The Champions League is approaching the business end and some of the teams involved at the quarter-final stage would not have been predicted at the beginning of the competition. While the presence of Arsenal, Barcelona, Manchester United and Internazionale is no surprise, that of Bayern Munich, Bordeaux, CSKA Moscow and Lyon most certainly is. Whether this is the round which sees the outsiders dumped out of the tournament, or simply reinforces feeling that a shock could be on the cards, only time we tell.

We preview each quarter-final clash:


Lyon vs Bordeaux

An all Gallic affair guarantees that a French team will be in the semi-final, something that is bound to bring a smile to the face of patriotic UEFA president Michel Platini. This is a fascinating fixture that sees Lyon, France’s dominant team over the past decade versus the side looking to take over that mantle.

Lyon’s place in the last eight was guaranteed when they pulled off the shock of the round by knocking out Spanish giants Real Madrid with Miralem Pjanic’s goal in the Spanish capital proving decisive, as the Ligue 1 side ran out 2-1 winners on aggregate. It was a result that raised question marks over Manuel Pellegrini’s future as Madrid coach but for Lyon it was arguably their finest hour in the Champions League. Bordeaux secured their progress to the quarter-finals with a nervy win over Greek outfit Olymipiacos. It needed a late Marouane Chamakh goal at the Stade Chaban Delmas to settle the nerves of the home supporters as Olympiacos chased an away goal that would have seen them progress.  The French champions went through 3-1 on aggregate.

The Ligue 1 leaders will be eager to bounce back from a a Coupe de la Ligue final defeat at the hands of Marseille as they enter their clash with Lyon. Les Girondins may feel they hold the advantage as the pivotal second leg will be front of their passionate home supporters at the Stade Chaban Delmas. Laurent Blanc will hope that this factor alone can give his side the edge. 

For Les Gones, off-field distractions have dominated the build up to the quarter-final with their French counterparts. Lyon attempted to move their local derby league fixture with Grenoble to the Friday, a request turned down by the French footballing authorities. Lyon eventually ran out 2-0 winners against their local rivals but their dispute with the powers that be has left a sour taste in the mouth at the Stade Gerland. The Ligue 1 giants will take great confidence from their victory over Los Blancos and will enter the fixture in the knowledge that they can get the result they need when faced with a difficult second leg away from home. If they can prevent Bordeaux from scoring at the Stade Gerland they will definitely fancy their chances when they travel to the Atlantic coast for the second leg.

Bayern Munich vs Manchester United

A tie that offers a repeat of the classic 1999 final when Manchester United scored two goals in injury time to secure their second ever triumph in Europe’s premier club competition. Bayern will be keen to avoid a repeat of their late collapse this time around.

Manchester United secured their passage to the quarter-finals with relative ease against an ageing Milan, as the Premier League side eventually ran out 7-2 winners, with the in form Wayne Rooney scoring four of those goals. Even the media hype surrounding the return of David Beckham couldn’t hide the fact that Milan were well beaten.

Bayern also faced Italian opposition in the form of Fiorentina, and some fortuitous refereeing decisions gave the Bundesliga outfit the advantage after the first leg in Munich. In Florence, La Viola battled valiantly against their German opponents and it took a special strike from Arjen Robben to send Bayern through on the away goals rule with the tie finishing 4-4 on aggregate.

With the Carling Cup safely locked away in the Old Trafford trophy cabinet the Red Devils are still on course for a treble this season. The Manchester giants have started to move through the gears in the Premier League in recent weeks and they will travel to Bavaria for the first leg on the back of a comfortable 4-0 victory away at Bolton. On the other hand Bayern Munich’s preparations have been dealt a blow as they suffered a shock 2-1 home defeat at the hands of VfB Stuttgart and then, to make matters worse, saw Schalke beat Bayer Leverkusen to go top of the Bundesliga.

With the second leg at Old Trafford, Bayern find themselves as clear underdogs, to stand any realistic chance of progressing to the semi-finals they will need to travel to Manchester with a lead from the first leg. The German giants could also be without Arjen Robben who is struggling with a calf injury.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have been in this position time and time again and won’t be fazed by the challenge in front of them. With Wayne Rooney due to return from a knee injury to spearhead the United attack the Red Devils will be confident of returning from Munich with a win. Expect Sir Alex Ferguson to employ a five man midfield with the objective of controlling possession from the first whistle.

Arsenal vs Barcelona

If you like quick, incisive passing football then this is the fixture for you, with a mouth-watering tie between arguably the continent’s best footballing sides for a place in the last four of the Champions League. It is also a tie that reunites Thierry Henry with his former club.

Both clubs had a similar experience in the last round. Both travelled away for the first leg and came up against embattled opposition in the form of Porto and Stuttgart respectively. Arsenal actually returned from Porto 2-1 down but a Nicklas Bendtner hat-trick at the Emirates saw Arsenal go through relatively comfortably 6-2 on aggregate.  Barcelona were on the back foot for much of the game in Stuttgart but managed to return to Catalonia all square. At the Camp Nou it was one way traffic as Stuttgart battled in vain to stop wave after wave of Barcelona attacks, and the La Liga outfit progressed to the semi-finals 5-1 on aggregate.

Arsene Wenger would dearly love to secure Arsenal’s first triumph in this competition. The closest he and Arsenal have come to winning the trophy was in 2007 when they lost the final at the Stade de France against Barcelona. The Gunners enter the quarter-final tie still very much in the Premier League title race; although a draw against Birmingham following a last gasp Kevin Phillips equaliser has put the North London side on the back foot. Talismanic midfielder Cesc Fabregas is an injury concern after he was on the receiving end of a robust challenge by Craig Gardner and all those connected to the club will hope he will be passed fit.

The three times European Champions are going toe-to-toe with Real Madrid in the La Liga title race and have their eyes firmly set on retaining their European crown on enemy territory at the Santiago Bernabeu. The driving force of their charge for silverware is Lionel Messi who is currently in the form of his life, and surely Arsenal will need to nullify the threat of the tricky Argentine if they are to emerge victorious. In terms of injuries the Catalan outfit will be without playmaker Andres Iniesta for the first leg after he suffered a hamstring injury in Barcelona’s 1-0 victory away to Mallorca.

Worryingly for Arsenal, they have struggled against top quality opposition this season with Chelsea and Manchester United both doing Premier League doubles over The Gunners. Arsene Wenger will hope this team have learnt from that experience and will be able to compete more effectively against their Spanish opponents. With the second leg at the Camp Nou it is going to be a tough task for the North London club, and Barcelona will be confident if they return from London with at least a draw.

Internazionale vs CSKA Moscow

A meeting between the two sides that defied the odds in the last round to make it through to the quarter-finals, and they now find themselves being touted as the competition’s dark horses.

Inter pulled off a shock in the last 16 stage by knocking out Chelsea. After leading 2-1 from the first leg, Jose Mourinho executed a tactical masterplan against his former club in the second leg at Stamford Bridge, which thwarted Chelsea’s threat in front of goal. Samuel Eto’o’s goal was the icing on the cake for the Portuguese tactician and the Italians went through 3-1 on aggregate.

CSKA Moscow faced an uphill battle after Sevilla left the Russian captial with an away goal, and with the tie all square at 1-1 they travelled to Andalucia more in hope than expectation. However, the Russian outfit took the game to their Spanish hosts, scoring two away goals in the process and eventually went through 3-2 on aggregate.

It’s nearly 50 years since the Nerazzurri were last crowned champions of Europe and after a succession of Scudetto triumphs this is the trophy everyone at the San Siro craves.  If this is to be Mourinho’s last season with the Milanese outfit and with Inter’s Serie A title bid stuttering Mourinho may put all of his resources in trying to win the Champions League.

CSKA Moscow tasted European success as recently as 2005 when they won the UEFA Cup, becoming the first ever Russian side to win a major continental honour. As the Russian season has just started the Moscovites are gaining match fitness with every game and arguably hold an advantage over their Western European rivals in terms of fatigue. The Russian Premier League outfit enjoy the tag of underdogs and will be confident of causing another upset by knocking out the Italian giants.

With the second leg in the Russian capital this fixture is too close to call. There is no doubt that Jose Mourinho has the tactical ability to come up with a plan for any given situation in Moscow but executing it in front of a hostile, partisan home crowd is a different matter. Ideally Inter will want to travel to Russia with a comfortable lead. On the other hand CSKA Moscow will travel to Milan looking to keep things tight knowing that home advantage in the second leg could be decisive.


Latest Articles: