By Ssekamatte Allan Mabiriizi Simons
MANCHESTER CITY v Atletico Madrid
Pep Guardiola faces off against old rival Diego Simeone who in 2016 famously masterminded Atletico Madrid’s semifinal victory over the Catalan football alchemist when he was Bayern Munich boss.
Though Atletico eliminated Manchester United, the Spanish champions – losing finalists in 2014 and 2016 – are performing below expectations in Liga Santander where they currently lie fourth with no chance of retaining their title.
Inversely, Manchester City are locked in a tense battle for the Premier League title and are bookmakers favourites to win Big Ears.
Unless Guardiola sabotages his chances with mindless tinkering, City will cruise past an Atleti side that is yet to fully replace defensive lynchpins Diego Godin and Miranda. VERDICT: Manchester City to progress
CHELSEA v Real Madrid
Even if record champions Real Madrid showed great durability by outlasting Paris Saint Germain in the round of 16, bookmakers have them as fifth favourites to win their 14th crown, just behind quarterfinal rivals Chelsea.
It’s a repeat of last year’s semifinal square up which saw Chelsea industry and youth triumph over an ageing Los Blancos side.
Madrid have improved thanks to Vinicius Junior’s rapid development and Eder Militao’s quick maturity but unless Carlo Ancelotti’s dinosaurs Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemito can match Chelsea’s midfield for mobility and numbers (the Londoners play a 4-6-0 or 4-5-1), they are staring at another elimination. In fact, Real have never beaten the west Londoners. VERDICT: Chelsea to progress
Benfica v LIVERPOOL
Anfield boss Jurgen Klopp must be smiling at the kind draw that pits the six time champions against Benfica.
The 1961 and 1962 winners surprisingly eliminated Ajax Amsterdam with Darwin Nunez heading home from their only shot on target of the game at the Johann Cruyff Arena.
Liverpool have turned on the afterburners in England where Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota, Trent Alexander Arnold, Andrew Robertson and Roberto Firmino dominate goal involvement stats.
Liverpool are the bookmakers second favourites whereas Benfica are the 66-1 rank outsiders; there can only be one winner – Liverpool.
VERDICT: Liverpool to progress
Villarreal v BAYERN MUNICH
Yellow Submarines boss Unai Emery showed his European pedigree by eliminating Juventus 4-1 on aggregate in the round of 16.
Old Lady supremo Max Allegri will be the first to admit his team was profligate and careless.
Bayern Munich will be an utterly different kettle of fish. Since they are defensively sound with Spain internationals Raul Albiol and Pau Torres marshalling central defense, Villarreal will compete during the first leg but be blown away by Robert Lewandowski, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnarby at the Allianz Arena. VERDICT: Bayern Munich to progress