Inter Milan, AC Milan, Napoli or even Benfica will have a chance to reach the Champions League final, when they fall into the right bracket after the draw for the quarter-finals on the evening of March 17 (Hanoi time).
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Man City will create early finals between the top contenders for the title.
Chelsea once again met Real Madrid in the knockout round of the Champions League. In the quarterfinals of the tournament last season, coach Carlo Ancelotti’s team eliminated “The Blues” according to a dramatic scenario. They lost 2-3 after 120 minutes at the Bernabeu, but still won tickets to the semi-finals with a total score of 5-4 after two matches.
If Real Madrid does not have too many changes in personnel after a year, then Chelsea has a completely different face. Coach Thomas Tuchel left at the start of the season to make way for Graham Potter. The new owner of Chelsea has also brought in more than half of the new squad such as Enzo Fernandez, Mykhaylo Mudryk or Joao Felix (playing on loan from Atletico Madrid).
The defending Champions League team is more appreciated in the match against Chelsea, but the British representative is also showing signs of revival. In the round of 16, Chelsea also defeated Dortmund, the club that has been in high form since the beginning of the year. It should be remembered that until April last year, Real Madrid had their first victory against “The Blues” in the Champions League.
In the 7 confrontations between the two teams in the European Cup, Real Madrid only won 1, drew 2 and lost up to 4. In the 2020/21 season, coach Tuchel’s Chelsea eliminated Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals. If they beat Real Madrid, Chelsea will definitely become a strong candidate for the Champions League title this season.
In the other pair of the draw, Pep Guardiola will have a reunion with his former club Bayern Munich for the first time since he moved to lead Man City more than half a decade ago. This is also a confrontation between two coaches who are highly regarded for their ability to innovate in the most tactics in Europe at the moment.
In the second season leading Bayern, young coach Julian Nagelsmann showed an improvement in terms of tactics and personnel management. The way the defending champion Germany defeated PSG convincingly in the round of 16 shows the talent of coach Nagelsmann. Man City is certainly an ominous challenge for Bayern.
But if the German club wants to win, they have to overcome everything. Erling Haaland will also have the opportunity to “revenge” against Bayern during his years playing for Dortmund. The Norwegian striker is expected to be the factor that helps Man City make a difference in the Champions League.
Opportunity for Napoli?
With only having to face AC Milan in the quarter-finals, Napoli has a great opportunity to go deep in the Champions League this season. Even coach Luciano Spalletti’s team can dream of reaching the final, when their potential opponents in the semi-finals are only Inter Milan or Benfica.
This season, Napoli beat AC Milan 2-1 in the first leg of Serie A. With the current impressive performance, the home team of Diego Maradona is considered a top candidate compared to the rest of the clubs in the draw. Napoli is also creating an 18-point gap against the second-placed team, Inter Milan, in the race to win the Serie A. If Napoli win Serie A soon, Spalletti can focus on the European arena.
Benfica and Inter Milan are also two surprising teams this season. It is Inter who are one of two teams in Serie A this season (along with Lazio) to beat Napoli. Benfica is the easiest draw for Inter in the quarter-finals, but coach Simone Inzaghi’s teachers and students cannot underestimate the Portuguese club.
Like Napoli, Benfica also showed impressive performance in the league, losing only 1 out of 24 matches. In the Champions League this season, the giants of Portuguese football are also unbeaten despite falling into a group that includes both PSG and Juventus. The way Benfica beat Juventus in both legs in the group stage of the Champions League speaks volumes.
In general, any club among Inter, AC Milan, Napoli or Benfica reaching the Champions League final this season will also bring a breath of fresh air.
Tuong Linh | 19:00 March 17, 2023