Napoli is presently considered the FAVORITE to win the Champions League
The team previously hailed by Pep Guardiola as the top team in Europe will only have the chance to face Manchester City, Bayern Munich, or Real Madrid in the final match of the Champions League.
The Champions League quarter-final draw, which took place on Friday morning, did not disappoint. Two highly-favored teams, Manchester City and Bayern Munich, were paired against each other, competing for a spot in the semi-finals.
Additionally, the reigning champions, Real Madrid, will once again go head-to-head with Chelsea, and fans are hoping for an equally intense and exciting match-up as last season's quarter-final clash between the two teams.
Betimate will provide an analysis of the winners and losers of Friday's draw, which included matches between Napoli and AC Milan from Italy, and Inter versus Benfica, the surprise team of the season, also from Serie A.
WINNER: Serie A
Italian people are known to be superstitious, and Friday the 17th is considered unlucky, just like Friday the 13th. Thus, the date of the draw for Serie A sides was not auspicious. However, to everyone's surprise, the draw went exceedingly well. Even Alessandro Costacurta, a former Italy defender who is now a pundit for Sky Sport Italia, was pleased with Hamit Altintop and Patrick Kluivert's work during the draw and praised them for it.
Serie A is guaranteed at least one team in the semi-finals
The fact that Napoli was paired with AC Milan means that Serie A is guaranteed at least one team in the semi-finals. There could even be an all-Italian affair in the semi-finals if Inter manages to beat Benfica. However, no one is taking anything for granted as Italians dislike tempting fate. Nonetheless, everyone is rightfully elated that Serie A could potentially have a Champions League finalist for the first time since 2017.
It's a safe bet to say that Napoli is likely to be the finalist in this year's competition. Currently, they are the strongest team in Italy with a substantial 18-point lead at the top of Serie A, which is no fluke. Their remarkable consistency and quality of play have left behind even the likes of Milan and Inter. In fact, they have already beaten Milan 2-1 at San Siro earlier in the season, which indicates that Stefano Pioli's side has little chance against them.
Napoli is likely to be the finalist in this year's competition
On the other hand, Milan and the rest of Europe should be worried about Napoli's form. Despite Pep Guardiola's recent remark about them being the best team on the continent, the strength of their squad is undeniable. Their defence, midfield and attack are all stacked with talent, and their striking duo of Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is perhaps the most dynamic in world football.
Moreover, Napoli has a comfortable lead in Serie A, which means their coach Luciano Spalletti will be able to rest players before and after their European fixtures. Despite this being their first time playing in the quarter-finals, there is no reason why Napoli cannot go all the way and win the competition this year.
LOSER: Man City's workload
The manager of Manchester City, Guardiola, has acknowledged that his entire tenure at the club will be evaluated based on whether or not he can win the Champions League. However, this year's competition has become even more challenging for them.
Although Real Madrid are the current champions, Bayern Munich is considered the team that everyone wanted to avoid after they efficiently disposed of Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16. To make matters worse, Manchester City will have to travel to the Allianz Arena for the second leg.
Manchester City has the necessary talent and manager to make it to the final in Istanbul
Moreover, even if Manchester City progresses, they will have to face either Madrid or Chelsea in the semi-finals. Guardiola's side was eliminated by Madrid last year, while Chelsea upset them in the 2021 final.
Although Manchester City has the necessary talent and manager to make it to the final in Istanbul, the draw on Friday has made it clear that they will have to do it the hard way. This situation is significant not only for Guardiola's dream of winning the Champions League but also for Manchester City's hopes of overtaking Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table.
Reaching the final would undoubtedly require a lot of effort from Manchester City.
WINNER: Benfica's business model
Do not underestimate Benfica. They convincingly defeated Club Brugge in the last-16 with a 7-1 aggregate score, despite not being the toughest opponents. They deserved the favorable draw after a remarkable victory over Maccabi Haifa, which helped them secure the top spot in their group, beating Paris Saint-Germain. Joao Mario's late strike at the Sammy Ofer Stadium was a defining moment for them in the Champions League this season.
Benfica is in a perfect position to reach the semi-finals of the European Cup for the first time since 1990. This is a remarkable achievement considering they sold Darwin Nunez and Enzo Fernandez last summer and January, respectively. Their business model is paying off both on and off the field.
Do not underestimate Benfica
Their journey doesn't necessarily end here. They face Inter in the quarter-finals, who have been inconsistent this season, as Porto showed in their last-16 tie. Despite losing 1-0, Porto dominated large parts of the match against the Nerazzurri, and it is worth noting that Benfica is a better side than their Portuguese rivals, as evidenced by their position in the Primeira Liga table this season.
The Eagles are flying high, and with more money and history to be made, there is no limit to what they can achieve.
LOSER: Real Madrid's title defence
Carlo Ancelotti expressed his reluctance to discuss which teams he would prefer to avoid in the last eight. Real Madrid is known for being a strong competitor in the tournament, and they have a reputation for finding a way to win regardless of their opponents' strength. Ancelotti only mentioned that he would like to face his former club, AC Milan, in the final.
Real Madrid is known for being a strong competitor in the tournament
However, Madrid faces a dangerous path to Istanbul. It should be noted that last year, Madrid defeated Chelsea and City to win the tournament, showcasing their class, composure, and resilience, although they were fortunate in some instances. PSG, Chelsea, and City could have eliminated them, and they only beat Liverpool in Paris thanks to an outstanding display of goalkeeping from Thibaut Courtois.
Additionally, Madrid's performance was more consistent last season, particularly in La Liga. In contrast, they need to defeat Barcelona on Sunday to keep their slim title hopes alive this season. Madrid's season and Ancelotti's job will depend on their success in the European campaign if they fail to win against Barcelona. This expectation may not be fair, but Madrid demands nothing less than success.
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