Bold predictions in the Champions League: Pep Guardiola makes things easy for Man City; Liverpool beat Benfica

Five games take place between the Champions League quarter-finalists and Continental Glory. Here’s what to look for in Paramount +’s first quarterfinal matches this week:

1. Manchester City vs. Athletic Madrid: Guardiola follows the formula

Recommended game | Manchester City vs. Athletic Madrid

The business end of the season is really waiting for Manchester City. By Easter Sunday they could become the favorites of the trouble or fight in a tough battle to win any silverware. Even the Champions League seems to be on a relentless path that will meet Pep Guardiola with Jurgen Klopp in Paris in May.

This is of course provided they pass by Atletico Madrid and the semi-finalists. While those outside the Etihad Stadium can’t help but be distracted by the battles that lie ahead, Ilka Gundogan and company are firmly focused on the present. “It’s game after game, because every game is now a final,” the German midfielder said after City’s 2-0 win over Burnley on Saturday.

“We all play football for games like that, and we’ve had that for the last few years and every year when we came in that period when we know every game is great. The next two to three weeks are very crucial, to be honest. all games are crucial now. ”

Guardiola will not have to talk twice about the problems facing Atletico. After all, the idea that he is overly complicating great ties in the Champions League is likely to date back to defeat by Diego Simeone in the 2016 semi-finals, where his decision to drop Thomas Mueller in the first match caused a lot of horror and his side suffered from counter – attacking with a sucker blow to the other leg.

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Since that day, there has been a tendency to view Guardiola’s teams as flashing under pressure. Defeats from Monaco, Lyon and Chelsea were given in this light with varying degrees of accuracy. Similarly, the race for the title began to take shape as a 14-point advantage, which the owners have lost since the beginning of the year, and few noticed that this advantage existed only one day when City played two games more than Liverpool.

For the most part, City have established themselves as a team capable of coping with the pressure they are under. Immediately after Liverpool’s victory over Watford, the trip to Turf Moor seemed an extremely difficult test even for City, but Guardiola’s side held the talks in the most convenient form, winning the game in the first 25 minutes and keeping Burnley on hand. duration until the end of the competition, saving your energy for subsequent battles.

They even played in the most classic city of fashion, following the formula that proved most effective for Guardiola this season: Kevin De Braine and Bernardo Silva as free eights ahead of Rodri, Phil Foden in the middle, and Jack Grillish and Rahim Sterling stretched the game on the flanks . It was a city to remember. Perhaps this satisfies them, as does the fact that their manager has valuable little time left to ponder things as he admitted he is prone to it. “In the Champions League I always think too much. I think a lot. Absolutely. So I had good results. I like to change my mind and create stupid tactics. Tonight I draw inspiration and tomorrow will be an incredible tactic. We play with 12.”

Obviously he’s joking that he’s not seriously concerned about going down into the rabbit hole. Perhaps he knows he doesn’t have the time, that now all he can do is keep everything as it was in last season’s 21-game winning streak he mentioned after the win over Burnley.

Guardiola told CBS Sports that this launch was “like a regular machine that makes pizza: pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza. It’s the same thing: the next game, the next game. ” He himself admitted that the time between winning the league championship and the Champions League final gave him time to think. Maybe it was too. The same can be seen in the defeat of Lyon in the one-off post-season games of the blockade era. At the moment in the City there is simply no time to stop and think, give time on the training ground to change the formula. This may just be good news for Guardiola.

“Benfica” against “Liverpool”: “Eagles” can not repeat the shock of “Ajax”.

Recommended game | Benfica against Liverpool

Far from this column will be rain on the parade of any club, not least those who have reached the top eight of the Champions League for the first time in six years, but if “Benfica” can not come up with a completely different approach to what they deployed last time , this may be the end of their European journey. In the 1/8 finals, Nelson Verisim’s team slowed down Ajax to some extent, although the victory in their second match with a score of 1: 0 still required a great display of stubborn throw Anthony and company.

No shame to build their approach on defensive toughness, but this is a team that has scored over 16 expected goals (xG) in its eight matches since the start of the group stage, which they have achieved with manifestations of surprisingly tough defense. Not since their second match – when they defeated the rage that was taking place in the direction of Barcelona at the time – they did not keep the opponent for half a dozen shots in the penalty area. Ajax had 11 in Johan Cruyff’s arena, and it is fair to assume that if Diogo Hotta and Roberto Firmin get such unmarked heads that will have the side of Eric Ten Hague, they could force Odysseus Vladim to make a save.

The Greek international has become the hero of the Benfica race and is the star of the tournament. In all 12 games that Vladimidas played in the competition, he prevented 5.97 goals, according to Opta. The next best, Thibaut Courtois, almost clears three. And yet, if the goalkeeper is so outstanding in the statistical sense and, as a rule, is not considered the next Lev Yashin, we must assume that he will sooner or later regress to the average. If he does that on Tuesday, Benfica could be just a toast.

Even if Vlahadimas continues his excellent form, is that enough to keep Liverpool in fear? The hosts can try to hold back for 90 minutes, the problem is that Jurgen Klopp has options this season that he has rarely had before. Whoever starts, he will have at least two top-level strikers to refresh the side along with a host of versatile midfielders. Even Costas Timikas can add a kick from the fullback if Andrew Robertson ever disappears. There are teams against which you hold fast and gambling you can pinch one on the other end can work. Then there is Liverpool.

“Villarreal” against “Bayern”: the guests beat the draw

Recommended game | Villarreal vs. Bayern Munich.

A few weeks ago it was possible to give Villarreal a chance in this match, but the recent form has not been favorable to those who hope it can give hope of disappointment in the quarterfinals. Villarreal, in particular, looks pretty shaky after beating Juventus, losing to Cadiz and Levante when their attack stopped. Indeed, even given this famous 3-0 win in Turin, the Unai Emery team have recorded just nine shots on goal in their last four games and seem to be struggling to prove themselves as an attacking force even when Gerard Moreno is back in side.

Emery at least seems to know what the problem is. “Against Levante, we were close to their penalty area, but we lacked the leading edge to make the match different,” he said after the defeat. He would add that the confrontation with Bayern will be different, no doubt, as Villarreal will definitely not dominate possession against the German champions as they did against a relatively low Spanish opponent.

Go back to early March and it would be much easier to figure out why Villarreal can win this game. Julian Nagelsman’s willingness to play with three defenders and no real wing defenders offered opportunities that could be used by Jeremy Pina or Arnaut Danyum on the counter just as Red Bull Salzburg did in the first match of the 1/8 finals. The rapid transitions looked as if they might upset the Bavarians; they can still, though it’s hard to imagine Emery’s team being so assertive in the first Champions League match.

In the victories over Freiburg and Union Berlin, Nagelsman has returned to more classic formations, be it 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, this puts a huge strain on Joshua Kimmich, and the hope for Villarreal could be that ” Bayern “will not. 6 and Lyavon Haretska are struggling with injuries. However, the reality is that the Bundesliga leaders pulled up in the rear without losing a hit at the other end of the field. They may not be in their best possible form, but against an opponent who is fighting, they may well quickly take control of this match.

“Chelsea” against “Real”: blows at height

Recommended game | Chelsea vs. Real Madrid

What to do with Chelsea’s shock strike from Brantford? Unlike the game, it was immediately reminiscent of a 5-2 defeat by West Bromwich Albion last season. Thomas Tuchel could not point to any strange shots arriving, and the xG count, which told of a different result. The Blues were beaten, constantly canceled out in counterattacks when Christian Eriksen and company shredded the space behind Cesar Aspilicueta and Marcos Alonso.

It is safe to assume that there will be many changes on Wednesday. Indeed, it could be assumed that the team, which included such marginal players as Alonso, Tim Werner and Ruben Loftus-Chick, was created with half an eye during Madrid’s visit to Stamford Bridge, even if Tuhel could say otherwise. Given that Rhys James spent 35 minutes off the bench, it seems plausible that he will change the system as well as the staff, returning to a three-man defense if one of Andreas Christensen or the wonderful Trevo Chalaba step aside.

This system is nothing if not effective for destroying opponents in the European arena. Since Tuhel took the helm, only two teams have registered more than one without a penalty xG against the Blues in the European game: Zenit of St. Petersburg in a frantic final group game before Christmas and Porto, which has been getting five minutes of real pressure in the past. the first match of the quarterfinals of the season. Last year and a little evidence that when Chelsea falter in defense, their manager makes some minute changes that put things back in order behind.

Tuhel is not the only manager who has reason to fear open play. Carlo Ancelotti will not need to be reminded of what Barcelona did to his side in the second half of El Clásico. Or what Paris Saint-Germain could have done more in the second match of the 1/8 finals. Is that what N’Gola Cante did in the open in last year’s semifinal.

Even if the Blues choose a more cautious approach in the first match, in front of the trio of Christian Pulisic, Mason Maut and Kay Havertz, in which Kante brings the ball, it will be necessary to soften it, especially if James is also approaching his best. When their 3-4-3 clicks, Chelsea is an expert in spreading the field widely. Real have proven in their biggest games that when you start pulling them wide, they don’t always have the dynamism in midfield to fill in the gaps.

So don’t be surprised if Ancelotti decides to just assemble his defense, not least because he was pretty lost in underestimating the result that by the time of Killian Mbape Madrid’s brilliant moment Madrid had achieved their goal (albeit with Lionel Messi’s helpfully poor penalty). They know what Chelsea can do with them in the open. Their hosts tend to pull things up in this competition. Don’t expect goals or even a lot of throws.

Air schedule for Tuesday

Air schedule for Wednesday

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