UEFA Champions League quarter-final preview: Manchester City and Spurs face off in Premier League derby
Updated 23:02, 15-Mar-2019
Josh McNally

Ajax vs. Juventus

The youngblood vs the perennial favorites. You hate to see it this far away from the finale. For a long time, Ajax were a footballing relic; the glory days of their European Cup trilogy in the first three years of the 1970s, helmed by the iconic Johan Cruyff, are now further away from us today than World War II was when those titles were won and they haven't been competitive in Europe since their 1995 win.

Juventus, on the other hand, are one of the most decorated teams on the continent. Even with only two Champions League wins, they have three titles in the Europa League and, more importantly, often find themselves deep in the competition. In the past five years alone, they've appeared in two finals and only once failed to escape the Group Stage.

They now also have Cristiano Ronaldo. The best player in the world has brought Juventus and undefeated streak at home and powered them through internationally too, with their most recent game featuring him ending Atletico Madrid's campaign with a versatile hat-trick. Once known as grinders, Max Allegri's men have an excellent strike force of Ronaldo, Douglas Costa and Mario Mandzukic to match their traditionally Italian back line of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci.

That's a lineup of names that are going to be irresistible to the giant killers of Ajax. Forward Dusan Tadic, one of only 10 men to be rated a full 10/10 by France's L'Equipe, demolished Real Madrid and his countrymen Daley Blind and Frenkie De Jong haven't exactly been slouches either.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus /VCG Photo

Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus /VCG Photo

Prediction: Juventus grind it out over two legs

Liverpool vs. Porto

When this match was made, there were smiles all around the Liverpool side, and who can blame them. The Redmen are last year's finalists, have been contenders for the Premier League for the past few years too and they are also on a great run of form following the few shaky weeks where they blew a domestic lead over Manchester City.

Porto, on the other hand feel like this year's lucky dip winners, hurled into the tournament via the byzantine logic of co-efficient points rather than on the basis of rock solid victories and have repeatedly proven themselves to be a Europa League quality team rather than a Champions League quality team – if it wasn't for Jose Mourinho proving he was the Special One in 2004, there wouldn't even be a doubt about their status.

That being said, the records of both sides this year are shaky at best: Liverpool may have thumped a second rate Bayern at the Allianz but they also lost half their group stage games, including two shock defeats to Napoli and Red Star Belgrade, teams considered well below their level – just like Porto.

Sadio Mane of Liverpool /VCG Photo

Sadio Mane of Liverpool /VCG Photo

Prediction: Liverpool win one leg handsomely and almost throw away the other.

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur

A contest like this was bound to happen. Having got all four teams into the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in a decade, the odds of making sure none of them faced each other was astronomical. The one thing that wasn't so expected is that the game would already seem so one-sided.

The “Premier League derby” has already been played once this season: A fairly unsatisfying 1-0 victory to Manchester City at Wembley towards the end of October 2018. Riyad Mahrez scored in the sixth minute and killed off the game before it had even begun. Post-match, both winners and losers spoke of the strangeness of the surroundings, which had held three NFL games and a major boxing match in less than a month, making conditions less than ideal, but even so, Spurs rolling over for City and City seemingly having to put in very little effort to make that happen doesn't bode well  especially considering everything that has happened since.

Besides for an awkward few games, Manchester City have been running roughshod over the Premier League with Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling not in a rhythm where they appear to be trading hat-tricks regularly. Somewhat scarier are the huge wins of 9-0 and 7-0 against Burton Albion and Schalke 04. Not because of the numbers themselves – Burton Albion aren't exactly a team of killers – but because (besides for a penalty) each goal was scored by a different player in both games, showing just how many threats they have.

Spurs, however, have been Spurs. Even with Mauricio Pochettino breathing some much-needed life into the side, every attempt at a run has ended spectacularly after a handful of games and regular rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Southampton keep getting the better of them too. They've fared better in Europe as they are unbeaten in the last six, but with Brexit just around the corner, will the Etihad in Manchester still be European enough to be a happy hunting ground for Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Kieran Trippier?

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City. /VCG Photo

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City. /VCG Photo

Prediction: Manchester City do them twice without breaking a sweat.

Manchester United vs. Barcelona

The Manchester Miracle faces its ultimate test. Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, United have had a set of increasingly sad faces on the touchline. From the flustered David Moyes to the stern Louis Van Gaal to the sulking Jose Mourinho, all of whom were so joyless that it must have been impossible to expect anything nice to happen at Old Trafford and, to be fair, very little did. Mediocre games and a league position that peaked at the eighth place were enough for the Special One to be replaced with the super sub himself.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's appointment as interim manager was intended by the Glazers to be a quick nostalgia rush while they opened their purse strings and found someone like Zinedine Zidane to take over for real. Instead, nor only has Solskjaer been the only man to properly smile while wearing a Manchester United logo in six years, but his power of positivity has turned back the clock. It's 1999 again and the Treble is on the horizon.

Standing in their way are Barcelona. The virtues of Lionel Messi have been expounded on so many times that simply mentioning his name is enough but alongside him are Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Arturo Vidal, and many other world-class names. Instead of being unbeatable, however, they've shown time and again that they're more than willing to take their foot off the gas when they don't feel any pressure and have not only paid the price, they've refused to learn, turning their aura of invincibility into an Achilles heel.

Lionel Messi of Barcelona /VCG Photo

Lionel Messi of Barcelona /VCG Photo

Prediction: Manchester United put up a good fight at first, Barcelona learn and smash them at the end.