Khamis, 15 Mac 2012

Eight teams for UCL quarter finals

The eight teams who have qualified for the Champions League quarter-finals


Milan had to endure a topsy-turvy path to the quarter-finals. A sensational 4-0 home win over Arsenal in the first leg of the last 16 has become all but a distant memory following their horror 3-0 capitulation in the second leg at the Emirates that almost cost them a place in the last eight.

It was an equally inconsistent run from Massimiliano Allegri's men in the group phase. A valiant fightback to hold Barcelona to a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou in the opening game brought much optimism to the camp, and back-to-back 2-0 wins, over Viktoria Plzen and BATE Borisov, saw the Rossoneri lead their section after the first three fixtures. But the Italians failed to win any of their last three Group H encounters, losing 3-2 at home to Barca and stuttering to a 2-2 draw at Viktoria after conceding twice in the last two minutes of the game despite taking a two-goal lead. However, Milan still comfortably finished as runners-up.


The Cinderella story continues for APOEL as they became the first Cypriot club to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Grinding out tough results has typified Ivan Jovanovic's men in this competition. A 2-1 win at home to Zenit St Petersburg in the opener set them on their way, while 1-1 draws in difficult away trips to Shakhtar Donetsk and Porto kept them firmly in the hunt for a berth to the knockout phase. The Nicosia outfit then stunned last season's Europa League victors with a 2-1 home win, and another gutsy draw, a 0-0 stalemate at Zenit effectively confirmed their place in the next stage with one game to spare.

APOEL's resilience was further emphasised in the round of 16 tie against Lyon. Losing 1-0 in the first leg, they overcame the deficit against their more experienced French opponents to force a penalty shoot-out, where they triumphed 4-3 to claim their spot in the quarter-finals.


Barcelona's Lionel Messi-inspired 10-1 aggregate demolition of Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 will remain the talk of the continent heading into the quarter-final draw, as Europe's hopefuls looking to dethrone the reigning champions will be keen to avoid a meeting with the Catalan giants.

Apart from a 2-2 stumble in the opening Group H clash at home to AC Milan, Pep Guardiola's side have never looked troubled in this season's competition. They scored nine goals in total against BATE Borisov in the two group matches, and six in total against Viktoria Plzen without conceding to either opponent. A 3-2 win in San Siro over the Rossoneri essentially handed the Blaugrana top spot in their section. Including their 10 goals scored against Leverkusen, Barca will head into the quarter-finals having already netted 30 times in just eight Champions League matches.


Barcelona and Messi weren't the only ones setting records in the last 16. After crashing to a shock 1-0 defeat at Basel in the first leg, Bayern Munich responded in style in the return clash by annihilating the Swiss side 7-0 to record the biggest margin of victory in the knockout phase of the Champions League.

The Bavarians beat FC Zurich 3-0 on aggregate in the play-offs to make the competition-proper, and they were in control right from the start in Group A, labelled the 'Group of Death'. They swept past their two closest rivals at home, beating Manchester City 2-0 and Napoli 3-2, and a double over Villarreal coupled with a draw at San Paolo against the Partenopei confirmed their place at the top of the section. A 2-0 loss at City on matchday six when they had already qualified as group winners was their only blemish.


For only the second time in 17 seasons - and the first time in six - Benfica are in the quarter-finals of Europe's premier club competition. The Portuguese giants had to overcome Twente 5-3 on aggregate in the play-offs to make the tournament-proper. But a 1-1 draw with last season's runners-up Manchester United in their opening Group C clash set the tone for Jorge Jesus' side.

Subsequent away wins at Otelul Galati and Basel put them in the driver's seat to advance to the knockout stage, which they achieved after a stunning 2-2 draw at Old Trafford against United on matchday five. Joining Barcelona and Real Madrid as the only sides to complete the group stage undefeated, Benfica had to fight back from 3-2 down against Zenit St Petersburg, winning 2-0 in the second leg to book their ticket to the quarter-finals.


Interim manager Roberto Di Matteo appears to have put an end to Chelsea's slump after replacing the sacked Andre Villas-Boas, and the remarkable comeback triumph over Napoli 5-4 on aggregate in last-16 after losing the first leg 3-1 will confirm the club's turnaround in fortunes.

The Blues' patchy form in the group stage almost saw them miss out on the knockout rounds, despite qualifying as Group E victors. They looked to be on the right path after two wins in their first three games, but a surprise 1-1 draw in Genk followed by a 2-1 loss at Bayer Leverkusen put their qualification under threat. However, a 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge over Valencia on matchday six in a must-win encounter propelled them into the next phase.


Marseille had to wait almost 20 years to win their first knockout game in the Champions League when they beat Inter 1-0 in the first leg of the last 16. And that slender scoreline was enough to send them to the quarter-finals on away goals despite a dramatic 2-1 loss to the Nerazzurri in San Siro in the second leg.

In the group stage, much like in the round of 16, OM needed some late heroics to finish runners-up in their section. After winning their opening two Group F fixtures, they slumped to a run of two defeats and a draw. But an extraordinary fightback on matchday six saw them rally from two goals down to win 3-2 at Borussia Dortmund, thanks to a double strike in the final five minutes of the encounter, to salvage their place in the knockout phase.


Real Madrid became only the fifth club in the history of the Champions League to win all six of their group games, but their attempts to match Barcelona's run of seven straight victories in the competition were foiled in the 93rd minute of their first leg last-16 clash at CSKA Moscow, which ended in a 1-1 draw. But a 4-1 second-leg win was enough to send Jose Mourinho's men into the quarter-finals.

A slender 1-0 away win at Dinamo Zagreb in their opening group game was about all Madrid had to contend with, as five further victories and 18 goals later saw them comfortably march to the top of Group D, a staggering 10 points clear of eventual runners-up Lyon. Along with Barca, Los Blancos will enter the quarter-finals as the only unbeaten side left in this season's Champions League.


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