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Meet the teams

With six different countries represented, this year's UEFA Champions League quarter-finals line-up contains the most diverse grouping since 1999. Featuring an all Gallic contest, a repeat of the 1999 and 2006 Champions League finals and a trip to Moscow for Inter Milan, the quarter-finals that begin on March 30 should be utterly fascinating.

Olympique Lyonnais Vs Girondins Bordeaux

Laurent Blanc's Bordeaux ended Lyon's run of 7 consecutive French league titles, by lifting ‘Le Championnat' last season. Currently sitting atop its domestic league, Bordeaux has been impressive this season, topping its Champions League group that comprised Bayern Munich and Juventus and securing a comfortable victory over Olympiakos in the round of 16. Although only sixth in the French League at the moment, Lyon has been in fine form in Europe. After playing its part in Liverpool's elimination, it produced the surprise of the round by despatching Real Madrid in the pre-quarter-finals. With its greater European experience, Lyon probably starts as the slim favourite, but if Bordeaux's Yoann Gourcuff can live up to his burgeoning expectations, Blanc can look forward to a potential visit to Old Trafford in the semi-finals.

Bayern Munich Vs Manchester United

The present Bayern Munich outfit is barely a shadow of its Champions League winning team in 2001, but in Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery, it boasts genuine match winners and in Louis Van Gaal, a coach rich in European experience. Defensively, the Bavarians are shaky and with Wayne Rooney in tremendous goal scoring form, Manchester United will consider itself as the clear favourite. If United can quell the threat of Bayern's wingers, it has enough in its artillery to ensure a smooth progress to the semi-finals, especially considering that the second leg is to be played at Old Trafford. And having avoided Barcelona, Arsenal and Inter Milan in its section of the draw, a place in a third consecutive final of the Champions League is quite conceivable for the English champion.

Inter Milan Vs CSKA Moscow

On the back of its splendid defeat of Chelsea, Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan may be expected to trample first time quarter-finalists CSKA Moscow, but the Russians are no pushovers. CSKA was outstanding against Sevilla in the first knockout round and Inter should be particularly wary of Mark Gonzalez and Miloš Krasic, who offer a potent threat from wide areas. Amid its domestic exertions, Inter will not relish a trip to play in the artificial surface at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow and would be keen on settling the tie in the first leg. But, with Wesley Sneijder in sublime form and owning an experienced backline, Inter should be able to look forward to a contest with either Arsenal or Barcelona in the semi-finals.

Arsenal Vs Barcelona

Barcelona is a team that nobody wanted to face, but Arsenal is perhaps the only team in Europe capable of matching the Catalans in its own game. Having overcome a dip in form by scoring 11 goals in its last three games, Barcelona is looking imperious yet again with Lionel Messi who has scored eight of those goals seeming unstoppable. Arsenal led by Cesc Fabregas, a player blessed with maturity that belies his age, is capable of exposing Barcelona's defensive frailties with its incisive and quick counter-attacking ability. But, with the second leg to be played at the Camp Nou and possessing a greater variety in its game, Barcelona will certainly start the tie as the favourite. Regardless of the result though, the footballing philosophies of both teams should ensure an aesthetically pleasing contest.

Suhrith has finished law from the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata


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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 7:16:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/Meet-the-teams/article16330342.ece

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