It seems that a David and Goliath matchup happens at least once in every tournament. This is the game that we know the bigger club will most likely win, but deep down we would like to see the underdog pull off the upset. Luckily for us fans, all four games of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals more or less fall into this category, and the quality of the teams also bodes well for the semifinals.
Manchester United will have an easy trip but a hard task once it gets to London, where English rival Chelsea awaits. The Blues’ form has slipped dramatically since the early stages of the season, but they beat the Red Devils a few weeks ago. It will be exciting to see whether the resurgent Blues can keep their momentum going and salvage a season that has been slipping away.
A win would give Roman Abramovich’s club a small measure of revenge for its penalty-kick loss to United in the Champions League final three years ago, and Chelsea has the right man at the helm. Manager Carlo Ancelotti has won the Champions League four times, twice as a player and twice as a coach, and is one of only six people in history who can claim that distinction. His counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, has a long and accomplished record of his own and is known for, if nothing else, achieving his best results late in the season.
The third English team, Champions League debutantes Tottenham Hotspur, continues on its remarkable journey with a trip to the Santiago Bernabéu stadium to face off against Real Madrid, which is in the quarterfinals for the first time in seven years.
Both Real and Tottenham have recently improved form to thank for their advancement in this tournament. The acquisitions of Ángel di María, Mesut Özil, Ricardo Carvalho and perhaps the signing of the year, manager José Mourinho, have significantly transformed the side that crashed out in the first knockout round last year. In the other corner, Tottenham’s acquisitions of Rafael van der Vaart, Sandro and William Gallas have created a more solid team to complement the great width provided by Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon on the flanks and the central creativity of Luka Modric. Despite Spurs’ improvements, Mourinho and Real have to be considered the favorites as “the Special one” seeks to become the first manager to win the Champions League with three different teams.
An invigorated Shakhtar Donetsk side will face the best team in the world in the quarterfinals and has as much reason to hope as any team does, having beaten Barcelona at Camp Nou three years ago. These squads are much different, though, and Barcelona certainly looks to be much stronger. But a Shakhtar team that has upset Champions League regulars Arsenal and Roma should not be underestimated. With Barca likely to be missing Carles Puyol due to injury, Shakhtar’s forwards and attack-minded midfielders will have to seize the opportunity to give themselves a chance. Barcelona needs no greater incentive to win than the opportunity to face its rival Real Madrid in the next round.
Last but certainly not least, Schalke travels to Italy to face last year’s champion, Inter Milan, in what should be a very exciting game. Schalke is dealing with the recent firing of manager Felix Magath and the appointment of Ralf Rangnick in his place, but hopefully that doesn’t interrupt the sensational international run that has gotten the German team this far. With the firepower of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Jefferson Farfán up front and heaps of experience from the tournament’s top scorer, Raúl González,
Schalke should pose a significant threat for the current champions. Schalke’s potent attack should combine with Inter’s own star attackers like Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder as well as the Italians’ shaky back four to make for a heavily attack-minded game. Perhaps the most important motivation for Inter, though, will be proving that it is capable of winning in Europe even in the absence of former manager José Mourinho.
Michael Appau is a sophomore in the College. Cem Yolbulan is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. Gemini Sports appears in every other Tuesday edition of Hoya Sports.