Madrid Derby Headlines UCL Quarters


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The UEFA Champions League has offered one huge matchup, but the rest of the favorites for the title were separated in this season’s quarterfinal draw.

The UCL also provided football fans with a rematch of the 2013 quarterfinal round as well as a replay of two UCL finals. The most recent of those, which is the 2014 Madrid derby, is likely to be the most intriguing matchup of the round.

All games will be played on April 14-15 and April 21-22.

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Barcelona
Two questions will decide this matchup: Can Barcelona continue its magnificent recent form, and can PSG build on its round of 16 victory versus Chelsea?

PSG has been checked back once from such a notion this season. It beat Barcelona in its first group game only to be denied top spot by Barcelona on the last group stage match day. PSG is full of confidence, but it will not have Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti for the first game. Lionel Messi should provide the difference.

Barcelona to advance

Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid
This is the matchup that will command the most attention. These teams have faced each other six times this season, so the form of both times should go out the window here.

Both teams will be driven by revenge. Atletico beat Madrid, 4-0, in January, but Madrid won last season’s UCL final in extra time, 4-1. Atletico has the perfect opportunity to kill off those painful memories, but what would it say about Atletico if it failed to beat its biggest rival on the grandest of stages yet again?

Can Madrid turn around its recent poor run of form? It should be a sensational matchup.

Real Madrid to advance

FC Porto vs. Bayern Munich
Bayern is a heavy favorite, but that doesn’t mean it will blow away Porto like it did Shakhtar in the last round. Porto is dangerous in attack but doesn’t defend well at times. It’s capable of surprising Bayern, and if Bayern plays like it did at Shakhtar, Bayern could be in real trouble.

This matchup comes down to one harsh reality: If Bayern plays up to its ability in both games, it will cruise past Porto.

Bayern to advance

AS Monaco vs. Juventus
Both of these teams should feel lucky because they’ve avoided the favorites, which include Bayern, Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico.

This matchup represents a great opportunity for both of these teams to reach a place they haven’t been in a long time. Monaco last reached the semifinal in 2004, Juventus in 2003.

It’s a tough one to call. On one side, Monaco has a solid defense, but it struggles to score and almost blew its comfortable cushion against Arsenal in the last round. On the other, Juventus is a technical team, but it will be without star midfielder Paul Pogba for close to two months after he picked up an injury against Dortmund in the second leg last round.

It’s certainly a golden chance for both teams, but who will take advantage?

Juventus to advance

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Race for the EPL Player of the Year


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There may still be more than two months to go until the end of the English Premier League season, but many football writers and pundits have a strong idea on who should be named the EPL player of the year.

Luis Suarez, who scored 31 EPL goals last season before leaving for Barcelona, currently holds the title.

Here’s a look at the top five candidates for the award and why they should win it:

5. Branislav Ivanovic, right back, Chelsea
In one aspect, this is hard to call because the obvious stand-out stars – Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa – have either missed games or had a bad run of form at some point. In an even field, Ivanovic deserves votes because he’s typified best why Chelsea is on the verge of winning two trophies this season.

4. Nemanja Matic, defensive midfield, Chelsea
Jose Mourinho’s current Chelsea team is perhaps the most physically imposing he has ever put together and Matic plays a huge part in that. Matic is a great reader of the game, can pass the ball well and can get into any team in the world.

3. David De Gea, goalkeeper, Manchester United
Nobody goes to games to see a lack of goals, but De Gea has produced saves of absolute wonder this season. He’s worthy of repeated replays as much as any goal. This award should go to a player who has impacted his team significantly. So far, De Gea has done that. Without him, United wouldn’t have a prayer of reaching the top four.

2. Eden Hazard, winger, Chelsea
Chelsea isn’t the most popular team at the moment, but it does look like it will win two trophies in the EPL title and the Capital One Cup. The one who has contributed a lot to that? That would be Hazard, who was named the PFA young player of the year last season. Hazard, a supremely gifted footballer, could win the award ahead of Alexis Sanchez, Costa, Harry Kane and De Gea.

1. Harry Kane, striker, Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea has been the best team with consistency from Ivanovic, Matic and Hazard. But no one has had a better individual impact than Harry Kane.

He’s transformed the mood at White Hart Lane with his desire; he has deflected attention away from the big-money flops and offered hope for the future as a talisman for youth academies across England. Not to mention he’s scored 26 goals this season and is set for an England call-up.

He must finish the season strong, but he seems capable of doing that. Each time it looks like he’ll fade away, he responds with another goal or two.

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