UEFA Champions League: Power Ranking the Last 16

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2013

UEFA Champions League: Power Ranking the Last 16

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    The final group-stage games of the UEFA Champions League were completed on Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving the final 16 clubs who will compete in the knockout stages this season.

    Three Spanish, four English and four German clubs make up the bulk, with one each from Italy, France, Turkey, Greece and Russia filling the remaining slots.

    Here's our first look at the 16 competing teams, as we power rank them in order of which sides are looking strongest right now to challenge for the Champions League trophy come May.

16. Olympiacos

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    Olympiacos left it to the final day of the group stage to qualify, but the 1-0 win over Benfica in Week 4 proved pivotal.

    That enabled them to finish level on points with the Portuguese side, but ahead on their head-to-head record.

    However, the Greeks are going to find it extremely tough to progress any further, regardless of who they draw in the round of 16. Their home form is going to have to see them through without defeat, but away from home, expect any of Europe's cream to dispatch them with relative ease.

15. Zenit St Petersburg

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    Zenit St. Petersburg will not likely hold too many fears for any of the seeded clubs in the round of 16 draw, having finished second in their group with the measly tally of six points.

    A single group-stage win was all they mustered, and they were one of only two teams to qualify with a negative goal difference.

    Zenit finished ahead of Austria Wien and FC Porto, but they are unlikely to progress to the quarterfinals.

14. AC Milan

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    One of the biggest names in the history of European football is going through a tough time right now, and the sad fact is that AC Milan are not going to even come close to challenging for the Champions League.

    Moreover, with Milan being the only remaining Italian representative, the coefficient for Serie A is going to take a bit of a downturn this year.

    Milan only beat Celtic in their group and just about squeezed through ahead of Ajax, but it's hugely unlikely they'll trouble any of the big-hitters in the round of 16 this year.

13. Schalke

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    Schalke left it later than most to qualify for the knockouts, but a final-match win over Basel saw them leapfrog the Swiss side into second in Group E.

    There's certainly plenty of pace and technical ability in the German side's front line, and they are one of a handful of runners-up who will not be an easy opponent.

    Schalke will be an interesting side to watch for in the draw, though they won't be one of the favourites at this point.

12. Bayer Leverkusen

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    It's been an up-and-down passage through the groups for Bayer Leverkusen, winning half their games and sealing qualification on the final matchday.

    They certainly have the technical ability to go further, though a lack of real standout world-beaters is going to severely hinder them if they come up against the very top sides.

    Most group winners will probably fancy their chances against the Bundesliga side, though they will do well to not underestimate them.

11. Galatasaray

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    With five minutes left in the last group-stage game, Galatasaray were heading out of the Champions League. A Wesley Sneijder goal later, though, they had dumped Juventus instead and made their own way into the last 16.

    There's plenty of talent in the ranks at the Turkish side, and the likes of Sneijder, Didier Drogba and Fernando Muslera boast plenty of Champions League experience between them, so they'll be no pushovers.

    However, finishing second does give them, very likely, a tough task to go any further unless they are drawn against the likes of Chelsea or Manchester United, whom they would hope to match.

10. Manchester United

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    Manchester United put their domestic troubles to one side to qualify rather comfortably at the top of Group A.

    They were unbeaten in the process and only conceded three goals, the joint-best out of any last-16 side.

    There is, however, an undeniable lack of their usual air of invincibility this season; they don't look quite comfortable yet after their summer changes, and they might well be, strange as it sounds, one of the clubs which the group runners-up are hoping to face.

    United will still likely reach the last eight and certainly have plenty of capability to go much further—but they won't be many viewers' pick to win it all at this point.

9. Chelsea

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    As with their English rivals United, Chelsea's passage to the knockouts was as serene and straightforward as could be.

    Surprise defeats against Basel went almost unnoticed in the end, as they swept away Steaua and Schalke in their other matches, and Chelsea certainly have the squad to challenge any team in a one-off knockout.

    They'll be favourites to progress past the round of 16 against most group runners-up, but Chelsea look some way short of going to the last four or beyond.

8. Manchester City

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    After two years of trying and failing, Manchester City have finally made it out of the group stages of the Champions League.

    They could easily buy another big name or two in January to boost their chances of success, but making it to the last 16 is an important step for them.

    An extra goal in their final game might have made all the difference to how far they can go this year, but few group winners will want to face them nonetheless.

7. Borussia Dortmund

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    Last year's runners-up squeezed into the last 16 this time around thanks to a final-day victory over Marseille and actually ended up topping the group on a three-way head-to-head.

    Their accomplishment is made all the better because they have had to overcome a large number of injuries in recent months, especially in defence. What that should show the club is that further reinforcements are required in January if they are to come close to replicating last year's achievements.

    Dortmund will be safe bets to progress to the quarterfinals, and few will want to come up against them from that point on.

6. Arsenal

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    Arsenal looked good for sealing the top spot in their group initially, but a late turnaround almost saw them eliminated completely on the head-to-head(-to-head!) with Napoli and Dortmund.

    Now into the last 16, they will fancy their chances of giving any team a good run, being in terrific form in general and with several key players at the top of their games.

    Even so, they might feel they've ruined their chances of real success a little this year if the draw pairs them with one of the top two or three sides at this early stage.

5. Atletico Madrid

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    Atletico Madrid are flying high right now and had no trouble overcoming a weak group including Porto, Zenit and Austria Wien.

    With Diego Costa in superb goalscoring form, plenty of creative talents in midfield and an all-round team shape which is proving almost impossible to stop at home or abroad, Atleti might be the neutrals' favourite side to watch this year.

    They'll hope for a kind draw initially but could quickly grow to be one of the biggest forces in this year's competition.

4. Paris Saint-Germain

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    PSG offer more proof that you can't stop the money men. Their squad easily topped the group ahead of Olympiacos, Benfica and Anderlecht, even taking into account a final-day defeat when the top spot was already assured.

    The French side have genuine match-winners in their regular XI and will hope to eclipse last year's achievements in this competition.

    At this stage, they already have to be considered one of the top four or five teams which could really win the competition, and any January activity might only increase that possibility.

3. Real Madrid

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    Real Madrid look unstoppable right now and appear capable of outscoring any opposition they come up against.

    With 20 goals, they scored more than any other team in the group stage, with Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, setting his own scoring records with nine in the six group games alone.

    Anyone who draws Real in the round of 16 will already know they face a massive task to stay in at that point, and Real will be favourites with many to this year finally go on and win their overdue 10th Champions League title.

2. Barcelona

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    Barcelona might not be at their irresistible best of a couple of years back, but they remain a formidable force with a plethora of world-class players at their disposal.

    They'll only continue to improve as the season goes on, and the attacking talent in their ranks continues to make up for any lingering question marks over their defence.

    Oh, they've also got Leo Messi to come back in the new year.

1. Bayern Munich

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    Last year's winners are a juggernaut of unsurpassed brilliance on a tactical, technical and physical level, and there are few teams who seriously look capable of stopping them this time around.

    Everywhere you look, the side hold world-class ability and proven big-game mentalities, while the size of their squad also offers them the ability to absorb any absences to key players.

    It would be a shock to see Bayern Munich exit the Champions League before the semifinal stage this year, and overall they have to be considered favourites to retain their title.