After a winter that lasted what felt like an eternity, the Champions League resumes this week with the start of the knockout phases.
The remaining 16 groups might be boosted by the very fact a few of Europe’s finest sides, reminiscent of Premier League leaders Liverpool and Bundesliga favourites Bayer Leverkusen, are literally caught on this 12 months’s Europa League.
However as you are shortly going to find, that is not a lot of a bonus for these sides, with the race to the underside maybe a little bit extra fascinating than that to the highest.
Which aspect will go all the way in which and turn out to be kings of Europe? Who’s going to vomit throughout themselves and stumble out the exit door quickest?
Listed below are the final 16 groups of this 12 months’s Champions League, ranked by their chance to win it.
Final 16 opponent: Manchester Metropolis
Energy: It is nonetheless actually chilly in Copenhagen
Weak point: It is at all times actually chilly in Manchester
That is most likely the tip of the highway for valiant Danish champions Copenhagen, who did effectively to emerge from a bunch which contained Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Galatasaray.
Final 16 opponent: Barcelona
Energy: Champions of Serie A
Weak point: Presently ninth in Serie A
We maybe ought to have foreseen that the one pure method for Napoli to observe up on their Scudetto-winning marketing campaign was to place within the worst defence of the Scudetto the world has ever seen.
What’s he like, that Aurelio De Laurentiis?
Final 16 opponent: Arsenal
Energy: A stunning metropolis, really beautiful, identical goes for the stadium
Weak point: I’ve by no means seen structure win a soccer match
Properly Porto, you were not that fancied in 2004 while you went on to win the Champions League. Perhaps your luck might be in once more.
Final 16 opponent: Bayern Munich
Energy: Maurizio Sarri has a winners’ medal in Europe
Weak point: This is not the Europa League
Each time Lazio do qualify for the Champions League, it feels prefer it’s their future to get knocked out on the spherical of 16 stage by Bayern Munich.
Final 16 opponent: Paris Saint-Germain
Energy: Identify interprets to ‘Royal Society’, that is obtained to imply one thing
Weak point: It doesn’t, the truth is, ‘imply one thing’
Actual Sociedad’s reward for topping a Champions League group that includes runners-up Inter is a tie with Paris Saint-Germain. Appears truthful.
Final 16 opponent: Borussia Dortmund
Energy: 10 factors clear atop the Eredivisie
Weak point: Why ought to I care about that after we’re speaking concerning the Champions League?
The silver lining for PSV in the event that they lose to a so-so Borussia Dortmund is it’s going to present to the world simply how terrible rivals Ajax are, contemplating they’re 24 factors off the tempo within the Eredivisie.
Final 16 opponent: Actual Madrid
Energy: Infinite provide of Purple Bull
Weak point: Wings will not save them from their Champions League attracts this season
Confronted Manchester Metropolis within the group stage, drawn with Actual Madrid within the final 16. It is a powerful life for RB Leipzig.
Final 16 opponent: Napoli
Energy: Their final 16 opponent
Weak point: The possible power of a quarter-final opponent
Barcelona are in full shambles. In the event that they weren’t dealing with a crew in much more shambles, they’d be staring down the barrel of one other early Champions League exit.
Final 16 opponent: PSV Eindhoven
Energy: Their group of dying antics
Weak point: Their most up-to-date knockout stage antics
Coming high of a bunch that includes PSG, Newcastle United and Milan is all effectively and good, however being knocked out by Graham Potter’s Chelsea at this stage final 12 months nonetheless lingers within the reminiscence when discussing Borussia Dortmund’s probabilities.
Final 16 opponent: Inter
Energy: Knockout pedigree
Weak point: Go have a look at their alarming and sudden dip in kind
The ‘Custody of Diego Simeone ladder match’ might conceivably be fought with actual ladders and as if it have been within the precise WWE. Let’s roll out Jim Ross onto commentary.
Final 16 opponent: Lazio
Energy: Boatloads of expertise
Weak point: Thomas Tuchel seemingly does not know what to do with it
All will not be effectively at Bayern Munich, who would have been within the high three of those rankings again in December upon conclusion of the group stage.
For instance, Thomas Tuchel would favor to make use of Eric Dier as an alternative of Matthijs de Ligt. What’s that every one about?
Final 16 opponent: Actual Sociedad
Energy: Kylian Mbappe’s farewell tour
Weak point: That went effectively final time in 2022
If Kylian Mbappe is to win his hometown PSG their first Champions League, that is most likely his final probability. And boy is he going to want to go on a one-man mission so as to take action.
Final 16 opponent: Porto
Energy: Historical past
Weak point: Historical past
Arsenal’s final victory within the Champions League final 16 got here towards Porto in 2010. There’s your narrative for waltzing by this time.
However Mikel Arteta’s Gunners have little European pedigree since he turned supervisor. They actively tried to win final 12 months’s Europa League tie towards Sporting CP however discovered a solution to lose anyway.
Final 16 opponent: Atletico Madrid
Energy: Ending second in final 12 months’s Champions League
Weak point: Someway they’ve dropped a spot within the rankings, then
On paper, Inter aren’t the strongest crew and positively haven’t got essentially the most expertise. However their run to final season’s closing will serve them effectively, with Simone Inzaghi proving to be one of many world’s main coaches.
Final 16 opponent: RB Leipzig
Energy: The aura of Jude Bellingham
Weak point: He might miss each legs with an ankle damage, let’s work on some ways lads
Whether or not it is this season or in years to come back, Actual Madrid are going to tear off one other run of successive Champions League titles with their younger core and the possible addition of Mbappe from this summer time. It is inevitable.
Final 16 opponent: Copenhagen
Energy: They’re actually the champions of the world
Weak point: The specter of ‘typical Metropolis’
Manchester Metropolis are the favourites to win the Champions League till they’re knocked out of it. Easy as that.