The Champions League quarterfinal draw could have yielded much more explosive results, but we're left with the potential for an even more explosive set of semifinals, should the final eight go to form.
The possibilities for Friday's draw included a Clasico, two sets of Pep Guardiola derbies (Barcelona-Man City, Bayern Munich-Man City), a Monchi showdown (Roma's current sporting director/Sevilla's former one) and more permutations pitting the world's elite against one another. And while a pair of mouthwatering matchups await, augmented by another pair of seemingly straightforward ones, it's clear that the biggest battles are yet to come.
Here are the four that were picked out of the pot by Ukrainian Champions League ambassador Andriy Shevchenko, as the road to the May 26 final in Kiev continues:
BARCELONA vs. ROMA (April 4 at Camp Nou; April 10 at Stadio Olimpico)
There were only two matchups where Barcelona would have been a sure-fire favorite to go through, and this is one of them. All credit to Roma for winning a difficult group and reaching this stage by beating a tricky Shakhtar Donetsk side, but this likely represents a challenge too steep.
If there's a lifeline for Roma, it's that Barcelona midfield star Sergio Busquets could miss the tie with a broken toe, but Paulinho has been so stout in the center of the park this season, that Barcelona has plenty of cover. Factor in the emergence of Ousmane Dembele as a threat going forward, as evidenced by his showing in the second leg vs. Chelsea, and it's possible that Barcelona, which remains undefeated in La Liga, is still getting better.
Oh, and then there's the Lionel Messi factor. Arrivederci, Roma.
Prediction: Barcelona advances on a 6-1 aggregate
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SEVILLA vs. BAYERN MUNICH (April 3 at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan; April 11 at Allianz Arena)
Sevilla capitalized on Manchester United's slack defending and backwards tactics to advance to the final eight, but it should not expect the same from its next opponent. Bayern Munich is firing on all cylinders under Jupp Heynckes and may well have clinched the Bundesliga title by the time this series kicks off. All eggs will be in the Champions League basket at that point, and Heynckes can deploy his side accordingly.
Sevilla, meanwhile, has been putrid in defense in the league and has conceded multiple goals in half of its Champions League contests. Hosting the first leg in a raucous atmosphere could provide the boost needed to compete, but this has wheels-falling-off potential for Vincenzo Montella's side, which has reached this stage for the first time in 60 years.
Prediction: Bayern Munich advances on a 7-2 aggregate
JUVENTUS vs. REAL MADRID (April 3 at Allianz Stadium; April 11 at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu)
Juventus's Champions League road will once again go through a Spanish power. Beaten by Barcelona and Real Madrid in two of the last three finals, the 2017 final rematch vs. Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. will present a challenge, while also offering a chance at redemption. This isn't Juventus's best team of this golden era, but it's hitting its stride in both the league and in Europe at the right time, and it's certainly capable of the quality and defensive discipline necessary to go through.
Real Madrid is a curious case. Amid all of the struggles in La Liga and rumors regarding Zinedine Zidane's future and Neymar's potential blockbuster arrival, the club has fared quite well in the Champions League. It didn't win its group, but then again, it didn't last season on a romp to a second straight title. Against PSG, Real Madrid was clearly better, taking control of a flawed team of under-pressure superstars and outclassing them over two legs. Juventus is a different beast. It's a well-drilled side ready for the occasion, though the fact that Tottenham had so much control of their last-16 series and produced so many quality chances should be a cause for concern. Ronaldo's goal-scoring record in Europe has been sensational, and if the same kind of chances fall his way, Juve could be staring at another Spain-induced exit. This is the toughest of the four matchups to call, and it should play out as close as that.
Prediction: Juventus advances on a 3-2 aggregate
LIVERPOOL vs. MANCHESTER CITY (April 4 at Anfield; April 10 at Etihad Stadium)
Liverpool, which fell to City 5-0 in a red-card-altered clash in September, is responsible for Manchester City's only loss of the Premier League season, impeding the road to Invincible in a 4-3 classic on January 14. There won't be any fear factor, but the question remains: Can Jurgen Klopp's style of play hold vs. Man City over the course of 180 more minutes? Liverpool was downright surgical in its pressing of Man City in that meeting and got every step right until Pep's charges mounted a furious late comeback. Whether that's sustainable for the duration of a European tie is the key question.
Then there's the schedule congestion part of all of this. In the middle of the six-day turnaround sits a pair of rivalry games in the league. Manchester City plays Manchester United on April 7 (though the title should already be clinched by then), while Liverpool, still fighting for its top-four life, faces Merseyside foe Everton on the same day in a rescheduled bout that was pushed a day earlier. You'd have to give the advantage to City in terms of the ability to rotate the squad.
These teams know each other too well and are too potentially explosive for this series not to dazzle, but it's hard to see Guardiola not adjusting his side to account for January's events in what should be a high-scoring affair.
Prediction: Manchester City advances on a 6-4 aggregate