UEFA.com's team of reporters and correspondents provide you with build-up to this evening's UEFA Champions League quarter-final first legs and reaction from last night's games.
All times CET.
Wednesday 19.00, UEFA.com newsdesk
Have your say on the night's UEFA Champions League action on Twitter using #ChampionsLeague and make sure you follow @UEFAcom for the best post-match reaction and video highlights. In the meantime, keep up to speed with events in France and Italy using the MatchCentre. The blog is now closed.
Wednesday 18.48, UEFA.com newsdesk
Zlatan Ibrahimović is enjoying a particularly prolific year at Milan yet he accepts it will require a complete team performance to overcome his former club Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
"There's no need to prove anything against them, I just want to play well," says the Swede. "When I perform, it's thanks to my team-mates who help me and help me play my best. Nothing is completely down to me. You win together, you lose together."
Wednesday 18.39, Richard Aikman in Milan
Without the suspended Mark van Bommel in the side to shield a back four shorn of perhaps the best central defender in Serie A – the injured Thiago Silva – it seems attack is Milan's best form of defence. To that end Kevin-Prince Boateng's performance will be crucial to the home side.
The dynamic midfielder scored a spectacular goal against Barcelona at San Siro in November and has plundered three goals in five UEFA Champions League matches. Boateng is so important to his side's cause that when his celebrity girlfriend, Melissa Satta, revealed on Twitter that she had the flu, she was bombarded with Milan supporters telling her to keep away from 'Boa'.
Wednesday 18.22, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
Jean-Pierre Papin, voted as OM's player of the century by their fans, spent two years at Bayern (1994-1996), and he thinks the French club have a really tough test ahead of them tonight.
"I believe Marseille is expecting its most difficult game in years," says the 48-year-old. "They have to play without fear, and lay the foundation for progress in the Stade Vélodrome. I think that the attack will make the difference and there, Bayern is stronger. In [Mario]Gomez, [Thomas]Müller, [Franck]Ribéry and [Arjen]Robben they have the strongest attack in Europe.
"Altogether, Bayern are on a par with Real Madrid," he adds. "Only Barcelona are a little bit above them. I think the first leg will end goalless. I know Didier Deschamps and think he will go for a defensive approach."
Wednesday 18.04, Richard Aikman in Milan
Milan is basking in glorious sunshine and the Barcelona supporters here are meandering the streets with a familiarity that suggests they have been here before. Many of them, of course, have, this being their second trip in in four months.
English TV presenter Adrian Chiles is not quite as laissez-faire about tonight's match, saying, "It's just a pleasure to be here for a game like this. I daresay there'll be a few more at the game tonight than there was at Sunderland [v Everton FC] last night in the FA Cup." As for his prediction: "The trouble is you don't know which Ibrahimović is going to turn up; some days he looks like a world beater, other times he looks like a panel beater."
Wednesday 17:58, Matthew Spiro in Marseille
There can be few more vibrant places in Europe than Marseille's city centre on a hot, spring day with an eagerly-awaited UEFA Champions League quarter-final fast approaching. The sun is beating down on the Vieux Port where hordes of Bayern supporters are enjoying a pre-match beverage (or two) and entertaining the locals with their noisy, tribal chants. A group of around 20 red-clad travelling fans have had the bright idea of jumping aboard an open-top tour bus; they have taken over the upper section and are providing considerable amusement with their energetic singing and dancing as the bus crawls through the traffic jams.
It is all quite an eye-opener for Youssouf, a two-year-old French boy decked out in an OM training tracksuit and baseball cap. The excited kid is soaking up the festive scenes with his mother, but he will not be attending tonight's game at the Stade Vélodrome. "He is too young to go to the stadium," Youssouf's mother told me. "But he will be allowed to stay up to watch the game." Not many people in this football-mad city will miss it.
Wednesday 17.40, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
El Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, believes that scoring will be the main objective of both sides, "although each know they will have to sweat in order to do so." With full backs Éric Abidal and Adriano unavailable tonight, the Catalan publication believes Josep Guardiola will not line up with a three-man defence as he did in the weekend win away to RCD Mallorca.
"We will most likely see Gerard Piqué [alongside Javier Mascherano] in the centre with the superb Carles Puyol deputising on the left," is the paper's prediction. "Whoever else starts though, what we are guaranteed is the mouthwatering prospect of seeing two predators - Zlatan Ibrahimović and Lionel Messi - coming face to face."
Wednesday 17.37, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
"If there is one team capable of beating a Barcelona side that have won their last nine matches in all competitions, it is Milan," says Spanish daily El País in the lead up to tonight's quarter-final at the San Siro. "Barça drew 2-2 at home and beat the Rossoneri 3-2 in Milan in the group phase but Massimilliano Allegri has since made his Serie A leaders into a quicker and more competitive side," the paper adds.
Wednesday 17.04, Richard Aikman in Milan
Far from breeding contempt, Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri believes familiarity with Barcelona has helped him work out how to beat them. "We must adopt an attacking approach and play with courage," he said yesterday. "If we want to get through we have to score."
Goalkeeper Christian Abbiati elaborated. "Despite the result we must play the way we did in the second match (which they lost 3-2)," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We mustn't be afraid of who they are and press them really high up. It's tiring but effective. And that way you don't end up running backwards so much."
Wednesday 16.44, Phillip Röber in Munich
Bastian Schweinsteiger is unlikely to start for Bayern today and although he may come on as a late substitute, he plays an important role in the team on the field and off it.
"It doesn't matter if Basti plays or not, his presence alone is very important," Toni Kroos explained, referring to inspiring talks Schweinsteiger had with various players before the return match against FC Basel 1893 in the round of 16.
It's yet another sign that Schweinsteiger has not just developed into one of the best central midfielders of the game, he is also taking more and more responsibility as well as maintaining his fan favourite status. And the great news for Bayern is that in the summer they will have two Schweinsteigers at the club; Bastian's brother Tobias was signed at the beginning of the week to bring similar qualities to Bayern's second team.
Wednesday 16:28, Matthew Spiro en route to Marseille
From Franck Ribéry to Jean-Pierre Papin, Bixente Lizarazu, Klaus Allofs, Rudi Völler, Karl-Heinz Förster, Andreas Köpke or Franz Beckenbauer, a host of illustrious names provide a link between Marseille and Germany. All those figures have been interviewed about tonight's game by L'Équipe newspaper – and the respect they clearly feel for their former clubs really comes through.
Most though see Bayern as favourites to progress. OM legend Papin describes this quarter-final as "the biggest test Marseille have faced in the last decade", while former Germany striker Völler – who won the UEFA Champions League with the French club in Munich in 1993 – says "Marseille's chances of going through are slim".
Beckenbauer, however, offers a word of warning. "Marseille will put everything in to this tie to try to save their season," said Bayern's honourary president, who coached OM briefly in 1990 before becoming sporting director. "In Didier Deschamps they also possess an experienced coach with many qualities."
Wednesday 16.05, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
The daily Die Welt points out an interesting fact: in the past 19 years, Marseille have only won a single title without German involvement, the league championship in 2010. OM won the French double in 1989 and the
league in 1990 with Karl-Heinz Förster in their squad; Klaus Allofs was also a member of the 1989 double-winning team.
Franz Beckenbauer was technical director and part-time coach when OM won the league in 1991, while Rudi Völler played for the club during their most successful years, when they won back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993 as well as the UEFA Champions League.
The only German player to go without a title at Marseille was Andreas Köpke, who played there from 1996 to 1998. Die Welt concludes: "Today, no German will play for Marseille. Quite reassuring for Bayern."
Wednesday 15.52, Richard Aikman in Milan
Among the passengers on my flight was a supporter in full Rossoneri regalia, complete with white tracksuit and sunglasses. Robert, however, is not from Italy. "I live in London but I'm from southern Poland," he says. "About 100km from Kraków. In Poland there is a big following for Italian football – I've been a Milanista since 2003."
Robert, however, is not exactly oozing confidence for tonight's match. "Barcelona have been the best team in the world for the last three years and Messi is from another planet. Him aside, though, I'm worried about who we are going to play in defence. Without Thiago Silva and [Ignazio] Abate we might have to play Daniele Bonera in the middle and Gianluca Zambrotta at left-back. How he is going to match Daniel Alves for pace God only knows. Alessandro Nesta could return to the middle but he has been out for nearly two months so I can't see him being match fit."
Wednesday 15.27, Matthew Spiro en route to Marseille
I have taken a slight detour on my journey from Paris to Marseille to pop in on an Olympique Lyonnais training session at Tola Vologe this morning. OL are used to being France's last European representatives at this time of year, but Rémi Garde's players will have to settle for a watching brief tonight. Hugo Lloris will certainly be keeping an eye on OM's match. The Lyon and France goalkeeper told me he thinks the Ligue 1 outfit "have a chance" of beating Bayern, yet fears the German team's experience could be decisive. "They are used to playing these matches. Marseille have already done well to reach the quarter-finals," Lloris said.
Wednesday 15.08, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
Munich-based weekly The Focus makes no bones about what it expects from tonight. "FC Bayern just have to pummel these Frenchmen" it shouts, adding: "No chance for Olympique Marseille. Bayern will win the tie in the first leg. The French side are being humiliated week after week – the team doesn't even need to show up for the return leg. They will not be good enough against FC Bayern, and in front of their own fans this chaos troop has to be careful not to be humiliated. A one-goal defeat would be counted a success. And how dabbling opponents fare in the [Arena Munich], Marseille can watch that on DVDs with the clobbering of Hoffenheim and Basel."
Frankfurter Rundschau concentrates on Bayern's final mission. "[Franck] Ribéry and Bayern are especially interested in fulfilling their own expectations, which is reaching the final in Munich. That is why they have urgently made warnings about the ninth-placed team in Ligue 1, which has been waiting for a win for almost two months and is lacking several key-players."
Wednesday 14.50, Christian Châtelet, French UEFA.com newsdesk
One of the only newspapers which tries to shine a light of optimism is L'Équipe, with an article named "Still, they have to believe". If Marseille want to avoid "the Champions League anthem becoming their swan song", they have to "defy logic" says the paper.
"But that is what the Olympians do best. During the group stage, they beat twice Dortmund, the Bundesliga leader with a 5-points lead over Bayern. Marseille's failures in Ligue 1 have attenuated the scope of their qualification. But it's not every day that a French club eliminates Inter Milan…"
Wednesday 14.23, Christian Châtelet, French UEFA.com newsdesk
The French press seems quite pessimistic on Marseille's chances against Bayern tonight. "Does OM stand a chance against the Bavarian armada?" asks Le Figaro, which presents the match as "an unbalanced fixture" in an in-depth article comparing form (Munich having "tormented opponents" since their Basel loss), history ("big French club versus a German giant"), economy ("instability against prosperity") and line-ups ("a weakened defence is confronted by an on-fire attack").
Le Nouvel Observateur's view is even darker. "Let's elucidate why OM will be eliminated" they say, while Le Parisien simply reads "OM at the foot of the Bayern hill".
Wednesday 13.58, Paolo Menicucci in Milan
The San Siro stadium will not be sold out tonight, but only because 3,000 tickets for visiting fans went unsold. However, 76,169 spectators are expected, providing a gate receipt of €4,689,255; a record for the San Siro stadium. There will be more than 300 accredited journalists, among them 70 photographers, 20 radio stations, and 45 TV channels. Among the famous names in the stands there will be Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa and Italy rugby star Mirco Bergamasco.
Wednesday 13.36, Richard Aikman en route to Milan
Barcelona are undisputed world beaters, but their reputation precedes them. Many teams must just crumble at the thought of sharing the same pitch. Bayer 04 Leverkusen were trounced 10-2 on aggregate and you get the feeling that they suffered for a lack of experience at this level.
The same cannot be said of Milan, who will not be cowed by their illustrious adversaries, having already twice held their own against them this season. The Rossoneri were edged out 3-2 by Josep Guardiola's side on matchday five after holding them to a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou on the opening night of the campaign: they must be thinking that just the slightest improvement is required to make it third time lucky.
Wednesday 13.15, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
The German press is incredibly unimpressed with Marseille's form. Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: "OM have reached the quarter-finals because the team has played in a manner described by one of Deschamps' favourite sentences - 'on a gagné à l'ancienne', meaning 'we have won the old-fashioned way'.
The paper continues: "In French, this sounds almost elegant, but on the pitch you want to look the other way. 'À l'ancienne' is like the efficient football played by Juventus in the early 90s, but with French taste this feels like a fat cream sauce compared to aromatic oil dip from Piedmont.
"Lately, Marseille have been a bare-knuckle mixture of parking the bus and counterattacking without imagination. Their best man most of the time has been goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, who is suspended for the game against Bayern."
Wednesday 12.51, Richard Aikman en route to Milan
The prospect of a UEFA Champions League quarter-final is always an enticing one, but few encounters get the juices flowing quite like Milan v Barcelona. The European club champions have revolutionised the game and the arguments are already ready raging about whether or not Lionel Messi, who at 24 has already broken Barça's scoring record, is the best player of all time.
It is a nightmare for any coach. How do you contain Messi? And even if you think you have 'the Little Flea' taken care of, there is then the small matter of contending with Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Alexis Sánchez or Daniel Alves.
Wednesday 12.39, John Leonidou in Nicosia
Cyprus was brought back down to earth this morning as the curtain finally looks to have closed on a memorable football year for the island. It was back to work as normal for most people – albeit with tired eyes – and football talk has turned to home matters as APOEL prepare to take on title rivals AC Omonia in the end-of-season play-offs this weekend.
The local press were showering Ivan Jovanović's men with praise in the wake of the 3-0 defeat by Madrid. "The quality of the winner glorifies the defeated" reads Goal newspaper this morning, noting that "the Blue and Yellows held on for 74 minutes against the best club on the planet before caving in". The paper also features the "kind words" of José Mourinho, who had complimented APOEL on their run in the competition.
"Thank you, legend!" reads the front page headline in Sport Day. "The European journey has come to a close but will forever remain a dream".
Wednesday 12.17, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
While much of the media hype before Marseille's match has been centered on Bayern's former OM star Franck Ribéry, Alou Diarra's career has gone the opposite route – having appeared for Bayern's reserves from 2000 to 2002, the midfielder now plays with the French club.
"In my two years at Bayern I made my first steps in professional football - it was great," he says of his time in Germany. "Bayern is right next up there after the two Spanish sides. They are favourites, but I think they will have big respect for us, after we won twice against Dortmund. Franck Ribéry is little Franck no longer - he is big Franck, Le Kaiser!
"He will be very motivated by his return to Stade Vélodrome and if he is motivated he is very dangerous. You have to make him work in defense, be aggressive and deny him the chance to gather pace. Once he is going, he is difficult to stop."
Wednesday 11.51, Paolo Menicucci in Milan
Around 300 singing Milan fans went to Milanello – the Rossoneri's training camp – to show their support yesterday evening. Almost the whole squad came out to the gates of the centre to meet the fans. Some of them took pictures of the celebrating fans and posted them on their Twitter accounts, Kevin-Prince Boateng among them, who wrote 'Andiamo ragazzi!' – Let's go boys! – beside the picture.
Wednesday 11.38, José Nuno Pimentel in Lisbon
Regarding the general newspapers, Correio da Manhã says that "a childish error kills a good match" and calls the result "unfair". Público is titled: "Chelsea counterattack breaks Benfica's ambition", while Diário de Notícias comments: "Artur could not avoid Kalou's goal 15 minutes from the end to hand Chelsea the lead in the tie. To reach the semi-finals, Benfica must win on 4 April in London."
Wednesday 11.23, Tom Kell in London
"Chelsea found their old resolve, unity and discipline and claimed a precious reward", was British daily The Times' assessment of the Blues' victory against Benfica on Tuesday. "There were strong performances from John Terry and Ashley Cole but, with Michael Essien, [Frank] Lampard and Didier Drogba left out of the starting XI, it was an evening when some of Chelsea's less-heralded players stepped forward to earn a priceless victory."
The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, adds: "This was one of the great days for Chelsea, an afternoon in the sunshine for their fans followed by an evening basking in the glow of a terrific team performance capped by Salomon Kalou's goal. The blue flag flew high and proud."
Wednesday 11.04, Christian Châtelet, French UEFA.com newsdesk
The French press calls for miracles and dreams for tonight's Marseille quarter-final against Bayern in Stade Vélodrome. L'Équipe runs a large "Quick, a miracle!" headline on its front page and publishes four pages on this much-awaited encounter, including a Stéphane Mbia interview. The Marseille midfielder compares this match to a "World Cup fixture" and declares: "We have to show something else [than their efforts in Ligue 1]. The fans can count on us. I'm confident we can pull off a surprise."
Marseille-based La Provence spins a pun, saying: "Straight to the dream," based on OM's motto (Straight to the goal). "The Germans are favourites, but the Olympians need to dare everything tonight," they say, reminding readers that "Marseille had not embraced a quarter-final of the most prestigious European cup for 21 years" and should "let their desire shine through".
Wednesday 10.48, José Nuno Pimentel in Lisbon
Benfica lost 1-0 at home to Chelsea last night but all of the Portuguese press has faith that the Eagles can turn the tie in London next week. However, they are keen to point out Benfica's mistakes in Lisbon. A Bola shouts "Nothing is lost!" but adds: "This Benfica seems to to drag the weight of the season with difficulty", while O Jogo says: "Chelsea smile first: the Reds dominated, but an error was enough for [Salomon] Kalou to put the English one foot into the semis."
The paper goes further, saying that: "Only by naivety can you believe that it's possible to need just one leg. And to send Benfica on their way and force a crack in the Champions League semi-finals, they had to be flawless in the first half of the tie with Chelsea. They could not afford to turn a blind eye to any detail, much less give away gifts."
Wednesday 10.35, UEFA.com newsdesk
There are a number of ways to win great prizes with UEFA.com, including Player Rater, Classics and our photo poll. Today will also see plenty of activity in our UEFA Europa League section, with pieces planned for all four of Thursday's ties. This might also be a good day to think about your UEFA Europa League Fantasy Football team.
Wednesday 10.30, UEFA.com newsdesk
David Luiz was delighted with his return to Benfica but urged Chelsea to be careful after their 1-0 win in Lisbon, with the hosts' goalkeeper Artur maintaining belief his side side can still reach the last four.
Madrid, meanwhile, look well set to reach the semi-finals thanks to a 3-0 first-leg win against APOEL. Merengues defender Pepe was full of praise for his side's collective resolve in overcoming the Cypriot team, who were left feeling a mixture of pride and regret.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.