A look at the teams in the Champions League quarterfinals
GENEVA (AP) — Three of the eight teams in Friday’s draw for the Champions League quarterfinals are three of the hundreds of teams that would have been excluded from a proposed Super League.
Ajax, Porto and Tottenham were all left off the list of 16 teams included in the breakaway proposal — a proposal exposed last year and widely denounced.
The plan for the Super League was traced back to Real Madrid, while Bayern Munich has previously been revealed as another team seeking a breakaway.
Both of those teams were eliminated in the last 16.
Here’s a look at the teams that did make it through to the quarterfinals:
Yet again, Ajax has assembled a young, entertaining team — one that fans want to watch but rivals want to avoid.
Frenkie De Jong and Matthijs de Ligt have a chance to continue a not-so-proud Dutch tradition of playing beautiful soccer before being sold to wealthier clubs.
That’s what happened back when Ajax won three straight European Cup titles from 1971-73 with players like Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens, and again in 1995 with Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids and Patrick Kluivert.
Ajax, which beat defending champion Real Madrid 4-1 in Spain to advance, is the only quarterfinalist that started in the qualifying rounds, way back in July.
Surprisingly, Barcelona has reached only one Champions League final in the last seven years — even with Lionel Messi on the field.
Messi was certainly a key component in the last 16 against Lyon on Wednesday, scoring two goals in the 5-1 rout and keeping Barcelona on track for another treble of titles.
Barcelona also leads the Spanish league and recently beat Real Madrid to reach the final of the Copa del Rey.
Juventus’ offseason move to sign Cristiano Ronaldo was intended to end a 23-year wait for a third European title.
It’s working so far.
Ronaldo delivered another career-defining performance, scoring a hat trick against Atletico Madrid to overturn a 2-0 first-leg loss. His legal issues in the United States, where he has been accused of rape, seemed a world away.
Ronaldo is looking to join Seedorf as the only players to win the European Cup or Champions League with three different clubs. Veteran Juventus defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, along with coach Massimiliano Allegri, just want a first title after losing in the final in 2015 and ’17.
A finalist last season and now in the quarterfinals again, Liverpool is back at Europe’s top table.
The mature way the five-time European champions dealt with Bayern Munich in their 3-1 away win in the last 16 showed how far they have come under Juergen Klopp over the past two years.
It was fitting that a goal by Virgil van Dijk proved to be key in Munich, with the arrival of the center back for $99 million in January 2018 shoring up a defense that had been shaky in Klopp’s first two years in charge. Liverpool also now has a world-class goalkeeper in Brazil international Alisson Becker.
Few will relish going to Anfield in the last eight. Just ask Manchester City, which was swept aside 3-0 in the first leg last year to virtually end its Champions League ambitions.
This season seems like City’s best chance to become European champion since being taken over by its Abu Dhabi owners in 2008.
No longer Champions League novices, City is in the quarterfinals for the third time in four years.
The depth in Pep Guardiola’s squad is fueling a challenge for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies, having already won the English League Cup.
City has benefited from benign draws, with Schalke shaping up as the weakest round of 16 option. City won 10-2 over two legs.
A two-leg quarterfinal against Liverpool, its Premier League title rival, or against Manchester United, its neighbor, would be quite an experience.
Twenty years after scoring the winning goal for United in a Champions League final, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking to lead the team to the title as manager.
After his understrength team’s amazing comeback at Paris Saint-Germain from a 2-0 first-leg loss, who would bet against them?
There’s a “nothing to lose” feel about United, which was a huge outsider when qualifying for the knockout stage under Jose Mourinho.
Solskjaer has restored some of the team’s belief and attacking swagger in three months in charge. See especially Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.
It might not be enough for a fourth European title but it should be fun watching.
Porto is, perhaps, the team everyone else in the draw wants to face.
Coached by former player Sergio Conceicao, Porto is looking to go beyond the quarterfinals for the first time since 2004 when Jose Mourinho led the team to its second title.
Porto has flavors of South America and Mexico in the team, plus a foundation of Champions League-winning former Madrid veterans: 37-year-old goalkeeper Iker Casillas and 36-year-old defender Pepe, who returned to his former club in January.
Like Liverpool, Porto has a strong African influence in attack with Mali forward Moussa Marega its top scorer with six goals in the competition.
Tottenham is in the quarterfinals for only the second time, despite not buying any players in the past year.
That highlights the extraordinary job coach Mauricio Pochettino is doing with a tight-knit squad — headlined by England striker Harry Kane and Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen — and an ever tighter budget.
Tottenham’s new stadium, built on the site of its former White Hart Lane ground in north London, should finally get to host a Champions League game after season-long construction delays and safety concerns.
If Tottenham is drawn at home for the first leg on April 9-10, it could even officially open the new arena.
AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas in Manchester, England, contributed to this report.