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Power Ranking the Attacks of the Champions League Last 16

Christopher AtkinsContributor IFebruary 14, 2014

Power Ranking the Attacks of the Champions League Last 16

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    The Champions League round of 16 begins in earnest on Tuesday, with games set to be spread over a five-week period to determine the quarterfinalists.

    Comparisons between sides from different leagues are notoriously hard to make, but with the season now heading toward its conclusion, we can begin to draw parallels.

    In this instance, Bleacher Report takes a look at the attacking units on show in the competition's last 16, ranking them in order of purely offensive menace.

    All rankings are based on the attacking players who are currently available for selection over the course of the two ties. Current form is also accounted for in the rankings.

     

16. Olympiakos

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    Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Alejandro Dominguez, Joel Campbell, Hernan Perez, Javier Saviola

    Olympiakos took the unusual move in January of selling their top scorer, Kostas Mitroglou, to Premier League strugglers Fulham in spite of their upcoming tie with Manchester United.

    In spite of a couple of additions, it is fair to say that the Greeks have been reduced as an attacking force, with the majority of the goalscoring burden now falling upon 32-year-old Saviola's shoulders.

    Dominguez is another experienced attacking player of some repute and will provide some creativity, while Perez and Arsenal loanee Campbell will offer pace and width to the side.

    It is difficult, though, to see the Greek side troubling even an out-of-sorts United in the weeks ahead.

15. Bayer Leverkusen

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Lars Bender, Sidney Sam, Son Heung-Min, Stefan Kiessling

    Despite two disappointing performances against Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen are into the Champions League last 16 and have an intriguing test in the form of Parisien nouveau-riche side PSG.

    The Germans will need to be at their best to defeat one of Europe's emerging powerhouses, and most of the attention will fall upon what has been a highly productive front three this campaign.

    Sam will start from the right of the three and has been a productive source of assists this campaign, using his pace to great effect. In the centre, meanwhile, is top scorer Kiessling, one of the Bundesliga's more reliable No. 9s.

    The star of the show, however, is Korean talent Son on the left. With wonderful technique and composure, he could be the match-winner for Leverkusen if they can stick close enough to their French rivals to allow him to shine.

14. Zenit

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    Paulo Duarte/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Axel Witsel, Andrey Arshavin, Danny, Hulk

    Zenit come into their clash with Borussia Dortmund with the standard problem for Northern European sides in that they are just beginning their season and could lack match fitness.

    However, if they can overcome those issues, the plus side is that they have a fully fit squad containing some highly competent individual talents who could threaten the German side.

    Brazilian Hulk boasts a strong scoring record in Russia, just as he did for Porto, and will be the main threat. He will find great support in the shape of Arshavin and Danny.

    Belgian midfielder Witsel, meanwhile, is the most technically gifted of what is a very experienced Zenit trio in the middle of the park.

13. Galatasaray

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Wesley Sneijder, Umut Bulut, Burak Yilmaz, Didier Drogba

    Another side that underwent a fairly major change in attacking areas in January was Galatasaray, with Nourredine Amrabat and the injured Bruma heading out. Izet Hajrovic, meanwhile, arrived in Istanbul.

    Hajrovic will likely compete with the versatile Bulut for the final spot in Roberto Mancini's attack, with attacking midfield hub Sneijder and strike duo Drogba and Yilmaz certainties.

    Yilmaz has once more been the club's top scorer this campaign and Chelsea will be well aware of his qualities as a striker. When it comes to Sneijder and Drogba, though, Mourinho is as close to an expert as there could be.

    Drogba, in particular, will relish facing his former teammates and will be the focal point of the attack. Can he summon the level of performance the Turks will need to stand a chance, though?

12. AC Milan

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Adel Taarabt, Ignazio Abate, Kaka, Mario Balotelli

    Poor Clarence Seedorf has a number of major issues to contend with ahead of his first Champions League match as manager.

    Per Goal.com, midfielders Riccardo Montolivo and Sulley Muntari are suspended, Robinho and Stephan El Shaarawy are injured, while Keisuke Honda is cup-tied. It is a nightmare scenario for the first-leg at least.

    Kaka will take his place at the heart of an attacking midfield trio, while QPR loanee Taarabt will likely be handed a chance to repeat his debut goal. The third player in the line, though, may be regular right-back Abate.

    Up front, Milan have a maverick capable of winning any game in Balotelli. The Italian is in decent form since Seedorf's arrival, but will need to shoulder much responsibility in the absence of so many colleagues.

11. Schalke 04

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Julian Draxler, Jefferson Farfan, Max Meyer, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

    While Schalke may have a few fitness issues in defensive areas, the news further up the pitch is largely positive with Chinedu Obasi now fit and star man Draxler back in training.

    With a full quota, the Bundesliga side have options high up the pitch that could trouble any side remaining in the competition if given enough of the ball.

    Draxler and Meyer are two of the brightest young prospects in German football, while Peruvian Farfan adds pace and experience from his inverted role on the right.

    Huntelaar, meanwhile, will lead the line and, for several years now, has been one of the most consistently clinical goalscorers in European football.

10. Manchester United

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Adnan Januzaj, Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie

    Juan Mata, the new signing from Chelsea, will be cup-tied for the remainder of the Champions League season, meaning that teenage star Januzaj will be a regular feature of the Red Devils side in the competition.

    He will most likely be used from the left, with license to roam, while Valencia will provide natural width from the right flank. Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa is an option, but is out of favour.

    Up front, while Danny Welbeck could play a bit part, it is almost certain that Rooney and Van Persie will be used as a duo. The former will be expected to drop back and contribute in midfield.

    United's attack has functioned well in Europe this year, but has stuttered domestically of late. If it clicks, there is enough talent there, but it is a big "if" at present.

9. Arsenal

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Olivier Giroud

    Arsenal have a number of injuries in attacking areas, but still boast a offensive unit brimming with technical quality and creativity.

    However, heading into the first leg with Bayern next week, it will be a worry to Gunners fans that both centre-foward Giroud and main playmaker Ozil are in far from top form.

    Cazorla, though, is playing well from the left and Oxlade-Chamberlain's pace and direct running will be a real threat from the right if the North London side can get on the ball.

    A timely return to form for their key attacking duo, though, would be a major boost.

8. Borussia Dortmund

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Reus, Robert Lewandowski

    As described by Goal.com, Dortmund have a number of injury concerns at present, but will hope that the majority will clear up in the next 10 days ahead of their clash with Zenit.

    In attack, Jakub Blaszczykowski is the most notable absentee. However, the Pole's presence in the game was far from certain, given the players at Jurgen Klopp's disposal.

    Lewandowski will continue to lead the line as he has to great effect in recent seasons and will be joined as a major goal threat by right-sided forward Aubameyang, who is in double figures for the campaign.

    Mkhitaryan and Reus, who will complete the line of three behind Lewandowski, are considerable threats themselves, but will also be looked to as the suppliers of ammunition to their sharpshooters. Given space, they have the players to rip apart the Zenit defence.

7. Atletico Madrid

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    Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Koke, Arda Turan, David Villa, Diego Costa

    Atletico Madrid face a seminal few games in their season over the coming weeks, but do so with a full-strength attacking unit to call from.

    Per Goal.com, there is still a doubt over Villa for the first leg following the Spain striker's recent absence. Should he be unavailable, either Brazilian Diego or Argentine Jose Sosa could come in with a slight alteration to the 4-4-2 setup.

    Diego Costa will be the key to Atletico's attack whatever the setup, with the free-scoring Brazilian a fiercely competitive individual besides his knack for finding the back of the net.

    Villa, alongside him, is one of the best predators of recent years, while Arda Turan will provide creativity from the left flank. Expect Koke, if used on the right of midfield, to tuck in and help in buildup play.

6. PSG

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    Jacques Brinon/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Lucas Moura, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    Bayer Leverkusen face an unenviable task in silencing an attack full of pace and menace when the sides meet next week, albeit that PSG will be without Uruguayan Edinson Cavani, per Goal.com.

    Laurent Blanc's preferred midfield trio of Blaise Matuidi, Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta will provide industry in the centre of the park, leaving Lucas, Lavezzi and Ibrahimovic to provide the quality.

    Lucas, on his day, is a brilliant player who combines excellent technique with incredible bursts of speed on the right flank.

    On the left, the unceasing work rate and no shortage of skill offered by Lavezzi is a nice balance. The duo's task, of course, is to complement the wondrous talents of Zlatan at the point of the attack.

5. Barcelona

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    Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Pedro, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez, Lionel Messi

    The likely injury absence of Neymar, as per Goal.com, and the number of options available to coach Tata Martino means there is some flexibility to the side that Barca could send out against City this week.

    It is likely, though, that midfielder Fabregas will be the unfortunate casualty of Martino's selection dilemma in spite of his fine season in La Liga.

    For several years, Barcelona have been right at the top of European football and much of their dominance has been due to their ability to score against any opponent. In Xavi and Iniesta they have creativity, while on the flanks they have speed and incision.

    To top it all off, though, they have the Argentine gem that is Lionel Messi in attack. As most opponents have discovered in recent years, keeping him quiet is a far from easy task. 

4. Manchester City

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    Clint Hughes/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas, David Silva, Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo

    With Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero set to miss out on the first leg of the clash with Barcelona through injury, according to Goal.com, the Manchester City attack practically picks itself.

    In spite of their two major absentees, it is still a unit that would trouble any side remaining in the competition and boasts a wealth of different dimensions to trouble opponents.

    Toure, the more advanced of the side's central midfielders, is a marauding powerhouse. Silva, the diminutive Spaniard, provides deftness and creativity, while Navas on the flank is a more traditional winger.

    Add in two strikers who have been in good form this season and they present a formidable challenge. However, they would dearly love an Aguero return in time for the second leg on March 12 at Barcelona.

3. Chelsea

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Likely attacking unit: Willian, Oscar, Eden Hazard, Samuel Eto'o

    Chelsea's "little horse" has begun to click into gear in recent weeks prior to the midweek draw with West Brom, and they will fancy their chances against Galatasaray.

    The star of the show of late has been the Belgian, Hazard, who is beginning to show that he can raise his levels to those of the very best players in the Premier League. This season, he has 12 goals in 25 league matches.

    Oscar has been the chosen player at the heart of the attacking unit, with his blend of hard work and creativity appealing to Mourinho. On the right, meanwhile, his fellow Brazilian Willian is similarly industrious and boasts impressive dribbling skills.

    Up front, Eto'o has been the trusted man in what has been a problem position for the Blues this season. The experienced Cameroonian may lack the pace of old, but remains a highly intelligent footballer.

2. Bayern Munich

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    Petr David Josek/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Arjen Robben, Thiago Alcantara, Mario Goetze, Thomas Mueller, Mario Mandzukic

    To look at it positively for Arsenal fans, it appears likely that last season's star man, Franck Ribery, will miss at least the first leg of the last-16 clash, joining Bastian Schweinsteiger on the sidelines, per Goal.com.

    However, the flip side of that equation is that in Ribery's absence, Bayern can still call upon a host of world-class attacking talents to fill the void.

    In Pep Guardiola's preferred 4-1-4-1 formation, Thiago and Goetze will likely fill the central attacking midfield roles. That, in turn, leaves Mueller and Robben to play wide with Mandzukic up front.

    However, if Guardiola should so wish, Xherdan Shaqiri and Toni Kroos are other high-level options at his disposal. It is easy to see why the Bavarians are widely tipped to retain their European crown.

1. Real Madrid

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    Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Likely attacking unit: Angel di Maria, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema

    Beginning to come into real form under Carlo Ancelotti's 4-3-3 system, Real Madrid look like good bets for both domestic and European honours this season.

    Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo continues to be an incredible goal threat and will likely feature from the left of the attack. Benzema, meanwhile, is much improved centrally and should lead the line.

    New boy Bale will occupy a role on the right flank and has the pace to trouble any left-back, besides his finishing and dribbling skills. Argentine di Maria, meanwhile, has been enjoying himself in a central role in recent weeks.

    They may not win anything this campaign, but Los Merengues have looked ominously good lately and have the firepower to beat any side in the world.

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