The path to Champions League glory has now been set out for the eight remaining sides in the competition. Much like the Kentucky Derby odds, the market for the Champions League outright winner has been open since the summer, but there have been changes based on the teams’ performances.
However, few would be able to argue that the best eight teams in Europe are the ones left standing. But, is it getting increasingly difficult to bet against Manchester City winning the illustrious honor for the first time in their history?
City Looking Dominant
Manchester City needed to overcome devastation coming into the Champions League this season, as they were beaten in last season’s showpiece event by Chelsea. However, Pep Guardiola’s side have routinely moved on from that setback and once again look to be the team to beat. City cruised through their group stage campaign, topping a group that also included PSG. They lost just twice in the six games that they played, with the most recent of those coming against RB Leipzig when their place at the top of the group was already assured.
They took their game to the next level in the round of 16, as they routinely eased past Sporting Lisbon. The tie as a contest was effectively over after the first leg, as City ran out 5-0 winners in Portugal. City weren’t able to extend that advantage in the second leg as the sides played out a 0-0 draw, but keeping players fit was undoubtedly Guardiola’s aim in the return leg.
City’s Route To The Final
Like every side remaining in the Champions League, City will now know who they will need to beat in order to reach the final in Paris this season. They will come up against Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals in April before a fixture against either Chelsea or Real Madrid is set for the semi-final. Atletico obviously present a big challenge for City in the next round and looked back to their defensive best at Old Trafford when beating Manchester United 1-0 in the second leg to reach this stage. However, City are on a different level to their city rivals this season, and should easily see off the reigning Spanish champions.
The semi-final is certainly a completely different proposition. Chelsea beat City in the final last season, and have become a formidable side in cup competitions since the arrival of Thomas Tuchel. It could be the first of three meetings against the Blues in May, as the sides could also meet in the FA Cup final in the last domestic fixture of the season in England. Real Madrid also can’t be taken lightly. Carlo Ancelotti’s side produced a mesmeric second half comeback against PSG to reach the quarterfinals, and are running away with the La Liga title this term.
Tough Challenge Could Come In The Final
City’s two main rivals for Champions League success this season are both in the other half of the draw. Liverpool could potentially meet City three times before the end of the season, including the Champions League final. The two sides are already set to meet in a Premier League title decider in April, while the Reds and City will also clash in an FA Cup semi-final between now and the end of the season. Like in the FA Cup, it could be a winner-take-all scenario when the two meet in the Champions League final, as it could be Liverpool’s chance to win a quadruple, while City could be aiming to win a treble.
Bayern Munich can’t be underestimated either, and will face Liverpool if they get past Villarreal in the quarterfinals. The Bavarians boast an excellent record in the competition this season and routinely managed to get past Salzburg in the previous round. Keeping Robert Lewandowski fit throughout the second half of the campaign will be Bayern’s main objective and if the Pole is fit, Champions League success can’t be ruled out.