If you like goals, Wednesday’s Champions League Quarterfinal match-ups were definitely for you.
Manchester City and Tottenham combined for 4 of them in the first 11 minutes. That’s the first time so many goals were scored so quickly in Champions League history.
ESPN FC summed it up well:
YOU GET A GOAL! YOU GET A GOAL! YOU GET A GOAL!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 17, 2019
4′ Man City 1-0 Tottenham
7′ Man City 1-1 Tottenham
10′ Man City 1-2 Tottenham
11′ Man City 2-2 Tottenham pic.twitter.com/tYmVTGnEey
The goals didn’t stop there for either of today’s match-ups.
Catch your breath for a minute. What a Wednesday.
Tottenham Defeat Manchester City on 4-4 Away Goal Aggregate
In a utterly shocking and thrilling game that almost broke Twitter, Tottenham Hotspur did everything they could to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory — yet the VAR soccer gods bailed them out in the final minute of stoppage time.
Goals came plenty and early. City leveled the quarterfinal draw right away as Raheem Sterling scored in the 4th minute off a Kevin de Bruyne feed.
Son Heung-Min immediately said to himself, “I see you, Raheem Sterling” and put Spurs up in the 7th minute after taking advantage of a Aymeric Laportefailed clearance.
Son wasn’t done, finding the net AGAIN three minutes later.
Lucas Moura won a challenge near the halfway line and found Son who put a dazzler in the top corner. After 10 minutes, Spurs led the game 2-1 with a seemingly safe aggregate lead of 3-1 (meaning City needed to score three more times because of away goals).
City scored one minute later.
11 minutes, four goals.
Sterling struck again in the 21st (of another KdB assist), leveling the aggregate 3-3. At that point, it felt like a City win was inevitable.
The game went to half-time still level on aggregate 3-3.
In the second-half, Sergio Aguero found the back of the net in the 59th (off another KdB assist), giving City that inevitable aggregate advantage. That had to be it right? City would just pull away, because that’s what City does?
Fernando Llorente — who had come on earlier for an injured Moussa Sissoko — put Spurs back on top on aggregate in the 71st minute with a ball off his hip from a corner. Right place, right time. From there, it was a white-knuckler of a finish.
The refs added 5 excruciatingly long minutes of stoppage time, and City went on the uber-attack. Nearing the final minute of stoppage, Aguero got the ball in the box and fed Sterling who struck again for the hat trick, sending City to the lead and the 2019 Champions League semifinals! Pep Guardiola was bouncing on the sidelines like a Spanish leprechaun who found a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. City had done it again.
Except they didn’t.
VAR ruled Aguero off-sides in the build-up. Ball game.
Spurs advance 4-4 on aggregate away goals to face Ajax. City again collapse in the Champions League quarterfinals despite having what most recognize as the best team in Europe. Dreams of a quadruple evaporated by VAR.
Liverpool start poorly before pouring it on
We at High Press Soccer often write on how fluky soccer can be on a game-by-game basis. This tweet from Ryan O’Hanlon from No Grass in the Clouds perfectly sums that up (moments before Porto scored, way to jinx it O’Hanlon):
Porto have taken more shots than Liverpool, City, and Tottenham combined. They’re the only ones who haven’t scored yet.— Ryan O’Hanlon (@rwohan) April 17, 2019
Porto dominated Liverpool in the first-half of their Leg 2 match-up, yet Liverpool found themselves up 1-0 after 45 minutes.
Jurgen Klopp made some key second half substitutions, and Liverpool ran away with the game 4-1, advancing on a 6-1 aggregate. They’ll face Barcelona in the semifinals that suddenly feels much more like the actual finals.
For more on this one, read the full Liverpool vs Porto Leg 2 game report.
CSoccer can be fluky.
The first half of Porto vs. Liverpool certainly proved that.
Liverpool hardcores were scratching their collective scalps at Jurgen Klopp’s “let’s play not to lose instead of to win” starting line-up. Moving away from the recently successful Henderson-Fabinho-Keita trio, Klopp played it safe but replacing Henderson with Milner and Keita with
Porto inserted Yacine Brahimi, who should’ve started Leg 1, into their XI. And they signaled right out the gate that they were going for broke, putting Liverpool on their heels. In the first half, Porto completed twice as many attacking third passes than Liverpool did. They were whipping the ball around the Reds midfield and backline. It wasn’t pretty.
The end of first half stats were not the typical Liverpool line: Porto led possession 58-42%. They had 15 (!!!) total shots and 6 on target. Liverpool had 4 shots and 1 on target.
So naturally, the first half score was Liverpool 1-0.
With some key substitutions, Liverpool poured it on in the second half. They leveled off possession (closing at 49%) and shots (13 total, 5 on target to Porto’s 19 and 8). Liverpool eventually cruised to a 4-1 road victory and 6-1 aggregate. On to the 2019 UEFA Champions League semifinals for the Reds.
Jurgen Klopp (7) – Klopp follows up inarguably one of his best games as manager with one of his most confounding. The play-not-to-lose mentality has consistently hurt Liverpool all season. If they don’t win the Premier League, Klopp’s playing it safe/let’s go for the draw will be a big reason why (well that and Manchester City are historically great).
Going with the ultra-conservative midfield selection did absolutely nothing to stunt Porto’s attack. Giving Divock Origi the start over Roberto Firmino was interesting as well.
Nothing about his initial selection make Klopp look good, regardless of the end result. However, give Klopp credit for course-correcting early. He inserted Firmino in at the half for Origi. He yanked Andy Robertson, who was having perhaps his poorest game of the season and inserted Jordan Henderson in his place. Both moves were critical to Liverpool taking over the second half. For that, we’ll meet in the middle and give Klopp a very shaky 7.
Alisson (7) – Shaky early, making a poor pass to TAA that put him under pressure. However, stepped up as he faced a first-half firing squad of shots. Did especially well with all of the shot attempts considering the ultra-wet weather conditions.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (6) – Better getting up the field than defending, as Brahimi threatened early and often. However, delivered an absolutely gorgeous through-ball to Salah that helped officially ice the game.
Virgil van Dijk (6) – When your backline is giving up seemingly a shot every 19 seconds, can you really say you had a good game? Gets bumped up a point for finding the back of the net again on a header.
Joel Matip (6) – Missed his mark to allow Porto’s corner goal. Didn’t exactly stymie Porto’s constant attack. Matip has been super solid, but maybe it’s time to give a healthy Joe Gomez a look.
Andy Robertson (5) – Not the best defensive effort from Robbo, as
Moussa Marega and seemed to be getting shots off at will and Militao and Corona pressed him hard. Little of his typical impact getting up the field. Yanked in the 71st (!!!) for Henderson.
James Milner (6) – We shouldn’t be surprised at this point that Milner, Klopp’s must trusted veteran, would get a Champions League road start. Was his typical steady self. Did
Fabinho (6) – Steady as always on tackles and being in the right part of the field. However, did little to thwart Porto’s constant attack (although to be fair, much of it came from the wings not the center).
Georginio Wijnaldum (5) – Didn’t exactly provide the defensive presence Klopp had hoped.
Divock Origi (5) – A surprise starter in place of Bobby Firmino, made little impact. Yanked at half-time.
Sadio Mane (7) – Well, fairly quiet to start the game as the ball was mostly in Liverpool’s half, but converted on a Salah through ball to put Liverpool up 1-0 and in complete control of the quarterfinal match-up. Continued to link well with Salah, feeding a spot on cross to Salah’s head that almost led to a goal early in the second half. However, absolutely should’ve finished his attempt in the 73rd. Thank goodness Liverpool didn’t need that one. Made up for it later with a little tip off Milner’s corner that find VVD’s big noggin for Liverpool’s 4th goal.
Mohamed Salah (8) – The most active of the attacking trio early. Does he ever tire? Assisted Mane’s opener. Then a clinical finish on TAA’s perfect through-ball for the 2-0 clincher. He’s back in form at the absolute perfect time.
Roberto Firmino (7) – Came in at the half for Origi and offensively Liverpool immediately looked steadier. Netted home a header on Henderson’s cross to put the Reds up 3-1.
Jordan Henderson (8) – Why didn’t he start? IMMEDIATELY made an impact, with a wonderful through-ball to Mane that wasn’t converted. He assisted six minutes leader on the Firmino goal.
Joe Gomez (NR) – Came on late for TAA. Welcome back, Joe!
MAN OF THE MATCH: Mo Salah–he was a constant threat and the most consistent player for LIverpool throughout the game.
One game was over almost as soon as it began. The other was one of the best games of the 2019 UEFA Champions League to date.
Lionel Messi proved once again he is not human, scoring a stunner in the 16th minute (and a brace after an uncharacteristic David de Gea howler in the 20th) to lead Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Manchester United. They advance 4-0 on aggregate.
Ajax does it again
On the other side of the bracket, Ajax and Juventus played an open, attacking, thrilling game. Cristiano Ronaldo put Juve up first with a smashing header.
After that, Ajax stepped it up. The youngsters were constantly on the attack. Donny van de Beek leveled the game six minutes after Ronaldo’s header in the 34th. In the second half, Matthijs de Ligt headed home the winner in the 67th minute.
Some controversy at the end over a disputed Ajax handball likely wouldn’t have made a difference due to away goals, anyway. It did give the Italians something to act overly dramatic about though.
Regardless, this was an even affair. Possession, shots, and shots on target were basically even. What a game.
Ajax advance 3-2 on aggregate. They await the winner of Tottenham vs Manchester City.
Juventus hosts Ajax at 3 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday with a trip to the 2019 UEFA Champions League semifinals on the line. The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw thanks to a vintage first-half goal from Cristiano Ronaldo and a tremendous individual effort, and finish, by Ajax’s David Neres. Below are three things to watch in Turin as Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. set out to end the young Dutch club’s dazzling run.
- Will Frenkie de Jong be available and/or effective? The bad news for Ajax coming into this game is that their star midfielder may not be able to start due to a hamstring injury he suffered on Saturday. There have been conflicting reports about the severity of the issue, but it seems unlikely to sideline him for the entire match. As one of the two or three most important players on the field, though, de Jong being anything less than 100% fit is a massive hurdle for his team. The future Barcelona star was arguably the best player on the pitch in both legs against Real Madrid and excelled against Juve last week as well. The Italians will be catching a massive break if he is limited.
- Can Ronaldo be contained? Few teams on the continent are better defensively than Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid, which arrived in Turin up 2-0 going into the round of 16 second leg. Los Rojiblancos are as familiar with Ronaldo as anyone, and all they had to do was keep CR7 somewhat in check and … here Juventus is in the next round, on the verge of a trip to the semifinals. It’s much easier said than done, and his opponents sound like a broken record when talking about the importance of denying him opportunities, but that’s the only way to contain Ronaldo. Ajax controlled the first game and largely limited the Portuguese star’s impact, but doing so for 90 more minutes is a tall order, especially in front of a raucous crowd.
- How much of an impact will the absence of Giorgio Chiellini have? The Italians are expected to be without the veteran defender again Tuesday. Ajax enjoyed no shortage of opportunities in the first leg, piling up 19 shots, including six on goal, as Juventus struggled to defend against Ajax’s collective creativity and fearlessness. The Dutch club found the back of the net just once, though, as the clinical touch they displayed against RM eluded them. The Italians are as seasoned as any team left in the UCL field, so the absence of Chiellini should not be too detrimental. That being said, having your captain unavailable for the biggest game of the year is far from ideal, no matter how battle-tested you are.
Oddsmakers at FanDuel Sportsbook NJ view Juventus as a reasonable home favorite at -150. Ajax is getting some respect at +440 (the draw is +280). FiveThirtyEight view this almost as a coin-flip, with Juventus favored 58-42% to advance. At +440, there is definitely some value worth exploring with Ajax.
Barcelona hosts Manchester United at 3 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday with a chance to advance to the 2019 UEFA Champions League Semifinals for the first time since 2015. Below are three things to watch as the Catalans look to protect a 1-0 lead.
- Can United generate scoring opportunities? The EPL side outshot Barcelona 10-6 in the first leg, but did not record a single shot on target. Barcelona’s defense has been tough to crack when it counts this year, and Marc-André ter Stegen has been up to the task the few times he’s been challenged. Man United have plenty of talent up top, but they were largely stifled last week. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team could give itself a massive boost with an early goal like the one Romelu Lukaku scored in Paris to spark his team’s improbable comeback.
- What version of Ousmane Dembélé will we see? Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez are playing so well that the Frenchman’s recent five-game absence was not exactly pronounced. But nobody watching this team closely can deny that Philippe Coutinho was a clear downgrade during that stretch. When Dembélé is at his best – his injuries have been about the only thing that have slowed him down – Barcelona’s attack goes from potent to unstoppable. The fact he started and played 67 minutes in Saturday’s scoreless draw at Huesca while Barça’s top players rested is a sign he’s fit for Tuesday.
- Will Tuesday be all about Messi? We at High Press Soccer are among a few soccer outlets that have not been able to say enough about the Argentine’s current season. In the UCL round of 16, Lyon managed to keep him – and his teammates – quiet in the first leg. The 0-0 draw at home gave the French club hope as it traveled to Camp Nou for the second leg. By halftime, Lyon was down 2-0 en route to a 5-1 blowout loss, as Messi scored twice and added two assists. Against ManU’s shaky back line, the Argentine is poised for another huge night. I’m not predicting he’ll be quite as dominant as he was against Lyon, but expect to be reminded, once again, that we’re watching the G.O.A.T.
Oddsmakers like FanDuel Sportsbook NJ view Manchester United as a longshot at +750. Barcelona is priced at -280 (the draw is +420). FiveThirtyEight only give United a 9% chance to advance. Having said all of that, United have faced these long odds before–as in, just the previous round. Stranger things have happened.
2019 UEFA Champions League quarterfinals wrapped Leg 1 fixtures today, as Ajax drew Juventus 1-1 and Manchester United OG’d their way to a 1-0 loss to Barcelona.
While there were no real surprises (those will probably come next week in Leg 2), that doesn’t mean we didn’t learn anything.
Here are five takeaways from Leg 1 match-ups.
- Ajax fans are all kinds of bonkers. First, they did this to Real Madrid. Ratty, yes. Harmless (unless Jason Pierre-Paul is involved), yes. However, getting hosed down to “prevent unsafe” conditions against Juventus? Let’s take a deep breath, Ajax fans. Maybe they need to bring back Frank de Boer so they don’t have to worry about making deep Champions League runs again.
- None of this matters to Ronaldo. All Cristiano Ronaldo does is
avoid media attention for his very credible rape allegationsscore Champions League goals. He yet again was 100% of Juventus’ offense, putting them up 1-0 in the 45th before Ajax’s David Neres equalized in the first minute of the second half.
- Manchester United are by no means out of it. The eye test and the game stats line up here. Yes, Barca out-possessed Man U by a 67-33% margin. That was more or less expected. However, Man U created 10 shots on goal to Barcelona’s 6 and did a good job stiffling Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez (Philippe Coutinho does a good job stifling himself). Yes, they’d be feeling a lot better going to Camp Nou 1-1 rather than 0-1, but they came back from longer odds against PSG.
- Liverpool are deservedly considered most likely to win the 2019 UCL… Sure, Liverpool’s offense still isn’t firing on all cylinders. But they’re potentially the most balanced squad remaining, especially if they finally happened to have stumbled upon a potent midfield combo of Fabinho-Henderson-Keita. FiveThirtyEight gives them the best probability of winning the UCL at 29% (Barcelona is at 27%). Oddsmakers have them second, closely behind Barcelona.
- …because Manchester City are no longer favorites! City’s annoying march toward soccer immortality and the Quadruple hit a temporary speed bump, as they lost 0-1 away to Tottenham. While that’s not a poor result by any stretch, it can be a concern if the Spurs manage to net one at the Etihad. Of course, Spurs will be without future NFL field goal kicker Harry Kane, but they’ve managed well without him this campaign. Regardless, City have been dropped by FiveThirtyEight to 21% and oddsmakers have them as third favorite now.
On that note, here are the updated futures as listed on FanDuel Sportsbook NJ.
|Barcelona _230||Liverpool +280||Manchester City +300||Juventus +390|
|Tottenham +1400|| Ajax +2800||Manchester United +3100||Porto +10000|
Liverpool had what most would consider the most favorable draw in the Champions League Quarterfinals by facing Porto. This was an open and fast-paced first-half. Liverpool dominated first-half possession (63-37%) and shots (8, 3 OT to Porto’s 4, 2 OT). Porto certainly had early opportunities though.
Liverpool didn’t create many quality opportunities in the second half (and no additional shots on target), but kept a possession advantage (64-36%) a clean sheet, and a 2-0 victory.
The win, coupled with Manchester City‘s 0-1 loss to Tottenham, (momentarily) makes Liverpool probability favorites to win the Champions League.
On to the ratings…
Jurgen Klopp (6) – So, Lovren in the starting XI? Another vote of confidence for Keita? What did Joel Matip do to deserve the drop for a cold Lovren?
The Keita call paid off big early, with the in-and-out-of-favor midfielder netting the opener in the 5th. The Lovren decision ultimately didn’t hurt the team. However, Klopp should’ve pushed harder for a second half goal. Yes, 2-0 is great, but Porto is an offensive team, will be at home for Leg 2, and a 3-0 win would’ve been significantly harder to overcome. #CrvenaZvezda #NeverForget
Alisson (7) – Worked harder than expected, coming up with two big saves around the 30th minute. Almost had a costly miscue with VVD, but a clean sheet is almost always going to get you at least a 7.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (8) – His typical effective attacking self, delivered a perfect pass to Bobby Firmino for the second goal. A constant threat, making run after run. Had a beautiful link-up sequence with Salah in the 61st. Inspired play.
Virgil van Dijk (7) – Is ALWAYS is the right spot. Like a magnet to the ball when Porto was trying to play through-balls on counters. John W Henry’s tweet about him definitely applied today.
Was SUPER shaky at the start of the second half, miscommunicating with Alisson and then feebly clearing a ball in the box to a Porto attacker. Steadied himself again towards the end.
Dejan Lovren (6) – Yeah, so. Clumsy early. Caught on a link up in the 17th and bailed out by VVD. Did ably get back in the 39th to shut down an attack. Earns one extra point in his grade for not giving up an OG or penalty in the box. Low expectations.
James Milner (7) – Filling in for Andy Robertson (who is out for accumulating two yellow cards in the previous round), his gorgeous deep pass to Mane set up the opening Keita goal. Distributed well from the back all game, got up field, 👏👏👏
Naby Keita (8) – !!! No, seriously, !!! Keita makes it two games in a row with a goal. Sure, he got lucky off the deflection, but he was solid on-ball early as well. Linked up well with the attacking trio up front. Strong play supporting Milner in the 65th minute. Tailed off a little towards the end, but his best game in red.
Fabinho (6) – A solid-not-spectacular performance in the middle. Still, a steady presence with perfectly weighted passes distributed all over the pitch.
Jordan Henderson (9) – Provided that “creativity” that’s been lacking from the Liverpool midfield of late. Hockey assisted Firmino’s goal on a simply gorgeous pass to TAA. Had what should’ve been an assist on a shaky off-sides call early in the second half on a should’ve-been Mane goal. Was active all 90 minutes. Really strong showing.
Roberto Firmino (9) – Creative as always, he assisted on the Keita opener. He finished TAA’s perfect feed for Liverpool’s second goal. We’ve written this before, but he’s so strong on-ball, hard to dispossess. When you’re directly responsible for both of your teams goals in a 2-0 game, you’re getting a strong grade.
Sadio Mane (6) – Like Salah, great work rate defensively. Missed a curler right before getting pulled out for Origi. Not the thunderbolt he’s been of late but not poor.
Mohamed Salah (7) – Needs to be stronger on ball, but great work rate early, helping stifle a counter in the 16th minute. Just missed two early finishes. Continued strong play in the second half, generating a number of opportunities. The difference between “Good Salah” and “HOLY CRAP SALAH!” is just inches, and he was just off today. Deserved a goal.
Divock Origi (5) – On in the 64th for Mane. Strong on ball but no real impact.
Daniel Sturridge (N/R) – Came on for Firmino in the 82nd. Didn’t make an impact.
MEN OF THE MATCH: Henderson and Firmino earn the honors. Not splitting hairs with those two. Both were superb.
- 2019 UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal Predictions
- 2019 UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal Betting Odds
- Three Reasons to Fear Ajax
- Manchester City Facing UEFA Financial Fair Play Investigation
- Ajax vs Juventus Combined Starting XI
- Manchester United vs Barcelona Combined Starting XI
- Liverpool vs Porto Combined Starting XI
- Manchester City vs Tottenham Combined Starting XI
- Manchester United vs Barcelona Champions League Preview
- Ajax vs Juventus Champions League Preview
They’ve dueled 156 times in domestic play over the decades. But over the next week, the first-ever European meeting between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur will unfold under the hot spotlights of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals – with a brand-new stadium heralding a new era on one side and one of the dominant teams in the modern game chasing history on the other.
Since the draw this all-Premier League matchup has been a subject of anticipation and no small amount of pride among devotees of English soccer. City’s early status as clear favorites has been amplified even further in recent weeks, however.
The reigning EPL champions have kept up a fearsome pace in their hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, running neck-and-neck with Liverpool atop the league standings and on the hunt for FA Cup and Champions League glory to add to the Carabao Cup trophy they hoisted in February.
With Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Brighton & Hove Albion, the Cityzens are 21-1-1 across all competitions in 2019 and look eminently capable of winning their second continental title ever, and their first since the 1970 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Spurs, meanwhile, have little choice but to take an aspirational approach to this clash. Though they finally moved into their gorgeous, and long-delayed, $1.3-billion new home this week, they’ll carry the debt incurred on the building for years. On the pitch, their undersized squad have slumped badly of late, losing four of their last six in the EPL. They also face a dogfight just to qualify for next season’s UCL with a top-four finish.
Injuries and Odds
Man City always smelled like the odds-on bookies’ choice here and the events of the past month have only tilted the numbers further in their direction. Do these lines underrate the potential influence of Spurs’ loud new home-field advantage? That’s an intangible for discerning punters to weigh.
Odds are from 04/08/19 on FanDuel NJ Sportsbook. As always, home team is listed first. If you need a refresher, visit how to bet soccer or how to bet Champions League.
|Tottenham +320||Draw +270||Manchester City -120|
|Manchester City -240||Draw +350||Tottenham +700|
|Odds to Advance to Semis|
|Manchester City -600|| |
Leveraged by their stadium financing to the reported tune of $838 million in total debt, Tottenham have been unable to buy reinforcements for manager Mauricio Pochettino in recent transfer windows, leaving them with little depth compared to City’s luxuriously-assembled roster.
Last month, Erik Lamela picked up a hamstring injury, the same fate that had already sidelined Serge Aurier, while Eric Dier and Fernando Llorente have been dealing with hip flexor and concussion issues, respectively. In better news, Harry Kane’s ankle ligament healed ahead of schedule earlier this spring and their other Harry, the Winks variety, just returned from a month out with hip and groin problems.
As for the blue side of Manchester? While Pep Guardiola still has three competitions to juggle, he also has both the quantity and quality of players to platoon with along the way. All things considered, their injury list is short as they enter the most decisive stage of the campaign.
That said, the most prominent concern is a highly influential one: Sergio Aguero limped out of the league win over Fulham with what appears to be a groin or similar soft-tissue knock. A scorer of 27 goals across all competitions this season, the Argentinean marksman is not easily replaced but will surely be focused on being fit enough for some sort of role in the Champions League series.
Fullback is suddenly a concern for Pep Guardiola, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kyle Walker over the past week sustaining what are likely hamstring injuries and Fabian Delph also sidelined at present.
Combined Manchester City-Tottenham Starting XI
With cerebral managers in both technical areas and high-level talent all around, these two sides can trot out any number of tactical looks, making even basic lineup predictions something of a fool’s game. Our best guess uses a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 shape not far from their usual norms.
Here’s the combined starting XI for Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur using a 4-3-3:
Manager: Pep Guardiola
Considering the overall investments of their Abu Dhabi ownership, Man City might just be the most expensively-assembled squad in world soccer history, and it shows here. That’s a lot of sky blue. Meanwhile, Spurs are blessed with ample quality along the top lines of their depth chart, but can’t hold a candle to the Cityzens’ deeply-stacked roster of reserves and rotation options.
First off, it’s safe to say that Sergio Aguero saunters right into this XI is he’s fully fit and ready to go. With his status in doubt, I’m placing Harry Kane at the No. 9 spot, given how prolific and influential he’s been for both club and country. His Danish teammate Christian Eriksen also sneaks in, thanks to the elegant playmaking skill set and ice-cold veins that have caught the attention of Real Madrid and other global aristocrats.
After that, the front six takes on a distinctly sky-blue tint. Raheem Sterling is enjoying a breakthrough season and will surely play a significant role in this tie, while Bernardo Silva has become a steady City regular even while handling multiple tactical and positional assignments. At his best, Leroy Sane is pure, unplayable lightning along the flanks, and the fact that he’s been platooned at times this season says more about his team’s strength in depth than his own contributions.
In central midfield, Guardiola is spoiled for choice and any number of potential combinations would be quite daunting to Tottenham. I’m guessing that he fields three of his most trusted soldiers – Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and David Silva – in hopes of dominating the engine room, though don’t be surprised by a trademark tactical twist like an inverted fullback or a five-man midfield.
Injury questions complicate decisions along the back line. I’m guesstimating that Kyle Walker’s hamstring will recover in time for him to take part, though Spurs’ Kieran Trippier is a close second. Conversely, even as second- or third-choice at City, Ben Mendy’s plenty good enough to win the race on the left corner.
In the middle, Toby Alderweireld is one of the most wanted center backs in world soccer, so he features alongside Aymeric Laporte, though Nicolas Otamendi would have reason to feel hard done by in this scenario. As for goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris is a World Cup winner with a penchant for the spectacular – the problem is that it sometimes includes spectacular (and costly) gaffes, so the multilayered skillset of Ederson wins out for now.
Along the touchlines? Mauricio Pochettino is one of the fastest-rising managerial figures on the planet and a huge key to Tottenham’s ambitious climb towards the European elite. Alas, his track record simply isn’t as long or as trophy-strewn as Pep’s yet, so City’s Spanish schemer is the unavoidable pick here.
Editor’s’Note: Bumping this post back up as we near Tuesday’s matches. Look for our first podcast which will cover the UCL next week as well.
With the Champions League Quarterfinal draw set, it’s time for another round of predictions.
First, we’re welcoming a new prognosticator to this round’s panel: former Russian national team member Katya Gokhman. Joining her are site-runner Chops, Tyler Everett, and former Premier League striker Carl Cort. After a stint in the US with the NASL, Carl now conducts Las Vegas private soccer training and clinics.
Second, a quick review of how we did on the Round of 16. While here at High Press Soccer we were all very high on Ajax’s chances, somehow, nobody actually selected them. And can you be right and wrong at the same time? Because in hindsight, that’s how the Manchester United prediction feels. Down the line now:
- Chops: 6 of 8 (missed Ajax and Tottenham)
- Everett: 6 of 8 (missed Ajax and Tottenham)
- Cort: 6 of 8 (missed Porto and Ajax)
Lastly, almost by divine intervention, the draw shook out where the four universal favorites match up against the four underdogs. Will all chalk prevail? Does that ever really happen? There has to be an upset among the group, right? Do we all keep agreeing that Ajax is a great team and then not pick them? Let’s find out!
|Tyler Everett||Katya Gokhman||Carl Cort|
|Liverpool vs. Porto||Does Porto have one player who would make a combined starting XI in this match? Brahimi? Anyone? Liverpool advance to eventually shock Barca and have our hearts ripped out by City in the finals (Or will they? More on this shortly).||I’m with Chops, Katya, and Cort here, and couldn’t put it better myself. Porto seems like by the far the weakest team left, and was lucky to get by Roma. Liverpool should win comfortably and move on.||Porto, statistically, is the weakest of the bunch. Liverpool, on the other hand, arguably has one of the strongest attacks in Europe with Mane and Salah at the helm. I definitely think there will be an upset in the quarters but it won’t be in this match.
Prediction: Liverpool will be on to the semis.
|With Liverpool’s attacking power and coming off a convincing win over Bayern, I really don’t see any surprises here.
Liverpool win convincingly
|Barcelona vs. Manchester United||Some of the glow is coming off OGS’ shine as United have been lucky and good since he took over (and now are regressing to just being good, which is still significantly better than they were with Mourinho). I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but Lionel Messi is having the all-time best season of his all-time great career. Camp Nou? More like Camp Yes. (awful, I know). Barca advance.||Barcelona has looked beatable at times since January, but is currently red-hot and — as we saw most recently against Lyon in the second leg — they have another gear that few teams can match. They’ll probably be without Ousmane Dembéle for both legs, and Luis Suárez’s status for the first leg at Old Trafford is up in the air. But Messi, even if he has to carry the load offensively — plus a solid defense and keeper — will be enough for Barça. The grit ManU has shown under OGS has been impressive, but Barcelona is too good. It also doesn’t hurt the Catalans — who are 10 points clear with 10 games left — they can basically sleepwalk through the rest of their domestic season.||This is where my brain and heart start to part ways…
Brain: Messi is having a fantastic season and Barcelona is on top of La Liga once more. After a 5-1 win against OL, they may not, necessarily, cruise through Manchester United, but they “should” end up on top.
Heart: Man. United has had their share of ups and downs this season. Solskjaer has had a good start as the new coach at United but his roll seems to be slowing down. HOWEVER, let’s not forget that this is still a team full of quality players such as Pogba, Rashford, Lingard, and Lukaku (hopefully, he will play despite his injury problems) to name a few.
Prediction: I’m going against the grain and making this my upset – Manchester United go through to the semis.
|I shouldn’t even be mentioning United at this stage of the CL after that horrific late VAR decision against PSG– but unfortunately I am.
I am now glad to say that I will not see United in the next round as I believe with Barca’s attacking ability they dismantle United at the back convincingly.
|Ajax vs. Juventus||Despite what the oddsmakers say, this really is the closest match-up. Ajax is playing with house money now, and Juve has all the pressure. But still, Ronaldo. Heart says Ajax, mind says Juventus.||Like Chops said, we liked Ajax versus Real Madrid, but not enough to pull the trigger and call the upset. Going to be bolder this time and go for it. It’s hard to unsee how confident and bold the Dutch club was against RM. They strike me as too young to tense up or know better than to play loose. Don’t ask me how they keep CR7 in check, but I think Matthijs de Ligt and Co. will enjoy (another) coming-out party — for anyone who’s not aware of them already — and pull off another stunner.||Ajax is a great looking young team and, after their recent performances, they’re extremely confident and motivated. Juventus is feeling pretty good as well – especially Ronaldo (when is he not feeling pretty good though?). I think this will be an amazing game to watch and it could honestly go both ways. However, I think Juventus’ wisdom and experience will prevail and carry them through.||I’m all for teams who “play the game the right way” as they say. And it’s good to see that Ajax are getting good results behind that. This is going to be a very enjoyable close game to watch but it’s really hard for me to go against CR7. Along with CR7 and the experience of the Juve team– I see Juventus advancing.|
|Manchester City vs. Tottenham||It would be difficult to describe how much I despise Manchester City. But let me try! Take what Bryan Mills, John Wick, and Andy Dufresne feel about their respective antagonists, square it, multiple it by 10, and you’re in the ballpark. Keep in mind, Newcastle have more of a proud and legitimate history than City (shout out to Cort!). City are basically the kids whose rich celebrity parents just got bought them into college as “crew team” recruits. Anyway, Tottenham and City play each other three times in 11 days. I believe Tottenham will win one of those three, and since one of those is a home match in their new stadium during the quarterfinals, I’m going against every fiber of common sense I have and saying that Spurs score enough at home to white-knuckle a semifinal trip and ruin City’s shot at a Quadruple. By the way, the last 7 sentences are precisely why I rarely ever bet.||Not feeling nearly as bold about this one. Like Barcelona, City’s ceiling is so ridiculously high that even if they’re only at their best for a brief stretch, it will be enough.||I’ve thought about the possibility of an upset by Tottenham, but then I think…nah. No way will Pep let that happen. Pep has been building up this team since he got to Man. City in 2016. It looks as if, Man. City is finally at the level that Pep has been striving for with them. After destroying Schalke 7-0, I think they are not likely to slow down.||I think Tottenham are technically good enough to cause City problems. One of the reason why I think Tottenham will fall short is mentally I don’t believe they’re strong enough which they’ve proven many times in the past, crunch time they always crumble.
The other reason is more obvious: City have great depth and are very well equipped to go the whole way
After rolling out our 2019 UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal predictions, we decided to take a deeper look at each match up by putting together a combined starting XI. In theory, the team with the most representatives (and at key spots) should have the advantage.
So, Liverpool vs. Porto.
While not a pundit on the planet is picking Porto, it’s not like the Portuguese club made the quarterfinals by accident. This is a good, balanced, deep squad. What they lack is top-end talent like Liverpool. Virgil van Dijk is the likely PFA Player of the Year. Alisson is one of the best five goalkeepers on the planet and if not for van Dijk, might be top contender for Player of the Year. Sadio Mane and (an in form) Mohamed Salah, along with Roberto Firmino, are still one top 3 most potent attacking trios in any league.
If there’s an area where Liverpool could get overrun its the midfield. But do Porto have the talent there to cause Liverpool real stress?
Liverpool – Porto Combined Starting XI
Porto has played a 4-4-2 in the Champions League where Liverpool has predominantly gone 4-3-3 (with an occasional switch to 4-2-3-1). For this exercise, we’ll stick with the 4-3-3.
Liverpool are red, Porto are blue.
For Porto, only Éder Militão at center-back and Yacine Brahimi in an attacking role cracked the combined XI, and that’s somewhat by default. A healthy Joe Gomez would likely have bumped Militão, but he gets the nod today. Alex Telles is an attacking left-back who deserved consideration, but Andy Robertson has been the best attacking left-back on the planet for most of 2018-19.
Liverpool’s midfield has been the club’s weak link. However, Fabinho has been world-class as a defensive center-mid. Gini Wijnaldum has enjoyed his overall best and steadiest season. He may not jump off the screen, but he’s a critical cog into Liverpool’s stingy goals-against tally. For Porto, Yacine Brahimi has been garnering Premier League interest for years. The 28 year-old might finally make his way to England this summer (possibly to Everton).
The front three belongs to Mane, Salah, and Firmino. When just clicking at 75%, they’re better than 90% of the attacking combinations in European soccer.
For manager, the advantage goes to Liverpool as well. While Jurgen Klopp has made some questionable decisions this campaign (particularly recently with the juggling of his midfield), Liverpool are still atop the Premier League table, in the Champions League quarterfinals, and likely advancing to the semis.
Editor’s Note: In order to better gauge the quality of each Champions League Quarterfinal pairing–and identify matches with upset potential–High Press Soccer will analyze combined starting XI for the match-ups. Up next: Barcelona vs. Manchester United
For most of the planet, it’s the tastiest of this year’s four UEFA Champions League Quarterfinal fixtures, a meeting of European royalty with eight continental championships between them, and a rematch of this tournament’s 2009 and 2011 finals.
FC Barcelona and Manchester United will clash on the 10th and 16th of April for a place in the semifinals. And while both proud clubs are accustomed to spending time in the business end of this competition, they arrive at this stage in quite different circumstances.
Barca are motoring along at the top of La Liga, 10 points clear of the field and in contention for a treble. They might not be quite as all-conquering as the peak of the Pep Guardiola years, but remain an elite group illuminated by the greatness of Lionel Messi.
Meanwhile ManU are still riding the euphoria of Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer’s genial leadership in the ragged wake of Jose Mourinho’s latest bridge-burning departure, happy to play the plucky underdogs as they mount a late dash to make something of their 2018/19 campaign.
Injuries and Odds
Barca are generally favored, as you’d expect given these teams’ respective places in their domestic standings and the fact that the Catalans are on a 13-game unbeaten run – they haven’t lost a match since their defeat to Sevilla in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Jan. 23.
|ODDS TO ADVANCE TO SEMIS|
|Manchester United +235
Overall, Manchester United are the underdog to advance, priced at +235 at FanDuel Sportsbook NJ. They’re even the underdog at Old Trafford for leg 1, listed at +260 to Barcelona’s +100 (Draw +270).
The injury picture here is clouded by the intrusion of the international break. Man United regulars Anthony Martial, Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw all departed their national team camps early or did not join them altogether due to knocks of varying severity.
In most cases that’s good news for the Red Devils, mind you – all will make the Barcelona series their top priority. It also appears Solskjaer will have Jesse Lingard available at something close to full fitness as the attacker puts a hamstring problem behind him. And Alexis Sanchez is hustling to recover from a knee injury in time to be available for selection against his former club.
Paul Pogba served a red-card suspension in the second leg vs. PSG and should be available for the UCL quarters, though he’s done his side few favors by suddenly piping up publicly about his interest in a move to Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid at some point.
Barcelona’s list of casualties is shorter, but potentially more costly. Luis Suarez picked up an ankle injury in the league win over Real Betis (where Messi notched his incredible hat trick) and Ousmane Dembele aggravated a hamstring issue in the UCL defeat of Lyon, so both of them are far from certain to be ready for ManU. As always, breath will be held across the city as Messi takes the field for Argentina during the window.
*UPDATE: Sure enough, Messi picked up a groin issue in his country’s humbling loss to Venezuela in Madrid on Friday! While subsequent reports suggested it was a fairly minor injury, managing the maestro’s health now becomes another plate for the FCB technical staff to spin.
On the brighter side, defenders Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen and influential central midfielder Arthur have all recently overcome injuries and could play key roles. And while FCB face a more congested schedule in the leadup to this series, their hefty lead in La Liga gives Ernesto Valverde more room to rotate his squad down the stretch.
Combined FC Barcelona vs. Manchester United Starting XI
Both sides have utilized 4-4-2 and other looks this season, though we’ll elect for a 4-3-3 shape that’s their best, most proactive option in most cases.
As illustrious and expensive as the Mancunians’ roster may be, it’s hard for anyone to hold a candle to Barca’s. The 25-time Spanish champions boast one of the highest wage bills in the world and even when you move past names like Messi, Suarez, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Marc-Andre ter Stegen, individual quality abounds. This lineup reflects that.
Here’s the combined starting XI for Barcelona and Manchester United. Barcelona is blue and the Red Devils are red. For manager, I’m going with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Even in goal, where David de Gea bears a glittering resume that still isn’t enough for a segment of football hipsters who’d always pick ter Stegen and his deeply Barcelonista skill set. The Spaniard edges it here, but not by much.
Pique has struck up a sturdy partnership with Clement Lenglet at the heart of the Barcelona back line, and while they may well prove susceptible to the English archetype of the bruising target striker, they bring so many other qualities to the table as to put the likes of Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof or Chris Smalling in the shade. In the fullback slots, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto are also vintage Barca, relatively slight in stature but attack-minded two-way technicians.
Busquets is aging, yet remains a tempo-setter par excellence and has benefitted from the intelligence of the shape-shifting Rakitic, who can fill an orthodox box-to-box role or any of the many permutations of it that Barca regularly ask him to. Arthur is a younger option who may well go on to eclipse the Croatian, but for now we’ll give Rakitic the nod. ManU’s sole midfield representative is Pogba, whose form has swung wildly from anonymous to world-class over the past year or so, but has been a lot closer to the latter under Solskaer.
Up top, Suarez – should he get healthy in time – and Messi, scorer of a whopping 39 goals and 18 assists in 37 games this season, stroll straight into this XI with no questions. That final slot is a bit trickier to fill, especially given Dembele’s injury troubles. Many on the red side of Manchester would advocate for Martial, Rashford or even Lingard here. However, Lukaku is the call for me.
Yes, his first touch sometimes escapes him and he can often look labored and ponderous. But he remains the Red Devils’ leading scorer and not by accident. His physical presence has few equals and given Barca’s past difficulties against direct, muscular teams (remember the Chelsea battles of old?), the Belgian offers the No. 9’s skill set that stands the best chance of unsettling Pique and Lenglet.
As for the managerial comparison: Valverde carries a far longer and richer resume than Solskjaer. However, the quietly inspiring Norwegian will be making his return to the Camp Nou 20 years after he scored the winner there in ManU’s legendary comeback win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final, so I’ll make a modest concession to the powerful mojo contained therein.
United have the wind at their backs and will play without fear; that said, it will take all that and a great deal more to derail Messi’s quest for his third Champions League trophy hoist.
Editor’s Note: In order to better gauge the quality of each Champions League Quarterfinal pairing–and identify matches with upset potential–High Press Soccer will analyze combined starting XI for the match-ups. Up first: Juventus vs. Ajax
Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance against Atlético Madrid made it easy to overlook Juventus’ stout defense in the Italians’ 3-0 victory on March 12th in the return leg of the Champions League Round of 16.
Ajax’s precision and flair in the final third during the Dutch club’s 4-1 demolition of Real Madrid on March 5th also left an indelible impression.
Though the offensive explosions in those games dominated the headlines, both these teams are solid at every position. If you imagine these rosters with Ronaldo out of the picture – cue a chorus of “wouldn’t that be nice” from Atleti fans – your preference probably depends on whether you prefer soon-to-be, if not already, household names (Ajax) or more grizzled veterans (Juventus).
Juventus – Ajax Combined Starting XI
Juventus = Black | Ajax = Red
While Barcelona, Manchester City and Liverpool have more star power – though our beloved CR7 would beg to differ – I’m convinced this Ajax-Juve collective would stack up well with any possible UCL quarterfinal combined XI.
My combined XI for this match-up would take the field in a 4-3-3, withJuve’s Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Starting at the back, it’s Ajax defenders Nicolas Tagliafico and Matthijs de Ligt on the left and right, respectively, with physical veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci manning the middle. De Ligt proved why he’s going to be a wealthy man playing for a powerhouse next season with his work against RM. Tagliafico could be in for a big payday of his own after turning heads against Los Blancos. Juve captain Chiellini and Bonucci are known commodities.
In the midfield, it starts with Frenkie de Jong, who seems poised to go from rising star to established force by the end of April. I’d flank him with Juventus cogs Blaise Matuidi and Miralem Pjanic.
Up top, CR7 is a no-brainer. He’s the reason his team was able to stun his favorite UCL victim to get to this point, and there’s no more potent physical threat on the planet. For anyone unfamiliar with Dusan Tadic, do yourself a huge favor and watch the clinic he put on against RM. It will be fascinating to see whether he can produce more magic against a defense like Juve’s. There are plenty of intriguing possibilities at the other forward spot, but to me, it comes down to Hakim Ziyech or Mario Mandzukic. I’ll go with Ziyech, by a hair. I can think of few things more entertaining than watching Ziyech and Tadic attack another established European power with reckless abandon.
So Who You Got?
In this match-up, Juventus claims six of the combined starting XI. I also like Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri to help guide his club. Despite all of this, I’m still sticking with Ajax for my Champions League quarterfinal prediction.
The Champions League Quarterfinals draw was held on Friday. The four teams universally considered the favorites drew the four respective teams with the lowest probabilities to advance. Here are Leg 1 odds and updated futures.
Champions League Quarterfinals Match Odds (Leg 1)
|Ajax +290||Draw +240||Juventus -105|
|Tottenham +290||Draw +260||Manchester City -110|
|Liverpool -240||Draw +350||Porto +700|
|Manchester United +260||Draw +250||Barcelona +100|
No real surprises here. The oddsmakers are still undervaluing Ajax, having them as a fairly big home underdog against a Juventus team that struggled on the road in the Round of 16. The other home underdogs (Tottenham, Manchester United) are facing titans in good form (Manchester City, Barcelona), so no shocker in the pricing there.
Liverpool are the only home team favored in Leg 1, listed at -240 to Porto’s long +700 odds.
Champions League Title Odds
Now that the draw has come out, the Champions League title odds have shifted with some surprises.
|Manchester City +220||Juventus +270||Barcelona +380||Liverpool +390|
|Manchester United +1600||Tottenham +2500||Ajax +3100||Porto +9500|
Juventus leaps ahead of Barcelona as second favorite, moving fro +340 on Thursday to +270 after their pairing with Ajax was drawn. It’s interesting they saw such a leap as they’ll have to go through Manchester City (presumably) in the semis to make the finals.
Along with Juve, City saw their odds slightly move (+230 to +220) as did Liverpool (+470 to +390). Barcelona got longer (+340 to +380).
UPDATE: Bumping this post in light of the Champions League Quarterfinal draw happening Friday, March 15th at 6am ET. We’ll update the post with match-ups as their drawn and odds per fixture.
2019 Champions League Quarterfinals Draw
The Champions League Quarterfinals draw takes place on Friday, March 15th at 7am ET. The draw is held at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
Unlike the Round of 16, there are no seedings or protections (i.e. two Premier League teams could play each other, like last year when Liverpool defeated Manchester City).
The eight winners from the Round of 16 will be entered into the draw. Similar to the Round of 16, each team will play a home game with the aggregate winner advancing.
Who Is In the Champions League Quarterfinals?
We’ll add advancing teams as they complete their Round of 16 Leg 2 matches. As of Tuesday, March 5th:
- Ajax (defeated Real Madrid 5-3 aggregate)
- Tottenham Hotspurs (defeated Borussia Dortmund 4-0 aggregate)
- Manchester United (defeated Paris Saint-Germain 3-3 aggregate on away goals)
- Porto (defeated Roma 4-3 on aggregate)
- Juventus (defeated Atletico Madrid 3-2 on aggregate)
- Manchester City (defeated Schalke 04 bazillion-2 on aggregate)
- Liverpool (defeated Bayern Munich 3-1 on aggregate)
- Barcelona (defeated Lyon 5-1 on aggregate)
2019 Champions League Quarterfinals Match-Ups
Match-ups drawn for the quarterfinals are:
- Ajax vs. Juventus (April 9)
- Liverpool vs. Porto (April 9)
- Tottenham vs. Manchester City (April 9)
- Manchester United vs. Barcelona (April 9)
- Juventus vs. Ajax (April 16)
- Porto vs. Liverpool (April 16)
- Manchester City vs. Tottenham (April 16)
- Barcelona vs. Manchester United (April 16)
The winner of Ajax vs. Juventus will play the winner of Tottenham vs. Manchester City in the semis.
The winner of Liverpool vs. Porto will play the winner of Barcelona vs. Manchester United in the semis.
When Will 2019 Champions League Quarterfinals Games Be Played?
Leg 1 matches take place April 9th and 10th. Second leg matches are the following week on April 16th and 17th.
Champions League Quarterfinals Betting Odds
Leg 1 matches are listed below. Home teams are listed first.
|Ajax +290||Draw +240||Juventus -105|
|Tottenham +290||Draw +260||Manchester City -110|
|Liverpool -240||Draw +350||Porto +700|
|Manchester United +260||Draw +250||Barcelona +100|
Odds are from FanDuel Sportsbook NJ
Champions League Futures
On Thursday, March 14th, FanDuel Sportsbook NJ had the following futures.
|Manchester City +230||Barcelona +340||Juventus +340||Liverpool +470|
|Manchester United +1000||Tottenham +1600||Ajax +2500||Porto +7000|
After the quarterfinal pairings were announced, the news futures shifted to the following:
|Manchester City +220||Juventus +270||Barcelona +380||Liverpool +390|
|Manchester United +1600||Tottenham +2500||Ajax +3100||Porto +9500|
Champions League Quarterfinal Probabilities
As of March 15th, FiveThirtyEight has updated their Champions League probabilities to the following:
The draw gave Manchester City and Liverpool bumps to win the UCL. Juventus and Ajax took probability hits.
Where to Watch
In the US, games will be broadcast on TNT and streamed online at B/R Live.