After a month-long hiatus, I want to welcome back each and every one of you to Well-In, Lad. Luckily, for my content’s sake, we’re entering what many would consider the most exciting stretch of soccer this year. Most major European leagues have a little over a month left in their seasons, which means each game is increasingly important as teams chase down league titles or European qualification spots or attempt to pull themselves up by the bootstraps to avoid relegation. And, for the best of the best, the Champions League is in its final stages as the eight remaining teams vie to be crowned the kings of Europe. That’s what I want to talk about today. In the spirit of March Madness and picking brackets, I want to lay out my predictions for the rest of the tournament—and if you disagree, please, let me know. For those of you who are realizing that, by the time this is published, all the first legs of the quarterfinals have been played, don’t worry. I wrote this on April 5. I’m not cheating.
FC Bayern Munich vs. Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) – Ben’s Pick: Paris Saint-Germain
In a rematch of last year’s Champions League final, I’m gonna take PSG to get their revenge. PSG’s dismantling of Barcelona in the Round of 16 proved they can still handle Europe’s best. Their frontline of Kylian Mbappé, Moise Kean and Neymar is guaranteed to net some goals. If goal machine Robert Lewandowski was playing up top for Bayern, this might be a different story, but with him injured on the sidelines for both legs, I just don’t see Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting being the offensive presence Bayern needs to take down PSG.
Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund – Ben’s Pick: Manchester City
Despite Erling Haaland’s hot goalscoring streak, I just don’t see Dortmund being able to manage what I think might be the best team in Europe right now. Man City has a formidable back line, perhaps the best midfield in the world (headlined by Kevin de Bruyne) and a breadth of skilled attackers. Don’t get me wrong—Dortmund is very good too, but with their recent struggles domestically, missing elite winger Jadon Sancho for the first leg and the sheer strength of the Man City side, finding a way to win would be quite the feat.
Real Madrid CF vs. Liverpool F.C. – Ben’s Pick: Real Madrid
Real Madrid haven’t lost a game since late January, and in my opinion they are one of most well-balanced teams still left in the Champions League. Real has got both a solid back line and a midfield that will be integral in slowing down Liverpool’s menacing attack. On the other hand, injuries have left Liverpool’s back line weak. I don’t think Liverpool’s center-back duo of Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak has the experience or skill to handle what the Real Madrid attack is going to throw at them.
FC Porto vs. Chelsea F.C. – Ben’s Pick: FC Porto
I just can’t pick Chelsea. I can’t do it. You think they’ve finally found their form, and then they go lose 5-2 to West Brom. Timo Werner has proved incredibly unreliable, and having N’Golo Kante out to injury is a tough loss, perhaps further exposing a back line that has shown it isn’t quite sewed tight enough. Porto doesn’t have the big names some of these other clubs do, but taking down Juventus proved their ability to play good team soccer and get results.
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Manchester City – Ben’s Pick: Manchester City
As much as I love PSG’s attack, I just don’t think they’ll be able to muster what it takes to get behind a Man City defense that has conceded just 21 goals in 31 league games this season. PSG’s biggest question mark, in my opinion, is its defense—which, when going against City’s high octane offense (which boasts playmaker after playmaker sitting in the midfield) is not a good match. With all the talent on the City roster, I find it hard to see them losing to PSG.
Real Madrid CF vs. FC Porto – Ben’s Pick: Real Madrid CF
Unfortunately, as much as I like to see the underdog succeed, I think this is as far as Porto will make it. Real Madrid’s creativity will be the key to unlocking Porto’s deep approach. But I think Madrid has enough quality and experience up top to find a way past a defense led by none other than Pepe, the Real Madrid legend himself. Real Madrid’s defense will also be a tough nut to crack, especially if Sergio Ramos is back, and I think their quality will see them past Porto into the Finals.
Manchester City vs. Real Madrid CF – Ben’s Pick: Manchester City
Like I mentioned earlier, I think Manchester City is the best team in Europe right now. Pep Guardiola has plenty of experience coaching big games, and the club’s sheer depth of talented players should see them lifting the Champions League trophy in May. When you get on the pitch, anything can happen, but I think Manchester City just has too much quality and experience to falter—and I think even they would agree anything short of bringing home the trophy would be a letdown.