With the Champions League field now down to eight teams, every game offers plenty of intrigue. We have a rematch of the ’18 UCL final (Liverpool-Real Madrid), last year’s final (Bayern Munich-PSG), and plenty worth watching in both Chelsea-Porto and Manchester City-Borussia Dortmund.
That means that whichever game lands at the bottom of the list as the “least watchable” will nevertheless be pretty damn watchable. Though BVB (+425 to advance) and Porto (+275 to advance) are massive underdogs, neither City nor Chelsea have good enough recent track records at this stage of the tournament to rule out their opponents.*
Leg 1 is Tuesday, with both City-BVB and Real Madrid-Liverpool kicking off at 3 p.m. Eastern. On Wednesday, Bayern Munich-PSG and Porto-Chelsea kick off at the same time.
We’ll know this year’s semifinalists by next Wednesday, as Leg 2 of Chelsea-Porto and Bayern-PSG are next Tuesday, April 13, at 3 p.m. A day later, we’ll see the second legs of Liverpool-RM and Borussia Dortmund-Man City.
*In Chelsea’s case, it’s the current roster’s lack of experience beyond the round of 16. In Manchester City’s case … um, yeah, you already know what we’re talking about.
Now for the rankings (the odds listed are to advance).
1. Bayern Munich (-143) vs. PSG (+115)
A year after Bayern Munich was hardly pushed on its way to the title, the Bundesliga side appears less invincible, but remains one of the UCL favorites at +375. Only Manchester City, at +200, has better odds.
The biggest question with Bayern is how they fare without Robert Lewandowski in Leg 1. I don’t really expect him to return for Leg 2, but for now, we’ll keep our attention on leg 1 in Munich. Bayern might be the only team with enough firepower to stay on track without a player like Lewandowski.
No, I don’t think they’re going to be shut out if they go with the guys who started up top vs. RB Leipzig this weekend: Kingsley Coman, Leroy Sane, Thomas Muller and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. Bayern Manager Hansi Flick also has the luxury of plugging in Serge Gnabry for any of those four, or as a sub. One last thing on Bayern’s wealth of attacking talent — four (!!) players have at least nine assists this season: Muller, Sane, Koman and Joshua Kimmich.
All the spotlight for PSG will shine on Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, who get a chance to avenge the disappointing result of last year’s final, when they were surprisingly blanked. Neymar enters this game healthy, but has not scored since January 31. To be fair, he’s played in just four games, and gone 90 minutes just once, since then. One last thing on PSG: they’ll be without both midfielder Marco Verratti and right back Alessandro Florenzi, which makes me that much more confident in Bayern, who are -112 to win Leg 1.
2. Real Madrid (+125) vs. Liverpool (-155)
Real Madrid will sorely miss Sergio Ramos, whose absences always leave this team vulnerable — and that’s an understatement — in the Champions League. Liverpool, I should mention, have a key player or two out to injury themselves.
If we want to be optimistic about Jurgen Klopp’s team, which is surprisingly the favorite to go through, we can ask whether we’ll see the team that handled RB Leipzig in the UCL round of 16. We can also wonder if maybe the international break was the breather they needed to get back on track. They certainly looked fresh in their 3-0 win over Arsenal on Saturday.
Real Madrid has quietly grinded out win after another over the last couple months, but has rarely done so impressively. Their midfield and defense are good enough to stifle most teams in Spain, with or without Ramos. I expect Liverpool, however, to get a couple goals and win a close one, so their price (+160) in Leg 1 makes them a good bet, even on the road.
Liverpool also meets RM at a good time schedule-wise, as Los Blancos take on Barcelona next weekend in a game that could put them in the thick of the suddenly wide-open title race in Spain.
3. Manchester City (-670) vs. Borussia Dortmund (+425)
Surely, this is the year Pep Guardiola’s team at least makes the semis, right? I’m not totally convinced, especially considering what Erling Haaland can do, but City has been unbelievable defensively, and their depth makes them the heavy favorite. City at -670 to advance, however, seems to ignore all the problems this team has had in this tournament over the years.
Given the pressure Man City is under to win it all during a weird season when their ridiculous depth is so crucial, and the offensive magic BVB can produce, you’d be foolish to ignore this game based on the lopsided odds.
4. Porto (+275) vs. Chelsea (-360)
It’s not the Champions League without a team that was ruled out against Juventus advancing. This year, it’s Porto, who knocked out Juve with a leg 2 finish that makes me feel really bad about slotting Porto’s next match last on this list. I’m gonna continue to doubt them, though, as Chelsea has simply been too solid under Thomas Tuchel.