The  quarter final tie that immediately jumps out of the page at you is obviously Arsenal versus Barcelona. Two of the purest footballing sides on the continent are set for battle in what should be a close two-legged affair.

Headline writers will have a field day with Thierry Henry returning to the Emirates and Cesc Fabregas going up against the side he left  to sign for Arsenal. Both clubs came through the last sixteen round impressively with Arsenal comprehensively defeating Porto and a Lionel Messi inspired Barca knocking out the German side Stuttgart.

The big question for Arsenal fans will Arsene Wenger rush to bring back the likes of Fabregas, Gallas and Van Persie from injury. The Arsenal captain is set for action in the Premier League this weekend against West Ham but the other two may take a while longer. Barcelona are currently involved in a titanic battle with Real Madrid for the Primera Liga title but will be glad to have avoided Manchester United  –  the side they defeated in last season’s final  in Rome.

If Arsenal’s injured players return in time, then the Gunners have a real chance of causing an upset and progressing to the semi-finals however, with Lionel Messi currently in scintillating form, the Catalans will be favourites to progress.

The winners of the Arsenal / Barca clash will face the winners of Inter Milan and CSKA Moscow in the last four. Jose Mourinho’s side stunned Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier in the week winning 1-0 thanks to a Samuel Eto’o goal. The Italian champions have been rewarded with what looks a eminently winnable tie, on paper at least.

If the Italians can grind out a draw  in Moscow then expect the Milanese side to qualify for the semi-finals. CSKA will be no pushover and their quality performance in the last-sixteen round to knock out Sevilla suggests they are coming into form at the right time. Inspired by the excellent Honda in midfield, CSKA (whose season has just begun) have nothing to lose in their first Champions League quarter-final appearance.

The meeting of Bayern Munich and Manchester United will evoke memories of many illustrious European nights between two of the giants of European football. Sir Alex Ferguson will, no doubt, be delighted to have avoided Barcelona, Inter and Arsenal on their side of the draw but knows his side faces a stiff task to overcome a revitalised Bayern.

The Germans overcame Fiorentina in the last sixteen and boast a strike-force containing Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, both  in excellent form. Much will depend on how the Germans manage to contain Wayne Rooney who is enjoying the season of his life this year at Old Trafford. I expect United to squeeze through.

The quarter-final pairing of Bordeaux and Lyon will no doubt have please Michel Platini as it guarantees a Ligue 1 side a place in the last four. Lyon  have  been knocking on the door in the last few Champions League tournaments  after  dominating  domestically for over a decade.

Their defeat  of the much-fancied  Real Madrid in the previous round marks them down as a good outside bet for this season’s competition. In their way stands Laurent Blanc’s Bordeaux, in a tie the whole of France will be looking forward to.

Conquerors of Olympiacos in the last-sixteen, the side currently involved in a three-way battle for the French Championship will relish the opportunity to knock-out one of their fiercest domestic rivals. Lyon’s greater experience in the Champions League may swing the result in their favour but only just.

All four quarter-finals are certain to be tight affairs as the closest Champions League tournament in many years reaches its climax in the Santiago Bernabeau final in Madrid next May.

Champions League Draw  Quarter finals

Inter Milan vs. CSKA Moscow
Arsenal vs. Barcelona
Bayern Munich vs. Manchester United
Lyon vs. Bordeaux
Semi-Finals
Inter/CSKA Moscow vs. Arsenal/Barcelona
Bayern/Man United vs. Lyon/Bordeaux

Ger McCarthy is author of Off Centre Circle, which chronicles the  curious life of  a West Cork League junior footballer.

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