Top seeds looking stronger, but no Racing certainty
Saracens in good nick too, and could be the one English club to progress to semi-finals
Back in harness: the return of Jonathan Sexton (centre, against Bayonne) to the European Champions Cup should strengthen Racing Metro in Sunday’s quarter-final. Photograph: Iroziroz Gaizka/AFP/Getty Images
It’s a little surprising to be reminded that this is actually a meeting of the first and eighth seeds in the Champions Cup, with Racing advancing to their first home quarter-final after emerging from the pool stages as the tournament’s only unbeaten side.
This was predicated on their surprisingly emphatic 32-8 last-day win at Franklin’s Gardens against Northampton with a mentally assured performance based on forward power and opportunism. After easily their best result in Europe, they should in theory be even stronger with Johnny Sexton back in harness.
This game will reveal whether that was something of a one-off, with their seeding also based on being drawn with Treviso. Last-eight seedings are also partially down to the luck of the draw in the pool stages, and Saracens undoubtedly came through a tougher group when finishing behind Clermont but above Munster.
Fourth domestically after last week’s 12-6 win in Bayonne, Racing are unbeaten in seven games at home.
Yet Saracens, too, are in good nick, last week’s 42-14 win over Harlequins in front of 84,000 at Wembley being a third successive win to keep them second in the Premiership. They have won three of four quarter-finals in this tournament, and have won twice over Racing in France.
With Nigel Owens in charge, the chances of a fluent encounter which goes down to the wire seem good. It’s hard to believe that all three English clubs will drift off quietly into the night; surely one of them will somehow progress. The history between these two suggests it could be Sarries.