The second legs of the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Champions League get underway tonight, and some of the ties look all but over.
Real Madrid take a commanding 3-0 lead into their game against Galatasaray at the Ataturk stadium this evening. Tomorrow, Juventus will be looking to build on their two-goal advantage against newly-crowned German champions Bayern Munich. As for the other two games, it’s all to play for. Surprise package Malaga know a score draw away at Borussia Dortmund will send them to a fairy-tale semi-final, while some late defensive errors see Barcelona return to the Camp Nou 2-2 against super-rich Paris Saint Germain.
Clasico comes to Wembley?
Three of the last eight in the competition are from Spain, and the chances that at least one of Barca, Real or Malaga will lift the Champions League trophy at Wembley are pretty good, but what about the prospect of an all-Spanish final? In theory, it could happen, as the last time three teams from the country were in the last eight in 2000, Real Madrid went on to win it. Of the trio remaining in the tournament, Real Madrid have been in the best recent form. Aside from being steady at the back, Real’s play further forward has proven too much for most opponents. Barcelona’s irresistible attack almost guarantees them goals, but they have some defensive issues that came to light in their last European game against PSG.
History in the making
While Malaga are making their debut in Europe’s biggest club competition, both of Spain’s big two have a long and rich history in the tournament. Real have won it nine times, while Barcelona have four titles. They have never met each other in the final though, but with both in reasonable positions, there’s every chance they could cross paths in just over a month’s time.
They seem to meet at least four times a year, but for El Clasico to be played out on the biggest stage of all would be special. While neither are definitely through to the semi-finals yet, given the relative lack of quality they’re up against (a stubborn and hardworking Juventus team aside), it could be the most likely final line-up.
For cash-strapped Malaga, managed astutely by ex-Real boss Manuel Pellegrini to make it, they have to perform far beyond their capabilities. Despite the presence of talented wonderkid Izco, they will have to overcome recent poor form in La Liga to give themselves a chance of making the last four. However, they’ve done well to get that far in the tournament. Malaga are currently 50/1 to win the competition at Ladbrokes.