Ranking 8 teams remaining in Champions League
EPL

Ranking 8 teams remaining in Champions League

Mar 14, 2024

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We’re down to the nitty-gritty in the Champions League.

Atletico Madrid capped off the round of 16 with a shootout victory over last season’s finalists Inter Milan, upsetting a red-hot team widely fancied to make another deep run in Europe’s premier club competition. Other clubs will look to capitalize on Inter’s surprising ouster and challenge for the coveted big-eared trophy.

With that in mind, here’s how we think the field stacks up heading into Friday’s quarterfinal draw.

8. Borussia Dortmund

Edin Terzic’s men will be undisputed underdogs regardless of who they meet in the quarterfinals. An underwhelming last-16 victory over PSV Eindhoven did little to dispel the notion that Borussia Dortmund are the least intimidating team remaining. They needed a healthy slice of good fortune, and some wayward PSV finishing, to scrape past the Dutch outfit. Jadon Sancho’s first Champions League goal in three years does provide some reason for optimism, though. If the on-loan winger can stay fit, he still has the ability to be a game-changer who can potentially inspire an upset.

7. Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid are the most difficult team to judge of the eight remaining in the tournament. Almost every side goes through ebbs and flows during a match, and a season at large, but Diego Simeone’s feisty squad has been taking that to another level. Spurred on by a boisterous home crowd, they were at their aggressive best for parts of Wednesday’s entertaining clash against Inter but also looked totally overwhelmed by the Nerazzurri’s pressure for large stretches. Their never-say-die attitude got them over the line, though. It may be a cliche, but even amid a patchy season, Atleti are a seasoned side that the other seven contenders would ideally like to avoid in the quarterfinals. Just ask Inter.

6. Barcelona

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Just how far can the youngsters carry this team? Barcelona remain flawed – hence their position on this list. But the emergence of exuberant prodigies like Lamine Yamal, Fermin Lopez, and Pau Cubarsi, all of whom were outstanding in the last-16 second-leg triumph over Napoli, is providing a second wind for a club that looked deflated earlier in the season. Despite Barca’s notorious off-field mismanagement and uncertain managerial future post-Xavi, their famed academy has delivered once again. That’s unlikely to be enough for the Catalan side to reach Wembley for the final, but the mood around the team is on the upswing. What once looked like a lost season is far less bleak right now.

5. Bayern Munich

It’s been difficult to find the right center-back duo, and Thomas Tuchel has repeatedly moaned about his lack of a true No. 6, but Bayern Munich’s results haven’t been that bad. The Bavarians have 57 points in Germany’s top flight – the average points haul at this stage in the post-Pep Guardiola era is 58. Harry Kane has matched a 60-year-old record for goals in a debut Bundesliga campaign (30) with nine matches remaining and proved he’s a big-game player with two finishes to help overturn a one-goal deficit against Lazio in the Champions League last 16. This isn’t vintage Bayern by any means, but they shouldn’t be underestimated.

4. Arsenal

Nearly every other team on this list – save for Premier League rivals Manchester City, of course – is either cruising toward a league title or far enough away from top spot that domestic commitments shouldn’t interfere too much with their Champions League focus. Arsenal don’t have that luxury, but Mikel Arteta’s men have displayed a newfound mettle and maturity this season that suggests they can handle the rigors, both mental and physical, of high-leverage games across the two competitions. Porto delivered a big scare in the last 16, but that should serve the Gunners well; few teams ever totally cruise through the Champions League. The shootout win over the Portuguese giants could turn out to be a seminal moment.

3. Paris Saint-Germain

Xavier Laine / Getty Images Sport / Getty

There’s something different about Paris Saint-Germain. Luis Enrique’s determination to instill discipline and form a solid, long-term foundation have risked upsetting Kylian Mbappe and the whole nation while the forward’s been handed reduced minutes ahead of his summer exit. Nevertheless, there is greater professionalism in PSG’s ranks. They work as a team rather than a discordant club of self-serving galacticos. Their dismissal of Real Sociedad in the round of 16 was impressive – especially when they weathered the aggressive, adventurous opening to the second leg from the Basque hosts. And with Mbappe hanging around for a few more months, PSG have to be billed as genuine contenders.

2. Real Madrid

Real Madrid looked genuinely terrible in the second leg of their narrow last-16 triumph over RB Leipzig. They were panicky and imprecise in possession, and weirdly lackadaisical in defense. It nearly cost them. It didn’t, of course, thanks largely to the individual excellence of Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Junior. Madrid, famous for using magical singular moments to undo all the sustained hard work of their opposition, can never be counted out for that very reason. Especially in this competition. Ominously for the rest of the field, they’re starting to get healthy, too, with Eder Militao and Thibaut Courtois both expected back after the upcoming international break, which will put them in line to play in the quarterfinals.

1. Manchester City

Manchester City are more vulnerable than last season. Quick balls played behind the backline have caused plenty of problems, and some defenders have struggled against direct runners. But this is Manchester City. Erling Haaland has 41 goals in 37 Champions League appearances; Kevin De Bruyne has registered 12 assists despite starting just seven matches since returning from injury in January; and Phil Foden is in the best form of his career. In addition to the wealth of talent, Pep Guardiola could hastily find solutions for his team’s deficiencies; he surprised everyone when he deployed four center-backs en route to securing last season’s treble.

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