Manchester teams complicate Champions League draw
Manchester United will face Barcelona in a heavyweight Champions League quarterfinal after the draw was made at UEFA’s Swiss headquarters in Nyon on Friday.
Serie A giants Juventus will face Ajax following the Dutch side’s incredible victory over Real Madrid while last year’s beaten finalists Liverpool was arguably handed a favorable draw against Porto.
Meanwhile, Tottenham will face the competition’s top scorers Manchester City in the only all-English quarterfinal.
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The semifinal draw was also made on Friday, with Manchester United or Barca due to face Liverpool or Porto, with the winner of the tie between Manchester City and Tottenham playing either Ajax or Juve.
The quarterfinal first legs will be played on April 9/10 with the reverse fixtures scheduled for April 16/17.
The semifinals will kick off on April 30 and May 1 — with the second legs set for May 7/8 — ahead of the final at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium on June 1.
English dominance returns?
It is the first time in a decade that four English Premier League clubs will be in the Champions League quarterfinals, with Chelsea the last side to win the tournament in 2012.
Only two other English teams, Liverpool in 2005 and Manchester United in 2008, have been crowned European champions this century. In the same period Spain has had 10 Champions League winning teams.
United fixture reversed
United last met Barca in the 2011 Champions League final when it was well beaten by a side inspired by Lionel Messi. However, confidence will be high for United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his squad after a dramatic second leg comeback saw them overturn a 2-0 deficit away to Paris Saint-Germain.
That both Manchester clubs have reached the last eight has provided an organizational headache for Champions League organizers UEFA and a small bragging rights victory for City, a club former United manager Alex Ferguson once Old Trafford’s “noisy neighbors.”
Local authorities in Manchester have made it clear that both teams cannot play on the same night in the city nor on consecutive nights during the knockout stages.
So UEFA has ordered Barcelona’s game against Manchester United be switched, meaning the first leg will now be played at Old Trafford, with Solskjaer returning to the Nou Camp — the scene of his last-minute goal in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich — on April 16.
Champions League knockout matches are played over two legs with many managers and players preferring to play the first leg away and the second leg at home.
A 2007 paper published in the Journal of Sport Sciences found the “second leg home advantage” phenomenon was “real” with the teams who play the second leg at their own stadium historically having a greater than 50% chance of progressing to the next round.
However, the study also found that the extent to which having the second leg home at home was advantageous had decreased significantly in modern times.
A 2017 paper from academics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, also found a “slight second-leg home advantage” remained evident.
In the Europa League quarterfinals, Arsenal face a tough fixture against Napoli while Chelsea will play Slavia Prague following the Czech side’s stunning comeback against Sevilla in the last round.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery is looking for his fourth Europa League success after winning three successive titles as manager of Sevilla.
Elsewhere, Spanish side’s Villarreal and Valencia were drawn together and Benfica will face Eintracht Frankfurt.
The first legs will kick off on April 11 with the reverse fixtures scheduled for April 18.
Quarterfinal draw in full
Ajax vs. Juventus
Liverpool vs. Porto
Tottenham vs. Manchester City
Manchester United vs. Barcelona
Semifinal draw in full
Tottenham/Manchester City vs. Ajax/Juventus
Manchester United/Barcelona vs. Liverpool/Porto
Europa League quarterfinal draw in full
Napoli v Arsenal
Villarreal v Valencia
Benfica v Eintracht Frankfurt
Slavia Prague v Chelsea