Liverpool and Manchester City will cruise through to the Champions League semi-finals according to three pundits, but Chelsea could struggle against Real Madrid.
The Blues face a repeat of last season’s triumphant semi-final against Real over two legs in this season’s quarter-finals. Meanwhile, Liverpool play Benfica and City face two rounds against Atletico Madrid following Friday’s draw.
Chelsea drew 1-1 with Real in Spain last season before winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
And speaking to BT Sport after the draw, ex-Blues midfielder Joe Cole insisted “not much has changed” between the sides.
“I think Chelsea will be quite happy with that,” Cole said. “We did the semi-final last season and not much has changed from both sides. Chelsea were very comfortable.
“All the English clubs will have been happy to avoid each other. It could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse. This game [last season’s semi-final], it looked like an aging team against a young, vibrant team.
“And a year has passed and I don’t see much difference. I know [Carlo] Ancelotti has come in and he’s made an impact, but I think Chelsea will be reasonably happy.”
Indeed, European football expert James Horncastle declared that Ancelotti is “at the club that wins the Champions League” and is “a “Champions League-winning manager”.
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And despite not much changing between the teams, that means Madrid still have Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in midfield. The pair starred in the last 16 second leg comeback against Paris Saint-Germain.
Owen Hargreaves said: “They have a great goalkeeper, good defence, the midfield has been there about a decade. It’s unbelievable and [Karim] Benzema is playing at an all-time level with Vinicius Junior.
“They’re a huge threat, they’ve got the experience. They’re underdogs which might suit them. [Luka] Modric is timeless, just an amazing player.”
However, the three pundits predicted an easier passage through to the semi-finals for Liverpool and Man City.
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In fact, Hargreaves made City the favourites to win the competition, with Liverpool just behind.
He added on the Reds’ clash with Benfica: “They’ve got the easiest draw, or one of the easiest. You respect every opposition, they’ve had a great tournament.
“But, if Liverpool are anywhere near their normal level, they’ll be very, very comfortable.”
Horncastle added that Klopp’s men, who have “wiped the floor with Porto in recent seasons”, will have Portugal international Diogo Jota and ex-Porto man Luis Diaz ready to star in the away leg.
As for Man City against Atletico, Cole noted that Pep Guardiola and Diego Simeone have “polar opposite” styles.
But Hargreaves, who claimed that the Spanish side looked “average” in beating Manchester United in the last 16, are not the same team as the one that knocked Liverpool out at the same stage in 2020.
“They’re good at the dark arts, but I think City will have far too much for them,” Hargreaves said.
For now, though, all three English sides switch their focus to the FA Cup before the international break.
City play Southampton, Liverpool travel to Nottingham Forest and Chelsea are up against Middlesbrough in the quarter-finals.