Champions League, year of shockers

JOHANNESBURG - Apart from Monaco and Paris St Germain and to some extent Porto and last year’s finalists Atletico Madrid, the rest of the eight teams left in the European Champions League competition are the usual suspects.

These are Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus.

Spain once again dominate the list of the last eight with defending champions Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico all vying for the biggest club title on the universe.

Ironically, the French have two representatives while England who saw Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea all knocked out in a week, don’t have a single club remaining in the European competition.

This year’s Champions League results have really bordered on huge surprises and it won’t be much of a surprise to see more upsets in the quarter-finals right until the D-Day.

But Bayern striker Thomas Muller does not think so. In an interview a few days ago, he was brazen enough to suggest no team remaining in contention would match the mighty Bavarians.

He intimated Bayern had too much firepower and that no team will be in a position to withstand the Germans’ arsenal capability.

Bayern demolished Shakhtar Donetsk 7-0 in the return leg in Germany having played to a goalless draw in the first leg, sending warning signals to the rest of the competitors.

In other second round results, 10-time winners Madrid struggled to shake off Schalke of Germany 5-4 on aggregate and Barca overcame Manchester City 3-1 on aggregate.

Both PSG and Monaco progressed to the quarters having dismissed their English counterparts Chelsea and Arsenal, ironically both 3-3 on aggregate and progressing on away goals rule.

No one will give them a ghost of a chance to progress further though this tournament has seen some real shocking results in the past and mostly this particular edition.

So will Bayern steamroll the rest of the opposition as Muller predicted?

Having won their 10th title last year, Madrid would want to add the 11th though their recent form has been patchy to say the least.

Will this be Barcelona’s year?

The Catalans are picking form at the right time and Lionel Messi is once again is showing the form that has made him be compared in the same mould as all-time greats like Pele and Maradona.

On their day, no team can stop Barcelona but their performance in Europe especially towards the final stages has been unpredictable and you can’t bank on them not having a bad day.

Italy’s run-away log leaders and perennial champions Juventus of Turin cannot be discounted either although Italian soccer in general has been on the wane of late. But the way they dismantled Borussia Dortmund especially in the second leg in Germany must have made other competitors to seat back and take note.

Atletico Madrid might not have the big names to match the likes of Bayern, Madrid or Barca but in Diego Simeone have one of the shrewdest schemers in the modern game.

The Argentine has a modest budget to play around with but showed last season that he is not a one-season wonder. The Madrid side is among the title contenders in Spain and that confidence has been translated into European competitions.

Still, it is difficult to pick the eventual winners but I suspect we might be in for some shocking season in the Champions League.

Quarter-final draw

PSG v Barcelona, Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid, Porto v Bayern Munich, Juventus v Monaco

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