The UEFA Champions League returns with some mouth-watering encounters lined up and lots of money to be made with handsome odds on offer. Eight teams from five different countries feature in the quarter-finals but sadly this time no English teams have made it to the last eight. Holders Real Madrid will meet city rivals Atletico Madrid in a repeat of last season's final. Elsewhere, Barcelona face French giants Paris Saint Germain in arguably the most difficult encounter to pick a winner from. Bayern have a somewhat straightforward looking tie against Porto, while Juve will play Arsenal’s conquerors Monaco.
Tuesday 14 April
Atletico Madrid 7/4
Real Madrid 16/10
If anything will put the buzz back into Atletico Madrid’s faltering season, this will. After the dramatic victory by penalty shootout over Bayer Leverkusen in the previous round, they now have the opportunity to avenge last May’s UEFA Champions League final defeat. While Atleti simply don't have the depth or individual brilliance to crush La Liga sides with the same regularity as Spain's big two, they're a team perfectly constructed for knockout football. Real Madrid might have the best collection of talent in the world, but their balance is questionable and they've been exposed by Atletico Madrid this term. The two sides have already met six times this season, with Atletico winning both the Spanish Super Cup and Copa del Rey Round of 16 tie over two legs, while Diego Simeone's men also won both La Liga clashes, including a 4-0 victory in February. Atleti are undefeated against Los Blancos in their last eight encounters and with home advantage should prevail here.
Juventus head in as favourites after a tremendous Round of 16 performance against Borussia Dortmund, though they certainly shouldn't be expecting Monaco to roll over. Monaco boast technique in Dimitar Berbatov and Joao Moutinho and pace in Yannick Ferreira Carrasco. Their ability to defend as a unit is their greatest strength, while their midfield works exceptionally hard. They certainly have their flaws but organisation and determination can be enough to beat teams that are technically superior and for that, the Old Lady has to remember to maintain intensity and concentration throughout the match. The Old Lady are chasing a first Champions League semi-final since 2003 and have the firepower of a soaring Carlos Tevez. Whether it's excellent link-up play with his young strike partner Alvaro Morata, or lashing the ball into the back of the net from 25 yards, Tevez can do it all. He's a nightmare for defences to keep quiet and could well prove to be the difference in this one. Juventus are unbeaten on their turf in Serie A having won thirteen of their fifteen matches and are tipped get the win.
Wednesday 15 April
Bayern Munich 15/20
Probably the easiest of the ties to call, even if that does not necessarily mean it will be an easy tie for Bayern to win. Porto are an intelligently set-up team, awkward in defence and abrasive in attack. Bayern are going to have a ton of possession and when they lose the ball, they're going to pressure Porto hard, even in their attacking third. Porto's best chances to score will be from early balls that get up the pitch quickly to find Jackson Martinez, one of the best strikers in the world on form. Bayern won the trophy in 2013 and Pep Guardiola will be keen for his side to make amends for last season's disappointing semi-final exit to Real in which they lost the second leg at home 4-0. It's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that Porto pull off a huge upset and not even extremely unlikely that they make this very hard for Bayern Munich. They're a good team. Bayern are just the best team in the world in my opinion. Back the Bavarians to oust their opponents at 15/20.
Paris Saint-Germain 33/10
Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona have been pitted against each other in a repeat of 2013's quarterfinal. PSG will be hoping to gain revenge after Barcelona progressed that year and will take confidence following their elimination of Chelsea in the Round of 16. The mood in the PSG squad is said to be buoyant having already beaten the Catalans at the Parc des Princes in the group stages, although that may be affected by the loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti for the first leg. Then there's the sparkling form of Lionel Messi who could be the difference, as he so often is. Few teams possess the momentum Barcelona are currently enjoying and their victory over Manchester City showcased some of the finest football we have seen for quite some time. Having won eighteen of their last nineteen matches with eight successive victories is phenomenal. Luis Enrique is finally getting the best out of his tremendous front three, perhaps most obviously highlighted by Luis Suarez finding his goalscoring form. Enrique has managed to zone in on a combative style that doesn't overlook Barca's passing roots. This has played a major role in the side moving above Real Madrid in La Liga, and indeed, outlining Barca as genuine Champions League contenders. I’m going for a Barcelona win with Both Teams to Score on the Matchbet market at 26/10.
The quad works out to 23/1! Get on!