Champions Cup: Leinster can continue European challenge with Saracens win

Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell
Owen Farrell's side face a tough challenge with a trip to Leinster
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Simon Mail previews the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup including Leinster's home clash against holders Saracens...

"Leinster were outstanding in the group stage this season after winning all six matches and they are the only unbeaten side left in the tournament."

Scarlets backed to reach last four

Scarlets v La Rochelle
Friday, 17:30
Live on BT Sport 2

The Scarlets are competing in their first European knockout game for 11 years and will be confident of progressing to the semi-finals. Wayne Pivac led his side to the Pro12 title last season and the Welsh club topped their Champions Cup pool, ahead of Toulon, with four wins from six games. It was a remarkable effort, especially considering the Scarlets lost their opening two matches.

La Rochelle are dangerous opponents after winning a pool featuring Wasps and Ulster. The French side have impressed during their first season in the competition but this looks a tough challenge for them. The Scarlets can carry their winning momentum from the pool stage into this tie and advance to the last four. La Rochelle's last six losses have all been by no more than 12 points and the hosts can edge through a tight clash.

Home advantage can give Munster the edge

Munster v Toulon
Saturday, 15:15
Live on Sky Sports Action

Munster topped their pool with four wins and a draw from six games and the team should be able to feed off the euphoria of Ireland's recent Grand Slam success in the Six Nations. Two-time champions Munster have no shortage of European pedigree and do not lose often at Thomond Park.

Toulon also have plenty of European success to fall back on with the French side winning the trophy three years in a row, most recently in 2015. After scraping through in second place in their pool, Toulon will be hoping to peak in the knockout stages. But Munster, roared on by their home support, look well equipped to fend off the visitors' challenge although it could be close. Only one of Toulon's 12 defeats this season have been by more than 12 points so this tie could be settled by small margins.

Clermont to win French battle

Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92
Sunday, 13:00
Live on Sky Sports Action

There is an all-French quarter-final at the Stade Marcel-Michelin with Clermont Auvergne hosting Racing 92. It has been a forgettable domestic campaign for last year's finalists Clermont with the team thrashed 49-0 at Toulon last week although all their focus is on Europe. The team topped their group with five victories including eye-catching home and away wins over holders Saracens.

Racing booked their last-eight spot after finishing runners-up to Munster. In the last meeting between the sides, Racing hammered Clermont 58-6 in January but the visitors switched off in the Top 14 a long time ago. A better guide could be Clermont's 23-21 home win over Racing in September and with all their energy focused on Champions Cup success, the hosts are backed to prevail with a narrow victory.

Leinster can end Saracens' grip on trophy

Leinster v Saracens
Sunday, 15:30
Live on BT Sport 2

The final game of the weekend looks the tie of the round with favourites Leinster hosting a Saracens side which have won the competition for the last two years. Leinster were outstanding in the group stage this season after winning all six matches and they are the only unbeaten side left in the tournament. With the Irish stars, including Jonny Sexton, well rested after their Grand Slam triumph in the Six Nations, Leinster will be tough to beat.

Saracens have been exceptional over the last two years in the Champions Cup but there have been signs that a third successive trophy could be beyond them. The Men in Black lost twice in the pool stage, including a home drubbing against Clermont, as they squeezed through as a runner-up. Sarries are certain to push Leinster hard but the Irish giants look to have the edge especially with home advantage. The hosts won two of their three group games at home by single-figure margins and another narrow victory looks likely this weekend.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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