Benfica v Liverpool, Tuesday 8pm (GMT)
Benfica’s hopes of winning the Primeira Liga are all but over. They lost 3-2 to Braga on Friday night and are now 12 points behind the league leaders Porto, who also have a game in hand. Benfica’s defeat over the weekend was away, but their home form has not been great either – they have only won three of their last seven matches at Estádio Da Luz. However, they have already upset the odds in the Champions League this season, reaching the quarter-finals by beating Ajax 3-2 on aggregate in the last 16.
Benfica will be without Lucas Veríssimo (no relation to manager Nélson Veríssimo) and Rodrigo Pinho, and they are sweating on the fitness of midfielder Adel Taarabt. Taarabt missed the defeat to Braga through injury, though in-demand forward Darwin Núñez came off the bench to score and provide an assist, so his confidence in him will be high.
Liverpool kept up the pressure on title rivals Manchester City with a 2-0 win over Watford on Saturday. Their recent form has been amazingly good. They have won 16 of their last 17 matches – the only hiccup a 1-0 defeat at home to Inter last month, and even that loss came in the context of winning the tie on aggregate – and have won their last eight away matches.
Curtis Jones was forced off with an ankle issue at the weekend and Joel Matip sustained a nasty bump to the head but both players, as well as Naby Keïta, are fit, with Jürgen Klopp confirming he has a full squad available. Trent Alexander-Arnold made the bench on Saturday and should take over from Joe Gomez at right-back. In attack, Luis Díaz and Sadio Mané could start in place of Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino. Prediction: Liverpool to go through
Manchester City v Atletico Madrid, Tuesday, 8pm
Having dropped points in three of their last five league matches, Manchester City’s lead at the top of the table has been cut to one point, though they did not let Liverpool’s win over Watford early on Saturday impact their trip to Burnley, where they won 2 -0 thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gündogan.
City eased into the quarter-finals with a 5-0 aggregate win over Sporting CP in the last 16. Pep Guardiola bemoaned his lack of options at right-back before the second leg of that tie but Kyle Walker is available following his suspension, which is a boost for his team, given that Rúben Dias is still sidelined.
Atlético Madrid also welcome back a key player following a ban, with Yannick Carrasco returning to Diego Simeone’s side. However, Atlético will be without José Giménez after he sustained a knock in their 4-1 win over Alavés on Saturday. Atleti are 12 points behind Real Madrid in La Liga and will not be retaining their title.
However, they arrive at the Etihad in great form. Simeone’s side are unbeaten in eight and have won seven of those games – including a 1-0 win on their last trip to Manchester, when they dumped United out of the Champions League at Old Trafford. Four straight away wins is ideal preparation for facing City for the first time. This will be just the fourth time that Guardiola and Simeone have faced each other. Prediction: Manchester City to go through
Villarreal v Bayern Munich, Wednesday 8pm
Villarreal did not have the best preparation for this tie, losing to Levante – who were bottom of La Liga when the game kicked off – at the weekend. They have now been beaten in three of their last five games in all competitions, dropping down to seventh in La Liga, but they did pull off an impressive 3-0 win at Juventus to book their spot in the quarter-finals. It has been a strange season for Unai Emery’s side. They have only won one home game in the Champions League, when they beat Young Boys in the group stage, yet they are in the last eight.
They will need to be at their very best to compete with Bayern Munich. They are without Alberto Moreno, so Alfonso Pedraza is expected to feature at left-back, while attacking pair Samuel Chukwueze and Boulaye Dia are fitness concerns. Gerard Moreno is expected to lead the charge; his return from him is a timely boost for Emery.
As for Bayern, they booked their place in the last eight by beating RB Salzburg 8-2 on aggregate, with seven of those goals coming in the second leg. They have scored eight goals in their last two league matches – beating Union Berlin 4-0 and Freiburg 4-1 either side of the international break – to open up a nine-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga. With six games left to play, it’s a matter of when, rather than if, they are crowned champions, and they’ll be looking to add a second Champions League success in their last three years.
They did the double over Villarreal when they last met in the Champions League a decade ago, and will be confident of repeating that feat over the next week. Bayern will be without Eric Choupo-Moting after his positive Covid test and Corentin Tolisso is expected to miss out after after lasting just 23 minutes at Freiburg, but Alphonso Davies is back in training having come down with myocarditis after a bout of Covid and he’ I’ll hope to feature before the end of the season. Prediction: Bayern Munich to go through
Chelsea v Real Madrid, Wednesday 8pm
Chelsea need to bounce back quickly after their shock 4-1 home defeat to Brentford on Saturday. That loss ended a run of six straight wins and was just their second home defeat of the season.
Ben Chilwell is the only confirmed absentee for Chelsea, with Reece James, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Saúl Ñíguez all overcoming various knocks and support to make the squad at the weekend. Christian Pulisic is expected to be available, having returned late from international duty and missed the defeat to Brentford on Saturday, though it remains to be seen if Callum Hudson-Odoi will overcome an achilles and back problem.
Real Madrid were thumped 4-0 in the Clásico before the international break but responded well at the weekend, winning 2-1 at Celta Vigo to stay 12 points clear at the top of La Liga, albeit having played a game more than second-placed Barcelona. With the title almost secured, Carlo Ancelotti can dedicate his attention to beating his former club in the Champions League and becoming a European champion for the sixth time – he has already won this competition twice as a player and three times as a manager.
Ancelotti returns to Stamford Bridge with Casemiro and Ferland Mendy back in contention following bans and the duo may start. Eden Hazard is recovering after ankle surgery so cannot play against his former club but Thibaut Courtois, another former Chelsea player, will hope to spoil the party having made more saves (32) than any other goalkeeper in the Champions League this season. Prediction: Chelsea to go through
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.