Then there were only eight! The Champions League has once again boiled down to the quarter-final stage and there are some feisty match-ups in store early next month.
With the international hiatus in full flow, this is a good chance to assess the last-eight draw and pick our fancies in Europe’s biggest and best tournament.
There really is only one place to start, the meeting of Premier League heavyweights Liverpool and Manchester City.
It has been rosy in the garden domestically for Pep Guardiola and his team for most of this term, but their bubble of invincibility was of course burst in spectacular fashion by Liverpool at Anfield in January.
The scoreline ended 4-3 though that really didn’t convey the Reds superiority on the day, of course, it did highlight the flaws in Jurgen Klopp’s side that it became so fraught for them.
Liverpool have lost just one of six games against Manchester City in recent times, a 5-0 drubbing in September that owed plenty to Sadio Mane’s early red card.
Meeting Liverpool is probably not what Guardiola and City were hoping for at this stage, as Premier League v Premier League brings a different dimension on this stage. Anfield can be an immense cauldron on European occasions and Klopp’s team must seize the momentum in the first leg.
They are capable of doing that, which makes me lean towards taking 17/10 that Liverpool will dump City out over two legs.
Holders Real Madrid are coming good after a poor start to the season, with Cristiano Ronaldo typically to the fore, scoring a dozen of their 22 Champions League goals.
Winning back-to-back Champions League titles was a remarkable achievement from Zinedine Zidane’s team – it had eluded many before them – but it is hard to foresee three-in-a-row.
Paris St-Germain and Madrid in the last-16 was viewed as a major showdown between the aristocracy of European football and the upstarts seeking to join the party.
Looking back at the tie, the Ligue 1 side were defensively naïve and just appeared to be outthought by a team that has walked this journey so many times before.
In the first leg in the Bernabeu, the game was there for Neymar and company, but they could not seize it.
Juventus, Real’s quarter-final opponents, meanwhile were extracting themselves from an improbable situation against Tottenham in the previous round.
The Serie A champions are as streetwise as they come and in Gonzalo Higuain they’ve got a former Madrid frontman with an axe to grind.
Sevilla made small boys of Manchester United in the previous round but really there was a bit of self-harm in the demise of Jose Mourinho’s side.
Over two legs, United failed to ask tough questions of the La Liga outfit, one that has proved adept in the Europa League over the last decade but routinely been found wanting at this elite level.
Sevilla deserved their Old Trafford success but Bayern Munich won’t allow them such an easy time of things.
The Bundesliga champions are going about their business this season without any real fuss. To my eyes, the quarter-final draw has been kind to them and Bayern appeal as the value bet at this stage to be outright winners at 15/4. Jupp Heynckes has done it before and his side are well capable of matching anyone on their day.
In the last of the quarter-finals, 5/2 tournament favourites Barcelona should be able to overpower a Roma team that was fortuitous to get past Shakhtar Donetsk in the previous round.
The Italians were thumped 6-1 when they last ventured into the Nou Camp and, with the first leg away from home, it is likely they’ll be facing a mountainous climb when they get Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez et al in the Italian capital.
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