Spanish clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are all ready to take on Champions League title holders Bayern Munich if thrown together in Friday’s quarter-final draw.
The three Spanish sides top UEFA’s European club rankings and, according to Real coach Carlo Ancelotti their presence in the quarter finals highlights the dominance of La Liga.
“It is good that there are three Spanish teams in the quarter finals. It shows Spanish football is in good health,” Ancelotti said after Madrid completed their last-16 victory over Germany’s Schalke on Tuesday.
The contenders – Real, Barcelona, Atletico, Bayern, Paris St Germain, Chelsea, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund – occupy eight of the top nine spots in the UEFA club rankings going into the draw at the federation headquarters in Nyon at 1100 GMT.
“It will be a difficult quarter final whoever we face” said Ancelotti, whose team have not reached the final since they won the cup in 2002.
The other Spanish sides are also wary of their status.
“The way I look at football, I prefer teams that wait for us and hand us the initiative although those teams have at times beaten us,” said Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta on Thursday.
Barca eased past a strong Manchester City side to reach the quarter finals.
“We don’t have any preferences. Whoever we draw will be difficult for us, but also for them,” said Mario Suarez of Atletico, one of the surprise packages of the season who disposed of AC Milan.
“We will continue to fight by playing to our strengths,” Suarez added.
Paris St Germain coach Laurent Blanc said that all eight teams must be “realistic” at this stage.
“There are eight big teams and I put Paris St Germain among them,” added the coach whose wealthy Qatari backers have made the French team a feared new force in Europe, fired by Swedish goalscorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Blanc said he knew nothing of reports that the owners have promised the players one million euros each if they win the title.
“The Champions League is not an exact science. You cannot programme anyone to win in any year. You have to build toward it.
“The Qataris have only been here two, two and half years. Some big clubs have put a lot more into it to win the Champions League,” said Blanc, whose side beat Germans Bayer Leverkusen.
Bayern Munich remain the bookies favourites with the impressive way they beat Arsenal over two legs to get to the last eight.
For many pundits, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United are the weakest teams remaining.
After his side’s 3-2 comeback victory over Olympiakos, United defender Phil Jones said: “We’re just happy to be in the next round.
“We left ourselves with a difficult task after the first leg but we came through the test with flying colours and we are excited about the next round.”
Dortmund, who reached last year’s final, know they will already be without Germany defender Marcel Schmelzer who tore a pelvic muscle playing against Zenit this week.
The quarter finals will be played on April 1/2 and April 8/9.
The Champions League final is at Lisbon’s Stadium of Light on May 24.