Champions League predictions
In the midst of the madness that is March, the bracket for the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals was drawn this morning in Switzerland, leading to the May 19 final in Munich. Here are Soccer Power Index projections and notes for the quarterfinals and the rest of the tournament.
• Real Madrid and Barcelona were drawn on opposite sides of the bracket and could meet in the final. At 37.9 percent, Real Madrid is a slight favorite to win the title, marginally ahead of Barcelona's 37.6 percent. Real Madrid's slim advantage is playing the weakest team in the quarters, APOEL, then potentially facing Bayern Munich in a home-and-home semifinal, rather than a more difficult single-game final on the road.
• Bayern Munich is the third favorite and the only other club with double-digit title hopes. Though Bayern is only a 54.9 percent favorite to defeat Marseille, the German club's big edge is potentially playing a one-game final at home, which no team has done in the Champions League era. The only teams to win the European Cup at home are Inter Milan in 1965 and Real Madrid in 1957.
• As the fourth-best team according to SPI, AC Milan had the misfortune of drawing Barcelona in the quarterfinals. This is the only quarterfinal pairing between two teams that have previously met. Barcelona leads the series 5-4-4 and is unbeaten (3-0-2) in their past five meetings. In this season's group stage, Barcelona won 3-2 in Milan, following a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou. The last time they played in the knockout round was the 2005-06 semifinals, when Barcelona won 1-0 on aggregate and went on to win the title. Barcelona is a 75.4 percent favorite to eliminate the Serie A leader and reach the semifinals.
• Chelsea received the most fortunate quarterfinal draw. SPI rated Chelsea the sixth-best team in the quarterfinals, but the Blues drew Benfica, one of the two teams they would be favored against. Chelsea is a 64.1 percent favorite to reach its first semifinals in three years.
• As expected, Cinderella side APOEL is the biggest underdog in the quarterfinals, though the Cypriot club still has an 11.9 percent chance to upset giant Real Madrid. Along with Benfica, APOEL is given the smallest hope to lift the trophy in Munich, with a microscopic 0.7 percent chance.