Three games away from destiny | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 12, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:12 AM, August 12, 2020

Three games away from destiny

Manchester City v Lyon

With just one loss in their last 17 games in the competition and a convincing win over Real Madrid in the round of 16, Pep Guardiola's Manchester City finally appear to be a team worthy of the Champions League title.

The English club have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal and the quality of individuals such as Kevin de Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva coupled with Pep's tactics is a deadly combination.

Yet, Lyon have crashed the party in Lisbon by carving a Juventus-sized hole in the wall, banishing Cristiano Ronaldo's individual brilliance with a concerted team effort.

Lyon will likely not try anything to drastically different against City.

Their game plan will suit them perfectly fine and if all goes to plan, if Memphis Depay scores again as he has done on every European appearance this season, another famous win could be on the cards.

Barcelona v Bayern Munich

A clash that not only promises to be a meeting between two of the most storied clubs in Europe -- both chasing a sixth crown in Europe's elite competition -- but also one that offers perhaps the two best players in the football world at the moment.

Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski has been smashing records for fun in the Bundesliga this season, but his dominance has extended across Europe. So much so that the pandemic forcing the tournament to shift from two legs to one from the quarterfinals onwards serves as the only real challenge to him overtaking Cristiano Ronaldo's record of 17 goals in a single campaign.

Lewandowski already has 13 goals in the tournament so far and is in red-hot form, as he showed by scoring three and assisting four other goals over two legs in Bayern's 7-1 win over Chelsea in the round of 16.

The Pole will certainly be the focal point for the Spanish outfit, but they will be careful not to take the rest of the double-winning Bavarians lightly even if they can cope with Lewandowski's otherworldly form.

Speaking of the ethereal, Lionel Messi forwent all his doomsday proclamations and showed exactly why he remains, regardless of any challengers offshore, the best player in the world. He put in one of his trademark performances against Napoli after a 1-1 draw in the first leg, scoring a goal, winning a penalty and ultimately securing a 3-1 win on the night.

However, the Argentine's worries will surely have not been allayed by his own performances. If that were the case, there would never be any trouble at the Camp Nou. After a series of stumbles cleared Real Madrid's path to La Liga glory, Messi said: "If we continue like this, we will lose the game against Napoli."

Barcelona did break the trend by defeating Napoli, but the collective effort, especially the kind needed to defeat Bayern Munich, is what they will be looking for.

RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid

Like Atalanta, RB Leipzig can also mark this season as their best-ever in Europe's elite competition.  Leipzig saw off 2019 runners-up Tottenham in the round of 16 and the manner in which they did so -- 4-0 on aggregate -- brought them into notice.

Although Timo Werner has moved on and already joined Chelsea, they still have plenty of firepower and the mind of manager Julian Nagelsmann, who becomes the youngest manager to reach the tournament's quarterfinals, to draw inspiration from.

It will not be an easy task against Atletico Madrid, who have endured quite a tumultuous season, finishing 17 points off the pace in La Liga and losing twice in the Champions League's group stage. However, they also eliminated reigning champions Liverpool in the tournament's round of 16. Atletico have been mercurial if nothing else, although their defensive solidity should stand them in good stead in any one-off tie.

Atalanta V PSG

The surprise package on their Champions League debut, Atalanta blitzed into the quarterfinals after an 8-4 aggregate win against Valencia. Although they had struggled and looked set for a group-stage exit, La Dea bounced back gracefully and are now just three games away from the ultimate prize in club football.

The darlings of the 2019-20 season have not had much go their way as their title challenge fizzled out, but with league-high 98 goals in Serie A, Atalanta have the firepower to deal the knockout blow to any team, especially in a one-off scenario.

On the other hand are a team that have done everything but lift the Champions League, yet find their credentials and mentality questioned at every turn. A team that pays one player, Neymar, as much as Atalanta pay their entire squad, claim La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Paris Saint-Germain, who by the by have already won a domestic quadruple this season, found themselves being encircled by the sharks no sooner had the final whistle blown on a 2-1 loss to Dortmund in the first leg of their round of 16 tie. They duly bounced back with a 2-0 win to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time after three seasons.

It is uncertain whether the injured Kylian Mbappe will be able to play in the game or not; the last thing PSG would want is for him to exacerbate any knocks. They have enough potency up front with Edison Cavani, Mauro Icardi and Angel di Maria to go along with Neymar. However, the big names have always been present, the results, not so much.

After years obsessing over the Champions League, it is three games away for Le Parisiens. Whether they can rise to the occasion this time around, only time will tell.

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