UEFA Champions League power rankings: Liverpool and Bayern Munich lead round of 16 draw

The knockout stages are set in the Champions League, but who are the favorites to lift the trophy in St. Petersburg next May? Ahead of Monday’s draw (on Paramount + and CBS Sports HQ), here’s our ranking of those still in contention in Europe’s best club competition.

The upper level: Title or bust

These teams should be disappointed with nothing less than a semi-final berth and frankly even that might not be enough, such is their talent profile.

1. Liverpool (+2)

Throw a blanket over one of the first three. They could all win the title on May 28 and all of them have had some defining moments in this competition. Liverpool jump to first place on the occasion simply for the assertive way in which they took control of what was, on paper, the toughest group in the competition. The fact that they achieved a 100% winning record in their six games with a heavily touring squad that impressively defeated AC Milan – who had to win to qualify – suggests a depth of quality that the Jurgen Klopp’s team is not always credited.

2. Bayern Munich (-)

Another side to go undefeated during the group stages, although the reality is the only serious top-tier European side Julian Nagelsmann’s side have faced this season may well be Borussia Dortmund last week. Still, they made an impressive exchange by brushing aside the weakened opposition; the way they have led Barcelona at home and away suggests that they are not a team that will slip into the latter stages of this competition.

3. Manchester City (-2)

The loss to RB Leipzig put a damper on City’s group stage campaign, although there were few stakes in the 2-1 loss. Against tougher opposition, they tied Bayern’s most expected goals (xG), registering 17.07 against the Bavarians 17.09 and will surely step up a gear in the new year.

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Serious competitors: if things are going well, why not us?

It is certainly not beyond the realm of the imagination that any of these teams could win the European Cup in Istanbul in May, although it may require a few happy breaks for the tournament to unfold as it does. must.

4. Ajax (+1)

They might not have the names of many stars below them in these rankings, but there are few teams as complete as Erik ten Hag’s. In their strongest eleven everything seems to fit together naturally, the overlapping full-backs are protected by anchor midfielder Edson Alvarez while Antony and Dusan Tadic soar into the infield. David Neres offers welcome depth to the front line, but one might fear what a string of injuries could do to their chances.

5. Chelsea (-1)

Thomas Tuchel is certainly concerned about Chelsea’s situation following the end of their group stage with three goals conceded again. Last season the Blues were a machine that could strangle games once they took the lead, now their manager bemoans their inability to handle a game. “It’s as easy as the basics,” he said. “The basics have to be taken to the next level while we are in the lead.”

Black horses: unlikely suitors, but suitors all the same

These teams are unlikely champions, but Chelsea were too this time around a season ago. Perhaps it will take a change of circumstances like that of the Blues when they appointed Thomas Tuchel, perhaps a new signing or the unveiling of a new tactical plan. It is possible, but certainly not likely.

6. Real Madrid (-)

They may not have garnered attention this season due to a rare lack of high-powered big names (or the tribulations of years gone by at this point), but Carlo Ancelotti’s teams are generally the kind of impressive and fluid team that excels in this competition. Likewise, Thibaut Courtois quietly excels, according to Opta’s metrics, he has the second-highest number of goals avoided (a metric that assesses actual goals conceded against xG) in the competition this season.

7. Paris Saint-Germain (-)

A swallow doesn’t make a summer and likewise PSG just didn’t click because Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe performed well in a Club Brugge rout. After all, performances like this were meant to be the norm, not the exception, for this star roster. It at least raises an intriguing performance as to whether Mauricio Pochettino’s side could be the most balanced and efficient when one of the Big Three – so reluctant to go back and press – isn’t in the game. XI.

Possible quarter-finalists

Winning a round is perhaps the best case scenario for these teams unless something dramatic changes by February.

8. Manchester United (+1)

In many ways, nothing has changed from what we said about Ralf Rangnick’s side last week. For now, a lot of progress is needed. We know they have one of the most talented teams in Europe. It’s fair to assume that by replacing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a man who has a clear vision of how teams should play, they got better in the dugout. The unanswered question is which position in the European hierarchy could make them evolve.

9. Inter Milan (-1)

There has been a lot to admire in Inter’s results and performances this season, even with the loss to Madrid in the first round of the group stage games. However, Tuesday’s loss at the Santiago Bernabeu brought them back to earth with a thud. Above all, they will go to the round of 16 without the suspended Nicolo Barella, whose insane punch will deprive Simone Inzaghi of a key cog in the midfield.

10. Atlético Madrid (+7)

Although the score seemed emphatic, Atleti’s victory over Porto was very rich, a victory that took them to the round of 16, and Diego Simeone will know there is a lot to be done to make this team a force. in the round of 16. The raw materials are there and another brilliant performance from Antoine Griezmann on the bigger stage bodes well. Now to fix this defense.

Would do well to win a round

This largely secondary seed group will be delighted to have come this far, but maybe that’s where their journey ends abruptly.

11. Lille (+1)

Three victories out of three is quite the way to complete the group stages, allowing Lille to take the lead of Group G and with it perhaps a more favorable draw. They will miss Jonathan Ikone if, as expected, he joins Fiorentina ahead of the resumption of the round of 16, although in Timothy Weah, Angel Gomes and of course Jonathan David there are plenty of young attacking talent to be deployed in the last 16.

12. Juventus (-1)

They may have finished top of Group H, but even a 1-0 win over Malmö was deeply disappointing for Juventus. Paulo Dybala struggled to assert himself against one of the weaker Champions League opponents, Moise Kean scored one but wasted a lot more, typical of a team struggling for a lot of offensive punches . Many top seeds will pray for them to join Massimiliano Allegri.

13. Sportsman (-3)

The results against Ajax rather erased Sporting’s specifications, but there was a lot to like about performances elsewhere in Group C, including an impressive destruction of Borussia Dortmund in a 12-game winning streak. If this team stays together in the New Year, then a midfielder from Joao Palhinha and Matheus Nunes offers an impressive balance and the kind of solidity that could allow Pedro Gonçalves and Pablo Sarabia to excel higher up the pitch.

14. Villarréal (+1)

There is a lot to admire from Unai Emery’s side to get the result they needed on the road, especially under the difficult circumstances that a postponed match in Bergamo presented, but that doesn’t hide the fact that the form outside of Villarreal has been pretty bad for the most part. this season. If that doesn’t change by spring, then their Champions League involvement will be brief.

15. Benfica (-1)

Although they look tough to beat defensively, Jorge Jesus’ side barely set the attacking group stage on fire, scoring in just three of their group games and registering the lowest xG tally. (seven out of six games) of all teams to make the last 16. Darwin Nunez looked impressive – ranked sixth in races in the penalty area – but Benfica as a whole may not have the offensive quality to really test the top-level opposition.

16. Red Bull Salzburg (-)

As the first Austrian team to escape the opening group stage since Sturm Graz in 2000-01, Red Bull Salzburg have achieved a lot already and any team like Mohamed Camara, Jerome Ongenue and Karim Adeyemi shouldn’t be. ruled out more success in this competition. However, these players, talented as they are, have little experience of what life at the forefront of the Champions League can be like. They may face a difficult awakening.

Europa League qualifiers

17. Borussia Dortmund (+6)

18. Porto (-5)

19. Seville (-1)

20. Atalanta (-1)

21. RB Leipzig (+5)

22. Barcelona (-1)

23. Zenit Saint Petersburg (+2)

24. Sheriff Tiraspol (-)

Outside europe

25. AC Milan (-3)

26. Wolfsburg (-6)

27. Club Brugge (-)

28. Young boys (-)

29. Dynamo Kiev (-)

30. Shakhtar Donetsk (-)

32. Malmö (+1)

32. Besiktas (-1)

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