With the international break over and done with, the three remaining La Liga sides left in the Champions League can focus on their respective quarter-final ties. Can they continue Spain’s dominance of international and club football by making it through?
Malaga v Borussia Dortmund
Malaga have beaten all the odds to reach the last eight having held off an experienced FC Porto side in the last round but, after proving their worth this season, Manuel Pellegrini’s side now look to be in good shape ahead of their tie with Borussia Dortmund.
A brilliant weekend win over Rayo Vallecano away from home has seen them prepare in the best possible way. Goals came from club captain Weligton, Julio Baptista and the impressive Pedro Morales, who is beginning to add real quality to this side after his January move.
The advantage for Pellegrini’s side is their home form, having kept four clean sheets in the five European home games they have played this season, but they have failed to win away from home in the Champions League since beating Anderlecht in October.
Talented youngster Isco is in red-hot form and leads the club’s scoring charts with 10 in all competitions, whilst Eliseu has been a real talisman in Europe this season, scoring four goals.
The real problem for Pellegrini is with who he selects up front, with both Javier Saviola and Roque Santa Cruz struggling for goals in the competition, but the Chilean coach experimented with Brazilian Julio Baptista and Spanish veteran winger Joaquin as a front two in that win over Rayo. Baptista is priced at 4.00 to follow up his weekend goal with a successful strike against BVB.
One thing for sure is that Malaga will give their best – they always do. The pressure is on, though, as their away form suggests a good first-leg result at home is vital to their chances of continuing in the competition.
Malaga are at 3.30 to establish a first leg lead and 3.40 outsiders to reach the last four, with Dortmund 2.15 favourites ahead of tomorrow’s game and as short as 1.30 to make the next round.
Paris Saint-Germain v Barcelona
La Liga leaders Barcelona prepared for tonight’s game in uncharacteristic fashion but they will put the weekend’s 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo down to fatigue after nearly all of the first team were on international duty last week.
Having lost that first-leg last-16 tie to AC Milan in Italy, many are predicting similar trouble in Paris on Tuesday night but with Lionel Messi in the form he is in and the return of both coach Tito Vilanova and left-back Eric Abidal, the Catalans arrive in France in perfect shape.
The news that Zlatan Ibrahimovic can face his former club after seeing his ban shortened has been met with little worry but PSG have more depth and quality than Milan did.
Question marks remain over what is the best starting eleven for Barca but if Vilanova and his assistant Jordi Roura look back at the last-16 second leg win over Milan, they will know who and who not to pick.
Midfielder Cesc Fabregas has seemingly lost his place in that side, having performed at an average level since the turn of the year, but the return to form of David Villa means the trio of Messi (3.25 to score first), Villa (5.50) and Pedro Rodriguez (6.50) is back.
The last time those three were in such good form Barcelona won the competition, with all three scoring in the final at Wembley against Manchester United, and while this year’s competition has proved tricky at times one can be excused for thinking they may just do it again.
PSG will prove no mugs though and the acquisition of Brazilian defender Thiago Silva last summer, a player who was in deep talks with Barca themselves, will ensure the Paris side prove tough opposition for the three aforementioned forwards.
Defensive concerns continue to grow for Barca, too, with youngster Martin Montoya having to fill the boots of Jordi Alba at left-back after the latter picked up an injury on international duty with Spain, while Javier Mascherano will play alongside Gerard Pique at the back.
Vilanova’s side will be extremely pleased that the draw saw them playing away from Camp Nou first as if anything does go wrong – as it did against Milan – then the chances are they can turn it around in Spain.
It’s 3.70 that PSG secure a draw tonight but odds of 1.14 on Barca reaching the last four tell you all you need to know.
Real Madrid v Galatasaray
Lastly it’s Real Madrid, who have been picking and choosing the games they want to perform in after dropping well behind Barcelona in La Liga.
Jose Mourinho’s side have been in poor form in general away from home this season but, as mentioned above, they can turn on the style at any given moment, as they did when producing a brilliant away display against Manchester United in the last-16.
Cristiano Ronaldo is desperate – as are the team – to win that elusive tenth European title and has eight goals in eight games in this year’s competition. It’s 3.25 he scores first, 2.10 he scores two or more and 6.00 he scores a hat trick, with money back on losing single bets if Real Madrid score a penalty.
Some are saying that Real Madrid have been given a theoretically simple task against Galatasaray but the players and Mourinho are not seeing it that way.
Los Blancos are aware of the threat that Turkish club Galatasaray pose, with Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba having both performed at the top of the highest level.
Mourinho’s men prepared much like Barcelona, drawing to struggling Real Zaragoza on Saturday night, but given they had a number of key players on international duty last week the result will have very little impact on Wednesday’s game.
Los Blancos are 1.13 to win on the night and 1.08 to advance to the next round, with Galatasaray rank outsiders at 7.50.