Beware Barça's attacking intent and Germany's poor relations

Today's Champions League draw is dominated by the English, but who will they want to avoid? Glenn Moore looks beyond these shores

It is tempting, in the light of this month's extinction of Italian hopes, and slaughter of Real Madrid, to suggest that the English quartet of clubs have only each other to fear at today's Champions League quarter-final draw. After all, last season Arsenal were only knocked out by Liverpool, who were only knocked out by Chelsea, who were only knocked out by Manchester United, who won the pot.

And then you remember Barcelona. The La Liga leaders have scored 28 goals in 10 European ties this season; and for good measure have also scored 91 in 35 games at home, where they are already in the final of the Copa del Rey. Barça are not quite in the form of autumn, but they are showing ominous signs of regaining it. If there is reason for optimism it is that they have conceded 43 goals in those 45 games. Carles Puyol, Rafael Marquez, Eric Abidal and Daniel Alves are not collectively the same standard as Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry, Xavi et al, especially in a side whose licence to attack is underlined by the rampaging runs of Alves. Furthermore, the team that takes the headlines pre-Christmas in the Champions League is rarely the side that takes the trophy.

Another familiar name to be wary of is Bayern Munich, even if they are simply relieved to be there. The four-time winners have not reached the last four since winning the Champions League in 2001 and for a while it seemed Bayern would go the same way as another great European marque, Ajax, confined to the margins by the economic inequalities – in Bayern's case the restrictions on outside investment in German clubs. Bayern still do not pay the wages, or transfer fees, of English clubs, but they have stretched the budget, on playing and coaching staff, and are reaping results.

Not that the return was immediate. When the nights began to lengthen last year Germany's most famous club were in disarray. While Hamburg, then unheralded Hoffenheim, led the Bundesliga, Bayern stumbled from crisis to crisis. The choice of Jürgen Klinsmann as coach seemed as odd as his decision to erect four porcelain Buddhas on the roof of the training complex to "spread positive energy". An ignominious end beckoned. Bayern slipped to 11th, even losing 5-2 at home to Werder Bremen. Then Franck Ribery recovered fitness and Bayern began winning again. They now trail only Hertha Berlin at home, and beat Sporting Lisbon 12-1 on aggregate in the last round in Europe. Like Barcelona, they have goalscorers, Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose, even Lukas Podolski has managed to put aside thoughts of his summer return to Cologne.

Which leaves the Iberian outsiders, Villarreal and Porto, whom Uefa will be praying do not get drawn together. Villarreal are hard to beat. Porto represent the one team from outside the big economic markets. That they are in the last eight, while all Italy's representatives are out, is a triumph in itself.

With four of the eight remaining teams it is likely that two English clubs will meet, as Arsenal and Liverpool were at this stage last year. On this season's form Manchester United would prefer to meet Chelsea, having lost to Arsenal and Liverpool (twice). Chelsea, having lost to all three rivals under Luiz Felipe Scolari, will simply hope that Guus Hiddink – and the equally significant return to fitness and form, respectively, of Michael Essien and Didier Drogba – renders previous form irrelevant. And neutrals, after so many turgid encounters, will hope Chelsea and Liverpool avoid each other.

Barcelona

Champions League best: Winners (1992, 2006)

Last five years: DNQ, 16, W, 16, SF

How qualified: Third (Spain)

Teams knocked out: Wisla Krakow, Shakhtar Donetsk, Basle, Lyons

Current league position: 1st

Coach: Josep Guardiola; Passing midfielder who stepped up from the 'B' team to become coach, his first senior job, in the summer. Making a stunning start. Catalan nationalist.

Key player: Lionel Messi, Argentine forward whom, though only 21, is arguably the world's best player. Very skilful with a low centre of gravity which makes him hard to dispossess.

How are they doing? Had a sensational autumn, winning matches in style, but have struggled to find that fluency since the winter break. Yet, they impressed in defeating Lyon 6-3 on aggregate in the last round and Thierry Henry seems to save his best for Europe. Plus Samuel Eto'o is rejuvenated, Xavi is peerless, Yaya Touré is eclipsing his brother and Daniel Alves is a revelation.

Bayern Munich

Champions League best: Winners (1974, 1975, 1976, 2001)

Last five years: 16, QF, 16, QF, DNQ

How qualified: Champions (Germany)

Teams knocked out: Fiorentina, Steaua Bucharest, Sporting Lisbon

Current league position: 2nd

Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann; Followed a glittering playing career, as a striker with Bayern and others, by retiring to the US. Returned to take Germany to a World Cup semi-final. First season at Bayern.

Star player: Franck Ribéry, very talented French attacking midfielder signed from Marseilles in 2007. Bayern's mid-season recovery dates from his return following injury.

How are they doing? Not quite the irresistible force their thrashing of Sporting Lisbon would suggest but running into form at the right time. Like Liverpool and Man Utd, they are unbeaten. Experienced midfield and a cutting edge in attack but doubts about Michael Rensing in goal, and the back four in general. Very reliant on Ribéry.

Porto

Champions League best: Winners (1987, 2004)

Last five years: W, 16, Gp, 16, 16

How qualified: Champions (Portugal)

Teams knocked out: Dynamo Kiev, Fenerbahçe, Atletico Madrid

Current league position: 1st

Coach: Jesualdo Ferreira; Had a quarter-century's coaching experience, in 11 jobs, when he arrived at Porto in 2006. On course for a hat-trick of domestic titles.

Star player: Lucho Luis Oscar Gonzalez, to give the Argentine his full name, is a versatile midfielder used as a playmaker by Porto, more prosaically by the Albiceleste.

How are they doing? Useful at home, technically good with a decent spine, but they lack depth and quality. The only survivor from Porto's 2004 vintage – Jose Mourinho's finest achievement – is Pedro Emanuel, a defender who was on the bench. At centre-forward is the Hulk, a Brazilian 22-year-old who is promising, but not incredible.

Villarreal

Champions League best: SF (2006)

Qualified: Second (Spain)

Teams knocked out: AaB Aalborg, Celtic, Panathinaikos

Last five years: DNQ, DNQ, SF, DNQ, DNQ

Current league position: 4th

Coach: Manuel Pellegrini; Chilean who spent his entire career in South America before, aged 51, joining Villarreal in 2004. Has taken them to unsurpassed heights.

Star player: Santi Cazorla, attacking midfielder, 24, who caught the eye in Spain's 2008 European Championship win. Stunned Real Madrid by rejecting them this summer.

Overview: Looking to better their 2006 run when only Jens Lehmann's penalty save from Juan Roman Riquelme denied them a final place. Besides Cazorla they have Euro 2008 winners Marcos Senna and Juan Capdevila, plus Giuseppe Rossi, prospering having left Old Trafford, and Robert Pires, still showing glimpses of his Arsenal form.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
filmSony could have made a cult classic
Life and Style
fashionThe essential guide to all the designer Christmas sale dates
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas