Champions League Power Rankings: Barcelona & Liverpool not among the favourites

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Europe's premier club competition returns this week, with the continent's biggest clubs all eyeing a place in the final in Istanbul

The Champions League is back, with almost all the usual runners and riders gearing up for the knockout stages.

But which teams are shaping up as potential favourites, and who looks set for an early exit during the upcoming last-16 ties?

Goal power ranks the teams left in this season's competition...

  1. Porto
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    #16 Porto

    Yet again the only side from outside Europe's top five leagues to qualify for the knockout stages, Porto's chances of going much further in the competition look slim as they prepare to face a resurgent Juventus in the last 16.

    Sergio Conceicao's side have won just three of their last nine games in all competitions, and in all likelihood will be putting most of their efforts during the second half of the season into closing the seven-point gap on unbeaten Primeira Liga leaders Sporting C.P.

  2. Lazio
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    #15 Lazio

    Lazio have not made it this far in the Champions League since the 2000-01 season, and their chances of equalling their best-ever run to the quarter-finals are low having drawn defending champions Bayern Munich in the first knockout round.

    Simone Inzaghi's side have enjoyed an improved run of form after winning six of their last seven Serie A games, but will need Ciro Immobile to be at the very top of his game if they are to progress to the latter stages.

  3. Borussia Monchengladbach
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    #14 Borussia Monchengladbach

    Though they currently find themselves sat seventh in the Bundesliga table, Borussia Monchengladbach have shown themselves to be capable of mixing it with some of the biggest and best teams Europe has to offer this season.

    Domestically, they have beaten Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig in 2020-21 while both Real Madrid and Inter needed late equalisers to avoid defeat to Marco Rose's side in the opening weeks of the Champions League group stages.

    That said, beating Manchester City in their current form looks an uphill task for the German outfit, and an honourable last-16 exit seems the most likely outcome.

  4. Sevilla
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    #13 Sevilla

    Given they have lost just once since December 5, and that came against runaway La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, there is a feeling that Sevilla are yet again being undervalued when it comes to their chances of continental success.

    The Europa League champions certainly go into their tie with Borussia Dortmund as the form team, but there remains a niggling doubt about Julen Lopetegui's side and whether, when faced with a team that possesses more talented individuals in a number of key positions, they will be able to go the distance.

    Their recent Copa del Rey win over Barcelona suggested they can, but it still feels as if the quarter-finals is their absolute ceiling when it comes to the Champions League.

  5. Atalanta
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    #12 Atalanta

    Atalanta have already proven themselves as a threat to the established order with their run to the quarter-finals of last season's competition, and Gian Piero Gasperini's side are again gearing up for an assault on the knockout stages.

    Though not quite enjoying the same success in Serie A this season as they did in 2019-20, they remain one of Europe's most exciting teams to watch having scored at least three goals in eight of their 13 games since the turn of the year.

    An injury-hit Real Madrid side await the Coppa Italia finalists in the last 16, and though they remain down the pecking order in terms of winning the whole competition, do not rule out Atalanta from causing another European shock or two before the summer.

  6. Borussia Dortmund
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    #11 Borussia Dortmund

    To say that Borussia Dortmund need a run in the Champions League is an understatement.

    Still without a permanent manager following the sacking of Lucien Favre, the German giants find themselves sitting sixth in the Bundesliga table, their title challenge over and their chances of a top-four finish far from guaranteed.

    Despite that, any team with Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho in it has the firepower to put a run of results together in the Champions League, and though Sevilla are a tough nut to crack, they could have been handed far more difficult last-16 draws.

    Dortmund should not be considered among the favourites, but do not rule them out either.

  7. RB Leipzig
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    #10 RB Leipzig

    Having reached last season's semi-finals, RB Leipzig again go into the Champions League knockout stages aiming to prove that they can be genuine contenders for Europe's biggest prize year on year.

    Having lost just two of their last 17 games in all competitions, the Bundesliga outfit head into their clash with Liverpool as the side in better form, even if they do not possess the same goal threat as last term following Timo Werner's sale.

    That said, Julian Nagelsmann has proven adept at coaching a squad to be greater than the sum of its parts, and no opposition side will take them lightly if they progress into the later rounds.

  8. Chelsea
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    #9 Chelsea

    Were it not for their impressive start to life under Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea would have been far further down this list, but with the German coach now at the helm they suddenly look like a team that could cause any side a headache.

    The Blues have picked up 10 points from Tuchel's first four Premier League games in charge, with the ex-Dortmund boss having made them far more solid in defence while retaining their threat in attack.

    Seeing off Atletico Madrid in the last 16 remains an ominous task, but having reached the final last season with Paris Saint-Germain, Tuchel has shown he knows how to succeed in Europe.

    The question is whether his young squad are quite good enough yet to make that leap.

  9. Liverpool

    #8 Liverpool

    Liverpool could hardly be returning to European competition in worse form, but their history in the Champions League - both recent and otherwise - suggests that they can never be ruled out.

    A run of just two wins in 10 league games has seen the defence of their Premier League title all but end, and Jurgen Klopp's side are now facing a battle to secure a top-four finish.

    Despite that, if new signing Ozan Kabak can settle in defence while freeing up Jordan Henderson to return to midfield, and Diogo Jota hits the ground running on his return from injury, then the Reds could very quickly become a force once more.

    Few would bet on them winning the Champions League right now, but Liverpool have built their history around coming good at the right time.

  10. Barcelona
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    #7 Barcelona

    Another embarrassing exit or a final hurrah for Lionel Messi?

    Both options remain on the table for Barcelona in this season's Champions League, though the presence of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is all that is keeping them from slipping into the lower reaches of this list.

    Despite his powers beginning to wane, anything remains possible when Messi is on the pitch, though the Argentine will have to be at his very best if the Blaugrana are to overcome PSG in the last 16.

    Ronald Koeman's side will have been boosted by the news of Neymar's latest injury woes, and beating the Ligue 1 champions would certainly give them confidence ahead of a potential tilt at the title.

  11. Real Madrid
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    #6 Real Madrid

    Another giant of European football suffering during this strangest of seasons is Real Madrid, with the Spanish champions having only won five of their last 10 games in all competitions.

    That is in part down to a crippling injury crisis that left Zinedine Zidane with just 12 fit first-team players for the recent win over Getafe, and the three-time Champions League winning coach will be hopeful that at least some of his star names are ready to return against Atalanta in the last 16.

    If the Blancos can get past their Italian opponents then they are only too aware of their own capabilities when it comes to plotting a route through Europe's premier club competition.

  12. Paris Saint-Germain
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    #5 Paris Saint-Germain

    After coming so close in 2020, PSG's quest for a first Champions League title gets back going with the small matter of a last-16 tie against Barcelona on Tuesday.

    A more favourable draw might have seen them place higher on this list, while Neymar's injury picked up in the Coupe de France against Caen on Wednesday is a huge blow to Mauricio Pochettino's side, as well as the Brazil star himself as he misses out on a return to Camp Nou.

    Much of the onus will now fall on Kylian Mbappe, though in truth PSG possess enough talent to see off a Barca team that is floundering right now.

    They will probably need Neymar back, however, to reach the final for the second successive season.

  13. Atletico Madrid
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    #4 Atletico Madrid

    With just one league defeat all season and knowing victories in their games in hand will leave them with one hand on the Liga trophy, Atletico Madrid are in a pretty good place right now.

    Luis Suarez has shown he is far from done at the top level, Joao Felix is beginning to blossom in the Spanish capital and Diego Simeone's disciplined defence continue to be one of the meanest in Europe.

    With all that in mind, the Rojiblancos must be taken seriously as European contenders, even if their last-16 clash with Chelsea looks far more difficult now than it did during Frank Lampard's final weeks in charge at Stamford Bridge.

    Simeone's side have also lost home advantage for the first leg due to Covid-19 restrictions, but that does not stop them from being among the favourites to claim the biggest trophy of them all in Istanbul.

  14. Juventus
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    #3 Juventus

    There was a time when it looked like Andrea Pirlo might not be in charge of Juventus by the time the Champions League resumed, but a run of 10 wins in 13 games has seen the Bianconeri turn their season around.

    Though they remain third behind the Milan sides in the Serie A table, Pirlo's team are well prepared ahead of what looks a relatively straightforward last-16 tie against Porto, a narrow weekend loss to Napoli notwithstanding.

    Wins on the road against Barcelona, AC Milan and Inter already this season should give them cause for optimism when they eventually face off against Europe's elite sides later in the competition, while Cristiano Ronaldo - AKA Mr Champions League - is beginning to look in ominous goalscoring form.

  15. Manchester City
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    #2 Manchester City

    Another team who seem to be finding form just at the right time for an assault on the Champions League are Manchester City, with the Premier League outfit having become the first English top-flight side to win 16 sucessive games in all competitions.

    The fact that much of the run was put together without either Kevin De Bruyne or Sergio Aguero will only instil even more fear into City's potential European opponents presuming they get past Borussia Monchengladbach in the last 16.

    The only thing that could hold them back is perhaps Guardiola himself, with the Catalan coach having been blamed for over-thinking a number of knockout ties since his arrival at the Etihad Stadium.

    If the former Barcelona boss can avoid such a disaster this time then the trophy could be City's for the taking.

  16. Bayern Munich
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    #1 Bayern Munich

    Bayern Munich may not have been at their brilliant best throughout the whole campaign, but the defending European champions remain the team to beat in this season's competition.

    Hansi Flick has the majority of last season's stars to pick from once more, with Robert Lewandowski having retained the form that likely would have won him a Ballon d'Or in 2020 had the award not been cancelled.

    The Poland international has 29 goals in 28 games so far this season, and with the likes of Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane joining him in attack the Bavarians are a team to be feared.

    Right now it feels as if any team wants to take Bayern's crown, they will have to beat them between now and May to do it.