It’s a tough series of matches ahead in the quarter finals of the Champions League who is paired with whom in the draw. That’s the prediction of Carlo Ancelotti.
“As for the other teams they are the best in Europe and I believe the quarter-finals are going to be very tough, very complicated for everyone,” he said.
Well he would say that wouldn’t he. In coded manager’s speak the Real Madrid coach is perhaps pointing out to the other sides ‘look you’re going to have it tough – against us’.
Spain reign supreme in the competition at the moment with three teams qualifying at this stage for the third successive year, Ancelotti’s Real, Atletico and Barcelona.
Incidentally that’s the current position in La Liga – where there have been a few rumours of something of a crisis. The Champions League results should quieten those.
The current favourites should of course be Real. They rattled in nine goals in the space of 180 minutes against Schalke. Perhaps not a surprise, but the presence of Atletico after an absence of 17 years has raised a few eyebrows.
And then there is Barcelona enduring an unhappy time in the domestic League – but dismiss them off at your peril.
Laurent Blanc’s Paris St Germain side has looked relaxed in their domestic League and in Europe. That’s a national characteristic you could argue. But a second League Championship is getting closer yet the main aim is that holy grail – the Champions League.
The club’s owners from Qatar have made that clear with the promise of huge bonus. ‘Win in the Lisbon final and there is a million euros waiting for you’ – that the promise to each player. I would call that motivation with a capital M.
It’s as you were in Germany for the quarter finals with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund but out go Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke. Worth reflecting perhaps that this time a year ago the talk in European football was of German domination and their clinical ability to sweep aside the opposition, above all the Spanish.
Pep Guardiola’s side is certainly following on from that, top of the Bundesliga and in touching distance of the title what’s more the team looks unstoppable beyond Germany.
Inconsistency has marked out the others with a domestic dogfight for the remaining top places in their league. Same in Europe when you look at how Borussia struggled against what was perceived to be a weak Zenit team.
In England two out of four of the clubs which started in the group stages remain. Chelsea are there as you would expect while Manchester United progressed overturning a two nil deficit against the Greek outfit Olympiakos. Robin Van Persie did the damage with a hat-trick at Old Trafford.
More than that it was an exercise in saving the face of under fire boss David Moyes just as the rumour mill was gaining momentum that he was set to be fired.
Out go Arsenal – well the Gunners did have a tough draw and Manchester City their wealth hasn’t been able to buy them consistency in Europe.
So with three months to go to the World Cup has the Champions League given us a clearer picture of the power of the national sides?
Spain is dominating, Germany is lurking, England are stuttering and Italy – well no presence in the quarter finals for the first time in five years. France is there of course but with just the one club.
Friday’s draw in Nyon will reveal the line up for the quarters which will kick off on April 1 when of course you’ll catch all the results and stories of the games here.