EUROPEAN LAST EIGHT DRAWS MADE
Tottenham supporters look away now. The Europa League draw has been made for both the quarterfinal and semi-final and after Jose Mourinho’s men were dumped out of the competition by Dinamo Zagreb, there is a very notable absence from the procedure.
Recriminations will certainly be happening in the white half of North London in due course and the fallout could be toxic. Although for the red portion, the focus is now on their last eight opposition and the route to the final which has subsequently been mapped out.
Although Arsenal lost 1-0 to Olympiakos on Thursday, they had enough of a first-leg buffer to advance and they have been rewarded with the pairing of Slavia Prague, as the Czech outfit displaced Rangers later that same evening.
While if Mikel Arteta’s men do advance, they could go up against Tottenham’s recent tormentors. If Dinamo Zagreb can continue their incredible progress, it would mean getting the better of Villarreal beforehand.
Of course, there is a neat sub-plot in all of this and with Unai Emery now in charge of the ‘Yellow Submarine’, what price would you put on two Spanish managers squaring off in the Europa League semi-finals?
In the other half of the draw, Manchester United have been paired with Granada and if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can navigate past the La Liga outfit, it is either Dutch giants Ajax or Paulo Fonseca’s Roma who lie in wait.
That takes care of Europa League business but what about its bigger competition brother? Well, when it comes to the Champions League, there is no shortage of intrigue regarding Friday’s quarter and semi-final draw.
The biggest story is undoubtedly a repeat of the 2020 final, as Bayern Munich and PSG will square off once more and although the holders are unchanged in terms of managerial personnel, there is a relatively new face in the Paris technical area.
Mauricio Pochettino knows what it is like to be a runner-up in this competition and after leading Tottenham to the 2019 final, the Argentine will now look to go one better with his newlyfound Ligue 1 charges.
Lying in wait for the winner could and most probably will be Manchester City, as they have been paired with Borussia Dortmund and although that is not to do the German outfit a disservice, they will certainly be the outsiders in this one.
Of course, it could well be a job audition for Erling Haaland and with the Norwegian constantly being linked with a summer move to the Etihad, he may end up causing continental misery for his potential paymasters.
Another interesting pairing in the Champions League last eight is Liverpool vs Real Madrid and although Zinedine Zidane’s men are not quite firing on all cylinders domestically, they seem to be a different beast in Europe.
Then again, you could offer up the same statement by switching Real Madrid’s manager with Liverpool’s and it is perhaps this symmetry between the two clubs, which makes their upcoming clashes so appealing.
While perhaps the team with the easiest draw are Chelsea and with Thomas Tuchel’s men making light work of Atletico Madrid in the Round of 16, they have been paired with FC Porto. Although one must not forget their heroics against Juventus in the previous stage of the competition.