The UEFA Champions League quarter-final is upon us and fans are expecting fireworks from the fixtures.
Two teams who have not made it to this stage in a very long time – Benfica and Villarreal – will be participating in this season’s quarter-finals after an incredible run that saw them take out a few favourites.
With the draws complete and the April 5 and 13 schedules set, Overlyzer ranks the last eight teams of Europe’s most prestigious football club competition using data from top sportsbooks featured on our platform.
Many will agree that the Portuguese Primera Liga club has been very fortunate to make it to this stage of the competition. After scaling the hurdle of Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the group stages (which saw them beat an exceptionally poor Barcelona 3-0), they doggedly fought off Ajax Amsterdam in the round of 16 to run out 3-2 aggregate winners and secure progression to the next round of the competition.
However, with Barcelona’s current form, it can now be inferred that Benfica could have been slugging it out in the Europa League instead of running shoulders with Europe’s big boys.
They have now been drawn against a ruthless Liverpool for a spot in the semi-finals of the tournament. No matter how much luck and preparation is on Benfica’s side, a win against Liverpool is very unlikely. The difficulty level of this tie for the Anfield side is also very low on the scale compared to a tie against the other remaining sides in the competition.
A bet on Benfica is for only those who like to live dangerously, and is strongly advised against.
The reason Villarreal are in seventh place and not eighth is that they are the reigning Europa League champions and are managed by a manager with European pedigree, Unai Emery.
Although Emery’s successes have come mostly in the UEFA Europa League, Emery is still a respected coach who has gone toe to toe with the best in the world in the course of his career.
The Yellow Submarine thumped Juventus 4-1 on aggregate thanks to great football thinking from the former Arsenal manager. Player doggedness was also key, and this has been a constant in every match that Villarreal played in the Champions League this season.
However, an upset against Bayern Munich seems very unlikely, which means that the quarter finals will be the end of the road for the Spanish side in the 2021/22 Champions League season.
- Atlético de Madrid
Atlético de Madrid may have been higher up this list if not for the strength of the teams in their bracket. The Spanish LaLiga champions go against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and the winner of their tie will go on to take on either Real Madrid or Chelsea.
Atlético, however, is a team that cannot be written off in tournaments. They have upset the balance quite a few times in the competition in the past decade already, and always look like they are going to. Their 2-1 aggregate victory over Manchester United in the round of 16 was proof, even though it can be chalked down to United’s poor form.
A bet on Atlético making it past Man City, however, may be an inspired bet as City boss Pep Guardiola has never progressed to the next round of a tournament when Atlético stands in his way. For some reason, he has been unable to master Diego “Cholo” Simeone’s ultra-defensive style of play and ends up over thinking things to his detriment.
Consider how Pep has also been unlucky in the Champions League since he left Barcelona too, and Atlético may begin to look like a good option. However, based on the attacking strength of the remaining sides in the tournament who have been put in the same bracket as they are, Los Rojiblancos may not be progressing past the quarter finals.
- Real Madrid
The 13 time winners of the title are next after Real Madrid because of their stop-start form this season in all competitions. After a glorious comeback win against Paris Saint-Germain that boasted the attacking talents of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Angel Di Maria, Los Blancos look like a team to beat.
The following weekend, however, showed that they are reliant on Karim Benzema in attack, whose hat-trick helped them beat PSG to secure a match against Chelsea in the quarter finals. Without Benzema to lead the line, they fell 4-0 at home to a resurgent Barcelona while their attack lacked any sort of bite.
If you also put Madrid’s Champions League season into perspective, they are one of the worst teams on form currently in the quarter finals. And given the fact that they have been drawn against a Chelsea side currently in distress off the pitch and determined to show their mental fortitude on it, a bet on Real Madrid, while reasonable, could be the wrong move.
Chelsea play a rematch of their semi-final game in their title winning campaign against Real Madrid in this season’s quarter finals. The circumstances this time are different, in that Real Madrid are currently top of the LaLiga table and are hoping to end the season with more than one title.
Chelsea’s off-field issues could also play into Real Madrid’s hands as the London club could be playing their match behind closed doors due to issues with their owner Roman Abramovich and the invasion of Ukraine. This alone could make the difference.
However, given that Chelsea beat Real Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in their title-winning season, and that Real Madrid have never been able to scale the Chelsea hurdle in all competitions in which they both participated, a bet on Chelsea is the safer bet for this tie.
- Manchester City
Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to reach their third semi-finals in a row but their opponents Atlético de Madrid is one team that the Spanish tactician has been unable to overcome in tournament competitions. Regardless, this team has one of Europe’s deadliest attacks which will definitely count in their favour.
In fact, the only reason they are not higher on this ranking is the fact that Liverpool and Bayern Munich, who are above them, have much easier fixtures to navigate as well as greater stability in defence unlike they do. The fact that they will also have to beat either of Chelsea or Real Madrid in their bracket – two teams who are competition specialists – also contributes to our placing them in this spot.
- Bayern Munich
The 2019/20 winners with all their incredible run of form will come up against Liverpool in the semi-finals of this season’s tournament, which is why they are not ranked as favourite to win this season’s title.
Villarreal are their opponents in the tie and while that looks to be a walkover for the German champions, Liverpool (who take on Benfica in another match that should be a walkover), have scored the most goals in all of Europe’s top five leagues this season.
Bayern’s attack is special, but so is Liverpool’s. Jurgen Klopp’s experience, however, trumps Julian Nagelsmann’s and while their semi-final clash will be a spectacle, it will be fine margins for Bayern to progress past the 2018/19 winners.
Liverpool are the strongest team left in the competition (and will be for a long time, if they do not alter their transfer policy and if fitness issues do not affect them).
The only down side to this is Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury which, according to reports, may have ended the fullback’s season. Regardless, it will take some inspiration and a stroke of luck to stop the Reds from their seventh Champions League title this season.
If they had been drawn against another side not named Benfica in the quarter finals, this ranking could have been different.