Champions League: The main contenders

Sports Mole takes a look at the four main contenders for this year's Champions League.

In less than a week's time the four Champions League semi-finalists will be confirmed. The majority of the quarter-finals still have a lot to be decided, and although Borussia Dortmund have it all to do against Real Madrid it leaves three of the four semi-final spots still very much up for grabs.

Here, Sports Mole picks the four teams that look best suited to emerge victorious and take their place in the semi-final draw on April 11.

1. Bayern Munich

It is very hard to look beyond the current holders this year. Under Pep Guardiola they have, amazingly, improved as a team and raced to the Bundesliga title with seven games to spare. At Old Trafford in the first leg last Tuesday Bayern dominated the possession but were restricted to only a few chances by a determined United backline, although crucially they did score an away goal after going behind.

Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United tracks Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match on April 1, 2014© Getty Images

There is all still to play for at the Allianz Arena, but with that away goal and no deficit to overcome it would be a huge surprise if David Moyes's team emerged victorious. Guardiola did not get it all right at Old Trafford; Thomas Muller, for example, is not the strongest option they have as a striker and with a more balanced team that includes Mario Mandzukic in attack or Mario Gotze as a false nine they should cause some real damage to United.

What Bayern also have is that they are unbeaten in 53 Bundesliga games, a record that eclipses even Arsenal's 'Invincibles'. This means that even with the German league long over, Bayern will have something to remain competitive for in order to keep the players hungry. Which can only have a positive effect on Champions League games.

2. Real Madrid

Carlo Ancelotti's side have looked imperious so far in the knockout stages of Europe's top competition. They started their knockout campaign with a huge 6-1 win against Schalke 04 - away from home. This is a team currently third, and in with every chance of finishing second, in the Bundesliga. They won 9-1 on aggregate and then got their teeth into another German side in the quarter-finals - Borussia Dortmund - with a 3-0 win.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates scoring his goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 2, 2014© Getty Images

Their weapon? Well, take your pick. Karim Benzema has finally lived up to his billing this season, which has taken some of the emphasis off the importance of Cristiano Ronaldo - yet none of his goals. The Portuguese is certain to better Lionel Messi's Champions League goalscoring record of 14 in a season, as his strike against Dortmund equalled that tally. With a player of the calibre of Ronaldo, Real can achieve anything, including beating the current best team in Europe should they face them.

3. Barcelona

One of the more intriguing quarter-final ties was the one that pitted the current La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid against second-placed Barcelona. Even though Barca only managed to draw with Atletico having come from behind at Camp Nou and conceding an away goal, they have enough in them to be able to turn it around. With an incredibly tight finish in the league still to come, it is Barcelona who have been in this situation many times before and experience could see them over the line.

Neymar of Barcelona celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match against Atletico de Madrid on April 1, 2014© Getty Images

Of course, under Gerardo Martino, the Catalan side have not been at their brilliant best the whole season, but with the likes of Messi and Neymar in attack on their day they still have the capability to blow anyone away. It is coming to the time of the season that Barca so often hit their stride, and with four straight league wins as well as a Messi back on form, they could well time the season to perfection with a double still well and truly on.

Beating Atletico away will not be an easy task, however, and they will need to be at their very best. They have not yet beaten them over 90 minutes this season in four clashes so far, and brilliantly the fixture computer has a potential league decider on the last day of the season between them at Camp Nou. Expect plenty more drama between the two this season, but SM expects Barca to edge their game next week.

4. Paris Saint-Germain

The Parisian side have put themselves in with a real chance of reaching the semi-finals with a 3-1 win over Chelsea at Parc des Princes on Wednesday night. Javier Pastore scored in the last minute to add a cushion to the win that will now require Chelsea to win big at Stamford Bridge next week. Chelsea do have the away goal, but it is big advantage PSG.

PSG have grown into the tournament and were very impressive against Bayer Leverkusen in the last round, as they ran out 6-1 winners on aggregate. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani - who has not hit his Napoli heights yet - in the team, most defences in Europe have reason to be fearful. Ibrahimovic suffered an injury against Chelsea and their chances depend on his fitness, but with him they are certainly in with an outside chance of winning.

PSG's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Saint-Etienne during the Ligue 1 match on March 16, 2014© AFP

Neymar of Barcelona celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match against Atletico de Madrid on April 1, 2014
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