AC Milan 

Final 8 are in for a fight

Can anyone stop Barcelona? Does Juventus have enough depth to make up for the loss of its key starters? Is Thierry Henry good enough to lead Arsenal to the final on his own? These are the questions on soccer fans' minds entering the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League, which resumes play Tuesday.

With Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid all eliminated in the round of 16, Barcelona, Juventus and AC Milan are the favorites to raise the trophy in May. Then again, these soccer powerhouses are by no means locks, considering the emergence of giant-killers such as Benfica and, to a lesser extent, Arsenal.

Benfica, Lyon, Arsenal and Inter Milan will play host to the first leg of the two-legged series, while Juventus, Barcelona, Villareal and AC Milan will play host to the second leg.

Here are the matchups:

Arsenal vs. Juventus

Tuesday and April 5

Players to watch: Arsenal's Thierry Henry and Fredrik Ljungberg; Juventus' Patrick Vieira and David Trezeguet.

Quick look: Juventus' Vieira faces his former club of nine seasons for the first time since leaving for the Italian Serie A last summer. Arsenal's confidence is high after eliminating Real Madrid and will face a Juventus squad missing both Pavel Nedved (suspension) and Alessandro Del Piero (thigh) for the first leg.

Prediction: Arsenal.

Benfica vs. Barcelona

Tuesday and April 5

Players to watch: Benfica's Simao; Barcelona's Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o.

Quick look: After stunning Manchester United and defending champion Liverpool, Benfica hopes to repeat the success of fellow Portugal club FC Porto, which won the Champions League in 2004. Former Barca midfielder Simao must outplay Barcelona's Lionel Messi to give his side a chance against the heavy favorites. Benfica's top scorer Nuno Gomes is suspended for the first leg.

Prediction: Barcelona.

Inter Milan vs. Villarreal

Wednesday and April 4

Players to watch: Inter Milan's Alvaro Recoba; Villarreal's Juan Riquelme and Juan Pablo Sorin.

Quick look: Villareal lacks star power but has made the most of its first Champions League appearance, avoiding a close call against Rangers to advance to the quarterfinals. Milan saw its seven-game unbeaten streak end Saturday with a loss to Parma and needs stronger play from its inconsistent forwards.

Prediction: Inter Milan.

Lyon vs. AC Milan

Wednesday and April 4

Players to watch: Lyon's Sylvain Wiltord and John Carew; AC Milan's Andriy Shevchenko.

Quick look: Lyon has been eliminated in the quarterfinals the last two seasons and needs another shooting spree from its attack to reverse the trend. AC Milan has scored 27 goals in its last 10 matches while its supposedly over-the-hill defense has allowed only four scores.

Prediction: AC Milan.

Soccer: Bayern on track for title

Bayern Munich recorded a comfortable victory to move a step closer to retaining its domestic title but Barcelona, Juventus and Olympique Lyon had a frustrating weekend, as their sizeable leads were reduced by draws.


Real Madrid rose to second behind leaders Barcelona after thrashing Deportivo Coruna 4-0 at the Bernabeu.

Juan Ramon Lopez Caro’s team are 11 points adrift of Barca, whose under-strength side drew 0-0 at bottom club Malaga, as they prepared to face Benfica in the Champions’ League.


Leaders Juventus were held to a 1-1 home draw by AS Roma, allowing rivals AC Milan to cut their advantage to eight points with a 3-1 victory over fourth-placed Fiorentina.

Milan came from behind to win with strikes from Andriy Shevchenko, Kaka and Gennaro Gattuso after Serie A top scorer Luca Toni put Fiorentina ahead with his 25th goal this season.

Third-placed Inter Milan lost 1-0 at Parma, Fabio Simplicio getting the only goal.


Olympique Lyon had to be content with a 1-1 draw at home to lowly Toulouse in their last game before welcoming AC Milan in the Champions’ League quarter-finals. SCOTLAND Celtic are within one win of clinching their 40th league title after a 2-0 victory at Livingston.

PREVIEW Ambitious Lyon ready for AC Milan test

In a class of their own domestically for years, Olympique Lyon feel it is time to make an impact in Europe and have a perfect opportunity to do so against AC Milan in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The four-times French champions, who entertain Milan in the first leg on Wednesday, have never made the semi-finals of European club soccer's showcase event.

"Lyon will be under the spotlight," said club president Jean-Michel Aulas. "For us this is a real test.

"We want to do what we did against Real Madrid," added Aulas, referring to Lyon's stunning 3-0 defeat of the Spanish giants in their opening match of the campaign.

Lyon left the Champions League in the quarter-finals the last two seasons, losing to eventual champions Porto in 2004 and to PSV Eindhoven last year.

The Ligue 1 leaders realise they have everything to prove but are ready for the challenge.

"The Italians see us as the growing little side and want to use this match to remind us that they're giants," said Aulas.

"I believe that today, we are strong enough to give them a hard time."

Brazilian Juninho, the team's inspiration in midfield, is suspended for the game.

Milan captain Paolo Maldini returned to action after three months on the sidelines as a substitute during the 3-1 win over fourth-placed Fiorentina in Serie A on Saturday.

Maldini is expected to be on the bench again given that Dutchman Jaap Stam has recovered from his calf injury and should feature in the starting line-up.


In attack, Filippo Inzaghi could be rested allowing Italy international Alberto Gilardino to renew his partnership with Andriy Shevchenko.

Gilardino has been restricted to the bench in recent weeks as Inzaghi enjoyed a purple patch of scoring form, including two goals in the 4-1 win over Bayern Munich in the previous round of the Champions League action.

"We are up against a strong team who like to play football, who have good players who are strong both technically and physically," said Gilardino.

"They are a team with personality and a lot of quality in attack. It will be tough but we are focused and determined to win," added the forward.

Probable teams:

Olympique Lyon: 1-Gregory Coupet; 31-Francois Clerc, 3-Cris, 4-Patrick Mueller, 20-Eric Abidal; 21-Tiago, 26-Benoit Pedretti, 7-Mahamadou Diarra; 22-Sylvain Wiltord, 10-Florent Malouda; 9-John Carew.

1-Dida; 31-Jaap Stam, 13-Alessandro Nesta, 4-Kakha Kaladze, 27-Serginho; 8-Gennaro Gattuso, 21-Andrea Pirlo, 20-Clarence Seedorf; 22-Kaka; 7-Andriy Shevchenko, 11-Alberto Gilardino.

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