Breaking Down the 2023 UEFA Champions League Quarter Finals

and | Sports Editors

Photo courtesy of Paramount Plus

With the return of UEFA Champions League games this week, millions of fans worldwide are prepared for the drama of European football’s highs and lows. Following a thrilling Round of 16, which pitted some of the world’s best teams against one another, eight surviving clubs remain — Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Benfica, Inter Milan, AC Milan, and Napoli. In this article, we will preview the upcoming games and make our predictions regarding who will advance to the semi-finals of Europe’s most prestigious competition.


Manchester City v. Bayern Munich 


In one of the most highly anticipated matches of the year, English powerhouse Manchester City will face the seemingly indomitable German Bayern Munich. Despite both teams’ championship aspirations, they have struggled to meet their usual high standards this year. Although Bayern has won all eight of its Champions League games — including an impressive shutout over two legs against French giants Paris Saint Germain — it has struggled domestically, culminating with the departure of their head coach Julian Nagelsmann and exiting out of the DFB Pokal, its domestic cup. Replacing Nagelsmann is former Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel, who won the competition with Chelsea in 2021.


Man City is also undefeated in the Champions League but had three draws. Like Bayern, it has struggled in its domestic league and has failed to capture any silverware this year, although it still has a chance at overtaking Arsenal in the Premier League title race. City is led by Pep Guardiola, a former manager of Bayern, who often gets punished and critiqued for his overthinking of tactics late in the season. As a result, Guardiola hasn’t won the Champions League since he led an otherworldly Barcelona team to silverware in 2011.


Despite these weaknesses, both teams consistently produce sides composed of some of the best football players on the planet. Bayern is led by a combination of youth and experience, including the timeless Thomas Muller, the blossoming potential of Jamal Musiala, the stout defense of City-loanee Joao Cancelo, and the Champions League reputations of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sane, and Kingsley Coman, the latter which scored the winning goal against Paris Saint-Germain in the 2020 final. City is led by creative midfielders Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, and Ilkay Gundogan, clinical striker Erling Haaland, technical wingers Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden, and an in-form Jack Grealish. 


This match is hard to predict given the pedigree of both teams. With a battle in the midfield between stout defensive midfielders Rodri and Kimmich, a rock-solid Bayern defense aiming to slow down the record-breaking Haaland, and a crafty Munich attack led by Musiala and Muller aiming to penetrate the auras of defenders Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake, both legs promise to be an intriguing battle of skill and tactics for at least 90 minutes. 


Predictions (Combined scoreline over two legs):


Riley: Bayern 5, City 4  

Elias: City 4, Bayern 3


Real Madrid v. Chelsea


After an epic showdown in last year’s Champions League quarter-finals, Real Madrid and Chelsea are poised to meet again. Last season, Real Madrid emerged victorious in the first leg 3-1 at Stamford Bridge with a sensational Karim Benzema hattrick. Chelsea, however, pulled off a stunning performance at the Bernabeu in the second leg and led 3-0 until the dying minutes of the game. A late goal by Rodrygo sent the game to extra time, where a strike by Benzema secured Madrid’s place in the semifinals and eliminated the West Londoners.


Both teams find themselves in significantly worse scenarios than when they previously met. Since that matchup, Chelsea has had four separate managers: Tuchel, who replaced Frank Lampard in 2021, was followed by Graham Potter, who was sacked after a loss to Aston Villa, leavingChelsea in 11th place in the Premier League. Following one game under interim manager Bruno Saltor, Lampard, the current interim manager, returned to the club after managing Chelsea from 2019-2021. In addition, Chelsea has spent over £600 Million on new signings, although it hasn’t created a cohesive squad, resulting in a fall from a third place finish last year to the bottom half of the table. 


Madrid, on the other hand, has much less turmoil. Though it will probably not repeat its La Liga success from last year as it currently trails FC Barcelona by 12 points, it enter the matchup full of confidence after beating Barcelona 4-0 in the Copa Del Rey. Madrid enters the quarter-finals with an unmistakably elegant manner and expertise in playing Champions League football; it seldom panics and seemingly always retains control of its fate. This was displayed countless times in the knockout stages last year, and again this year against Liverpool in the Round of 16, where they flipped an away game from a 2-0 loss to a 5-2 victory. Led by an attacking juggernaut of Karim Benzema and Vincius Jr. alongside the generational midfielders of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, Madrid looks like favorites to brush away a faltering Chelsea side. 




Riley: Real Madrid 6, Chelsea 2

Elias: Real Madrid 6, Chelsea 3 


Napoli v. AC Milan


Following the Champions League draw, countless pundits labeled Napoli — who won on a 5-0 aggregate scoreline against Frankfurt in the Round of 16 — as considerable favorites to qualify for the finals from its half of the bracket. However, after losing 4-0 to its quarter-final opponents in the Serie A last week, its path looks much more difficult. AC Milan will look to replicate its clean sheet, but shutting down Napoli’s potent attack is no easy feat, especially if Serie A leading scorer Victor Osimhen can return from injury. Whether or not Osimhen returns, Napoli will need winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who has been Europe’s biggest breakout star in his first season at Napoli, to step up offensively. 


Although Napoli holds a comfortable lead in the league over their foes from the Italian capital, Milan, who narrowly beat Tottenham in the Round of 16, will be a tough out. Portuguese winger Rafael Leao is always a threat, and defenders Theo Hernandez and Fikayo Tomori as well as goalkeeper Mike Maignan make it difficult to score on the Rossoneri. 


This match, which will pit last year’s Serie A champions —AC Milan — against this year’s league leaders — Napoli — will be one to keep an eye on.




Riley: Napoli 4, Milan 2

Elias: Napoli 5, Milan 4


Benfica v. Inter Milan


Although Benfica is the only remaining team from outside of Europe’s top five leagues, it is far from underdogs. After finishing in first place in a group that featured PSG and Juventus, it knocked off Belgian side Club Brugge 7-1 in the Champions League Round of 16. While it may not have as many high-profile stars as some of the European giants it will face, it is 10 points clear in a competitive Liga NOS title race. Its team, which is one of the most well-rounded in the competition, is led in scoring by 21-year-old striker Goncalo Ramos, who is most well known for his hat trick for Portugal in the World Cup and attacking midfielder Joao Mario. 


Its opponent Inter Milan is formidable, but enter the match in poor form. After narrowly beating Porto 1-0 on aggregate in the Champions League, it has lost two of their last three matches. However, like Benfica, its squad boasts talent in nearly every position and has the quality to make the Champions League semi-finals. Strikers Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez are goal-scoring threats, 26-year-old midfielder Nicolo Barella is one of the best two-way midfielders in Europe, and center-backs Milan Skriniar (who is set to join PSG in the summer), Stefan de Vrij, and Alessandro Bastoni form a solid trio. 


While this matchup is probably the weakest on paper, neither of these teams should be considered underdogs in the competition. The clash between two evenly-matched teams makes this contest one of the toughest to pick in the quarter-finals.




Riley: Benfica 3, Inter 1

Elias: Benfica 2, Inter 2 (Benfica wins 5-3 on penalties to advance)

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