Dominant at home, Europe where Bayern & City measure success
Three of the teams in the Champions League quarterfinals are in a luxurious position, and running away with their domestic competitions allows them to concentrate on European glory.
Manchester City and Bayern Munich could even secure trophies between the first and second legs in Europe over the next week or so.
City, which travels to Liverpool in an all-northwest England quarterfinal on Wednesday, has a 16-point lead in the Premier League.
Bayern, which is a point better off at the Bundesliga summit, visits on Tuesday a Sevilla side that is in the European Cup quarterfinals for the first time in 60 years.
Barcelona has a nine-point lead at home as it prepares to host Roma on Wednesday, with defending champion Real Madrid trailing by 13 points in third place.
Madrid, though, is a European force. Champions League winners in three of the last four seasons, Zinedine Zidane’s side visits Serie A leader Juventus on Tuesday.
A closer look at the quarterfinal match-ups:
Has Gareth Bale done enough to retain his place in Madrid’s starting lineup?
Either side of the recent international break, Bale scored three goals in two matches.
But he wasn’t entrusted with a starting place in the round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain — reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the Wales forward’s status in the squad.
“I’m pleased with his performance,” Madrid coach Zidane said after Bale scored twice in a 3-0 win at relegation-threatened Las Palmas on Saturday. “You’ll have to wait and see if he plays on Tuesday.”
Lucas Vazquez could drop out if Zidane restores the “BBC” front-line of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Bale.
Bale, though, could miss out again if Madrid decide to add an extra midfielder for the first leg in Turin by including Marco Asensio or Francisco “Isco” Alarcon.
Madrid and Juventus are meeting for the first time since last season’s final when the Spanish capital club swept to a 12th European title.
The only Champions League final Madrid has failed to reach in the last four seasons was in 2014-15 — when it lost to Juventus in the semifinals.
Juventus must raise its game after struggling in Serie A recently. After a 0-0 draw at lowly Spal, the team was outplayed by AC Milan for much of Saturday’s match before Juan Cuadrado came off the bench to turn things around.
On his first appearance after more than three months out with a groin injury, Cuadrado grabbed the crucial second goal in a 3-1 win.
“He’s come back well and has astounded me,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said, “because often in the past he hasn’t done well coming off the bench.”
Juventus is once again in the hunt for a treble, leading Serie A by four points and through to the Italian Cup final.
Barcelona can count on Lionel Messi again but how fit is he?
After missing recent Argentina games with a muscular problem, he made a scoring return from the bench on Saturday against Sevilla to preserve Barcelona’s unbeaten La Liga record this season.
Coach Ernesto Valverde, however, said Messi is still bothered by pain heading into the game against Roma.
The Italian capital club is awaiting a prognosis on Radja Nainggolan’s thigh injury. The Belgium international, who has started all of Roma’s Champions League matches, limped off 16 minutes into Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Bologna.
Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco is doubtful Nainggolan will recover in time
“He is the ‘Ninja,’” Di Francesco said. “He told me to wait and tried to run it off, but if he had to give up and leave the pitch that means there’s really something wrong and the problem is serious.”
With Roma prioritizing the game against Barcelona, the lack of depth was evident on Saturday when Edin Dzeko had to come off the bench to salvage a draw.
City makes a return trip to the only stadium where it has lost during an otherwise unbeaten Premier League campaign.
With Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane boasting 75 goals between them this season, Liverpool has an impressive attacking armory to take on Pep Guardiola’s side.
“They are almost unstoppable,” Guardiola said. “The way Liverpool play is so complicated for us. We know that. They are so quick, they are so good.”
The 4-3 loss at Anfield in January was a blip in City’s progression to the Premier League title that can be sealed with a win against Manchester United on Saturday.
With the European first leg on Wednesday and the return at the Etihad Stadium next Tuesday, Guardiola’s predicament will be whether to rest players for the Manchester derby and potentially miss out on winning the Premier League in perhaps the sweetest way.
Guardiola is hoping to welcome Sergio Aguero back from a knee injury that has kept the striker out of action for a month.
While Liverpool is England’s most successful side with five European Cups, City has never won the competition. Guardiola, though, led Barcelona to two Champions League titles.
Bayern’s players must be dreading the sight of Sevilla: Spanish teams have eliminated them in the past four seasons.
Before then, Bayern lifted the European Cup in the all-German 2013 final against Borussia Dortmund when Jupp Heynckes completed a treble before stepping down.
The 72-year-old coach was brought out of retirement to return in October when Carlo Ancelotti was fired after losing to PSG. Heynckes has overseen a remarkable turnaround, with Bayern on course to repeat the 2013 treble.
Sevilla, though, keeps on upsetting more illustrious sides. Not only was Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United stunned in the round of 16 but Barcelona was held to a draw on Saturday.
Sevilla, which won the Europa League in 2014, 2015 and 2016, is contesting its first European Cup quarterfinal since 1958.
Tales Azzoni in Madrid, Daniella Matar in Milan and Ciaran Fahey in Berlin contributed to this report.
AP Champions League coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/ChampionsLeague