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Barcelona should beat Atletico, PSG good enough to edge out Man City

The ESPN FC panel delve into whether or not Bayern Munich have the guile to challenge for the Champions League title.

Barcelona take on Atletico Madrid in the pick of the matchups from the Champions League quarterfinal draw, while Paris Saint-Germain's clash with Manchester City should provide great entertainment.

Ten-time European champions Real Madrid have been handed a favourable draw against Wolfsburg, while Pep Guardiola's hopes of leading Bayern Munich to Champions League success appear to have been bolstered as they will face Benfica.

Here's a look at each matchup and a prediction for who will make it to the semifinals.


Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid

SPI odds to go through: Barcelona 82 percent; Atletico 18 percent.

This meeting between the two Spanish giants is a replay of the 2013-14 quarterfinal, when Atletico came out on top, and the teams have faced each other many times in crunch matches since.

However, for all of Atletico's familiarity with Barcelona, they still don't have anything close to a plan to stop Luis Enrique's side. Diego Simeone is a master tactician who has worked out so many teams, but he still hasn't worked out the Catalans or Lionel Messi.

Barca have won all of the last six matches between the two, with their brilliant Argentine scoring in five of them. In fact, he has hit 25 goals in his 27 games against Atletico, including three hat tricks. Simeone is going to have think on this more deeply than any other game he's faced. Barca are a very different prospect to the one coached by Gerardo Martino in 2013-14, which had a far flatter attack.

The one big caveat is that a knockout tie does bring a completely different dynamic, and a locked-down defensive performance -- of which Atletico are well capable -- could bring a rarely felt frustration for that supreme Catalan forward line.

Then again, against an attack like this, 180 minutes of defensive brilliance means nothing when one of Messi, Luis Suarez or Neymar have the ability to destroy you in a second. That's what it keeps coming down to for Barca, and that is what this quarterfinal will likely come down to.

Prediction: Barcelona


Bayern Munich vs. Benfica

SPI odds to go through: Bayern 87.5 percent; Benfica 12.5 percent.

Pep Guardiola has never failed to reach the semifinals of the Champions League and, after coming within minutes of getting knocked out at the round-of-16 stage by Juventus, that looks less likely to change now.

Benfica are a good, solid side who have been hammering in the goals in the Portuguese league and done creditably in Europe this season, but they are still a step or two below the Juve side that came so close to beating Bayern. The Germans should have enough.

Guardiola's side are likely to be emboldened and sharpened by the manner of that match against the Italians, too. It's difficult to think they'll be so complacent or slack again, especially given the angrily defiant nature of their response. There's also the fact that they enjoyed a similar comeback against a Portuguese side last season, destroying Porto in the second leg in Munich.

Prediction: Bayern Munich


Wolfsburg vs. Real Madrid

SPI odds to go through: Wolfsburg 16.4 percent; Madrid 83.6 percent.

It's been a difficult season for Real Madrid, having rarely looked like the best team in their city let alone Europe, but they have at least been afforded another forgiving Champions League draw here. This is not to diminish Wolfsburg, who have enjoyed a fine European campaign in getting this far, but they were still the team everyone else in the draw would have wanted.

Lying eighth in the Bundesliga with nine defeats from 26 games, Dieter Hecking's side will hope to continue to defy their domestic form and put in the type of displays that eliminated Manchester United from the group stage. It was exactly what Germany's last surprise semifinalists, Schalke, did in 2010-11.

But there's no doubt: it would be a surprise if Wolfsburg won this tie. Real may have had huge problems this season, and rarely look like a cohesive team, but they still have the individual quality to beat all but the very best teams -- star quality made the difference in their round-of-16 tie against Roma.

Real are meeting Wolfsburg for the first time in their history but, unless the Germans can really raise their game and expose the flaws of Zinedine Zidane's team, the 2014 winners are set to extend their run of semifinal appearances, which dates back to 2010.

Prediction: Real Madrid


Paris Saint-Germain vs. Manchester City

SPI odds to go through: PSG 60.4 percent; Man City 39.6 percent.

The recent history of these two teams will bring up a lot of old lines about a meeting of the nouveau riche but the reality is that PSG and City being drawn together does bring a genuine freshness to the quarterfinals, as they meet for the first time since the 2008-09 UEFA Cup.

Only further intensifying the quarterfinal is the obsession that both have with finally making a statement in Europe, finally putting themselves among the super-clubs. In terms of structure and wealth -- if not necessarily team quality right now, especially with City -- they are probably closest to the big three of Bayern, Barca and Real.

One of them now has a chance to prove it. As to who that will be, this is also the most difficult tie to call. They have had very different league seasons but that could actually make this matchup all the closer, and they are already close in quality.

The big issue about PSG is again whether they can keep the intensity now that they've won Ligue 1 with ease, while a drastically under-performing City have looked a different prospect in Europe. The French champions do just look more cohesive at the moment, and their stars are on better form.

City have lately been dependent on Sergio Aguero. PSG have enjoyed Zlatan Ibrahimovic on his best European form for some time, and a resurgent Angel Di Maria. That should be just enough for PSG, but only after what is likely to be a genuinely pulsating tie.

Prediction: PSG

Miguel Delaney covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MiguelDelaney.

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