Which Champions League game will you watch? Arsenal v Bayern Munich and Real Madrid v Manchester City make it a vintage Tuesday

Matches involving the EPL sides clash for the TV viewer in a must-watch evening of European football

Which game will you be watching on Tuesday night? Because the good people at UEFA have left us with quite the conundrum with their Champions League scheduling.

This is very much a first-world, couch-potato issue to solve. Arsenal v Bayern Munich or Real Madrid v Manchester City? Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Chateau Musar to go alongside it as your tipple for the evening? Whichever first leg of the quarter-finals you settle down to drink in, it should be a good one. Harry Kane’s return to London with an underperforming Bayern Munich side is intriguing, but then so is the clash of the titans, holders Manchester City at the Bernabeu to take on Spain’s finest in Real Madrid.

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Let’s start in the Spanish capital. Real Madrid are ticking along nicely in La Liga. They are top by eight points and have a far more serene title race than Man City, who are currently third in the English Premier League, a point behind joint-leaders Arsenal and Liverpool. City manager Pep Guardiola needs to keep his eyes on many balls right now, rotating his squad, keeping his players fresh for multiple challenges. They don’t come much bigger than Carlo Ancelotti’s team.

Real Madrid's Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti speaks to the press ahead of their match against Manchester City.Real Madrid's Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti speaks to the press ahead of their match against Manchester City.
Real Madrid's Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti speaks to the press ahead of their match against Manchester City.

Real Madrid have won this competition a record 14 times. It is the third season in succession the two clubs have met in the knockout stages, with Real claiming a remarkable comeback victory in the 2022 semi-finals but City avenging that loss in emphatic fashion 12 months later. To add further glitz to the fixture, this game will be Ancelotti’s 200th as manager in a competition he has won a record four times. He admitted to butterflies in his pre-match press conference. The Real Madrid hierarchy want their crown back, and City represent the fiercest of challenges.

“Very nervous,” Ancelotti told the press ahead of the match. “The hours before a match are a time when you have to suffer. I was thinking the other day that defeat is suffering and victory is happiness, but it’s not that way. Victory is relief. It’s happiness if you win trophies, but an isolated victory is a relief. You’re calmer and happier the days after, but suffering is part of your job. It’s what keeps you alive. It’s fuel for me.”

The 64-year-old comes up against the manager perceived as the best of his generation in Pep Guardiola who, after his two previous successes with Barcelona, now has three Champions League triumphs to his name. Ancelotti, however, insisted he is not interested in comparisons. “Guardiola is a great coach, I don’t care much about what they think of me,” he said. “I care what my club thinks. But Guardiola is a great coach and there’s no doubt about that.”

Madrid’s improvement this season has been catalysed by an Englishman. Midfielder Jude Bellingham arrived at the Bernabeu last summer from Borussia Dortmund and has made a stunning impact in the Spanish capital. Twenty goals in 32 appearances across all competitions is a tremendous return for someone who is just 20 years old. “He’s having a very good season in the penalty box,” said Ancelotti. “He’s physically very strong and he’s helping us a lot in the defensive aspects and up front, to create space and provide movement. He’s very mature. He’s only 20 years old but he’s very professional, very serious and humble.”

Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane will be back in London against Arsenal.Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane will be back in London against Arsenal.
Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane will be back in London against Arsenal.

Another young Englishman is hogging the limelight at City. Phil Foden is having his best season in a light blue shirt and rested against Crystal Palace, he will surely start against Real Madrid. A penny for the thoughts of Bellingham and Foden’s captain at international level, though. Harry Kane arrives back in London on club duty with Bayern Munich for the first time since leaving Tottenham Hotspur last summer. The whole idea of him moving to Germany was to get his hands on silverware but out of the domestic cup and trailing Bayer Leverkusen by 16 points in the Bundesliga, the Champions League is Kane’s last chance to get a medal this season.

Bayern’s spectacular fall from grace since the turn of the year is quite remarkable. While pretty secure in Europe, they’ve lost to Werder Bremen, Leverkusen, Bochum, Borussia Dortmund and most recently Heidenheim in the league in 2024 and had the ignominy of crashing out of the DFB Pokal to lower-league Saarbrucken earlier in the season. Manager Thomas Tuchel leaves this summer and the club is in limbo. Arsenal are the complete opposite. They returned to the summit of the EPL by beating Brighton 3-0 at the weekend and have matured a lot this term under Mikel Arteta. England forward Bukayo Saka continues to impress.

Kane will almost certainly get a hostile reception at the Emirates Stadium given his long association with fierce rivals Spurs. On a personal level, his form in Bavaria has been good, scoring 38 goals across all competitions, and he poses a serious threat to the Gunners' aspirations of progressing in Europe.

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“(He's) a good player, of course, and I have played against him a few times and we know the quality he has in the box and he is also good in the link up," said Arsenal skipper Martin Odegaard. "We are facing a good team on Tuesday. I think we should respect him but I don't think we should fear anyone and we should focus on ourselves and the quality we have in our team. And that is all.”

Nothing gets decided on Tuesday in terms of progression to the last four – the second legs of these ties take place next Wednesday – which means a bit of channel-hopping is the best way to enjoy these vintage ties. And don’t forget, we have PSG v Barcelona on Wednesday (the other quarter-final is Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, not quite as alluring). The Champions League has its detractors but at this stage of the competition, interest piques.



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