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Ranking the 16 Champions League contenders

Tuesday 13th February 2018

With the Champions League returning on Tuesday night, we rank all 16 clubs' chances of picking up the trophy in Kiev on May 26.

16 - Basel

The Swiss champions receive the wooden spoon. They will find it difficult over two legs against Manchester City. A kinder draw could have prolonged Basel's adventure. This season, though, they are the team least likely to win the Champions League. 

15 - Besiktas

The Turkish giants are better than this ranking suggests. Despite performing excellently to top their group, they face a difficult task to overcome Bayern Munich. After being pipped by Paris Saint-Germain in the last round, the Bundesliga leaders will be intent on strolling past Besiktas.  

14 - Porto 

It's been almost 14 years since the Portuguese heavyweights lifted the Champions League trophy. Repeating the feat this season would be nothing short of a miracle.

Although the current Primeira Liga leaders possess the quality to stun Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp's side will start the last 16 tie as favourites. Progressing deep into the competition remains unlikely for Porto. 

13 - Shakhtar Donetsk

The tournament's first knockout round is about the Ukrainian side's level. They tend to perform well on the European stage, but ultimately come up short against better opposition.

Shakhtar Donetsk's tie against Roma may be considered a 50/50. Regardless of the winner, however, their Champions League journey is reaching its end.

12 - Roma

The Giallorossi delivered beyond expectations to top a group containing Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. The draw has also been kind, with a winnable tie against Shakhtar next up.

Roma, however, remain adrift of the truly top European teams. A Champions League quarter-final appearance would represent a great achievement. 

11 - Liverpool

Klopp's men scream inconsistency. They are capable of beating any side on their day. At times, the Reds can even tear decent opposition apart  For that reason, they should reach the quarter-finals as Porto will struggle to cope with the high intensity.

Liverpool will find it difficult to overcome Europe's top teams in the later stages, though.   

10 - Chelsea

After legendary figures such as John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba departed, the Blues have deteriorated since winning the Champions League in 2012. They have also dropped off in the Premier League recently.

With Barcelona the next European opponents, Chelsea's chances of progressing look slim. In peak form, Conte's side can beat the Catalan giants. After suffering unexpected, heavy defeats to Bournemouth and Watford during the last two weeks, though, confidence needs rebuilding at Stamford Bridge

9 - Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs have little European experience, yet they topped a group containing Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. It set up a difficult encounter with Juventus in the next round. Mauricio Pochettino's tactical nous, however, means victory is achievable.

The Argentine coach will rely heavily on Harry Kane to see off the defending Serie A champions. With the English striker showing great form all season, Tottenham are the Champions League dark horses.  

8 - Sevilla 

The Spanish side are formidable on the continent having won the Europa League three consecutive years from 2014-16. They don't look consistent at the moment, though.

With long-term sporting director Monchi moving on, Sevilla entered a new era. Although it's possibly too early to overpower the top teams, Los Rojiblancos can trouble Manchester United in the last 16.

7 - Manchester United

Considering recent performances, United are nowhere near past teams which conquered Europe under Sir Alex Ferguson. They have the 'Special One' in the dugout now, though. Jose Mourinho is a two-time Champions League winner. On both occasions, he triumphed with unfancied outfits.

The Red Devils, however, aren't in the same mould as Mourinho's Porto and Inter Milan sides. Man United should dispatch Sevilla, but they must improve to seriously challenge for the trophy.   

6 - Juventus

Juve have a realistic chance of winning this season's competition. With two final appearances in the last three years, they have the pedigree. Despite falling short on those occasions against Barcelona and Real Madrid, the Old Lady won't fear any opposition.

Gianluigi Buffon will do all he can to keep Tottenham out. The legendary shot-stopper deserves to finally lift the Champions League trophy.    

5 - Paris St Germain

PSG would sit higher on this list if it wasn't for drawing Real Madrid in the next round. The winner will instantly become a red-hot contender to taste European glory.

History favours Los Blancos, but the Parisians have improved vastly in recent times. With Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the ranks, Paris Saint-Germain can go all the way.

4 - Manchester City

City are cruising to the Premier League title. They aim to translate that success to help build on their modest European pedigree.

Despite Pep Guardiola taking a while to find his feet at the Etihad, suffering disappointment last season, his side have since turned a corner. Out of the five remaining English teams, the Citizens are the best equipped to go on a good Champions League run. 

3 - Bayern Munich

Bayern are always strong contenders. That won't change this season. After amassing an 18-point lead atop the Bundesliga, they should easily dispose of Besiktas in the last 16.

Jupp Heynckes returned to the Bavarians in October last year. During his last reign, he guided the club to the treble. Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery were the stars at that time, but age has since caught up with both. The onus is now on Bayern Munich's younger players to step up in Europe.

2 - Real Madrid

Inconsistent or not Los Blancos should be taken seriously. After being crowned European champions three of the last four seasons, the Champions League is Madrid's territory. Once their players hear the competition's official anthem, they turn into ruthless animals.

Despite trailing Barcelona by 17 points in La Liga, it will take a great side to eliminate Real Madrid.   

1 - Barcelona

On current form, Barca are Europe's most formidable team. They have been superb under Ernesto Valverde this campaign. As well as cruising through their Champions League group, easily defeating last season's conquerors Juventus on the way, the Catalans look set to win La Liga and are through to the Copa del Rey final.

Add the Lionel Messi factor - Blaugrana will prove difficult to topple.  

Gerry Johnston

I am a 33-year-old sports writer from Ireland who enjoys watching European football. My main focus is La Liga, but I do keep a close eye on all of the major leagues throughout the world.


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