fairly consistent in recent years, meaning nine of each starting line-up are still at the club. But three of the main protagonists will not be playing on Tuesday.

Ramos will not be there to injure Salah, Bale will not be there to score a bicycle kick this time and Karius will not be there to throw the ball straight at Benzema for a goal. Ramos is injured, and the latter two are out on loan.

Man City v Borussia Dortmund – a close look at Haaland

It can be tough for teams to scout players during the Covid-19 pandemic with international travel restricted. So luckily for Manchester City, Erling Braut Haaland is coming to them on Tuesday.

City manager Pep Guardiola wants the Borussia Dortmund striker, 20, to be Sergio Aguero’s replacement when the club’s all-time top scorer leaves at the end of his contract this summer.

Haaland – son of former City midfielder Alf Inge Haaland – has become the world’s most sought-after number nine with his prolific goalscoring, having been virtually unknown two years ago.

The Norway player is the runaway top scorer in this season’s Champions League with 10 goals in six games. Nobody else has scored more than six.

He has scored 20 Champions League goals in 14 games in his career. Nobody else had managed that many in fewer than 24 games.

Only four players (including Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi) have scored more goals in Europe’s top five leagues than Haaland’s 21 this season – for a team unlikely to even qualify for next year’s Champions League.

What better way to see if he can score against Premier League teams than by facing the champions-elect?

Bayern Munich v Paris St-Germain – how will holders fare without key man?

Robert Lewandowski was injured on the recent international break for Poland
Robert Lewandowski was injured on the recent international break for Poland

There is no doubt that Bayern Munich have been the outstanding club side for the past year or more. They won last season’s treble of Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League – and followed that up with three more trophies this season (Club World Cup and Uefa and German Super Cups).

Wednesday’s quarter-final tie with Paris St-Germain is a repeat of last year’s final, which Bayern won 1-0 for their 21st victory in a row in all competitions.

Bayern’s biggest star of all that success has been 32-year-old Robert Lewandowski, who is in the form of his life.

Between last season and this campaign, the Poland striker has scored 101 goals for Bayern in 83 games.

But they will have to do it without him against PSG after he was ruled out for a month with a knee injury.

So this is a chance for Bayern Munich to show how good they are even without Lewandowski’s 1.2 goals per game – especially against a team including Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

The evidence says they will be fine. Their previous 18 games without Lewandowski have ended without defeat – 15 wins and three draws. The last time they lost without him was four years ago in the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid.

FC Porto v Chelsea – how much further can shock side go?

Porto players celebrate
Porto beat Juventus on away goals in a 4-4 two-legged classic

The Jose Mourinho derby. The Deco derby. The Ricardo Carvalho derby. The Paulo Ferreira derby. The Hilario derby. Well, you get the idea.

Ten players have played at least one game for both Porto and Chelsea’s first team – although none of them is currently at either club. Porto loanee Malang Sarr could face his parent club, although he has not played for Chelsea yet so is not on that list.

Porto – the only team to score against Manchester City in this season’s Champions League – got past Portuguese icon Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus in the last 16.

Their run to the last eight of Europe is even more surprising since they sit seven points off the top of the Portuguese league and are out of both cups.

And they received a boost at the weekend as Chelsea should have been coming into Wednesday’s tie high on confidence after a great run of form – but a 5-2 home defeat by West Brom ended their 14-game unbeaten start under Thomas Tuchel.

To make their preparation even worse, media reports claim Tuchel sent defender Antonio Rudiger home from training the following day after a clash with keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

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