Three of the 16 teams that will play in the Champions League knockout stage were confirmed after, and all three are contenders to win the competition. Juventus, Bayern Munich and PSG have punched their tickets to the next round with victories. Before getting to the power rankings following Matchday 4, here’s how all three stack up from most likely title contender to least likely:
Most likely contender: Juventus – This comes down to the team’s experience and Cristiano Ronaldo’s impressive track record in the competition. Many of the players on Juve have played in a final and lost, so don’t discount the hunger for that elusive trophy. Juve has shown the ability to come back when trailing, and though it may not always be clean, the club can grind out the results needed to win the cup.
In-the-middle contender: PSG – As talented as any team in the cup, this club has never shown the ability to come close to winning this competition. Whether it’s a Neymar injury that derails it or a choke job like against Barcelona and Manchester United in recent seasons, why should anyone believe this year will be different? Beating Club Brugge 1-0 isn’t going to help PSG’s case.
Least likely contender: Bayern Munich – Yes, the German team leads our rankings because you can’t deny the results. But how will this team respond against tougher competition now that Niko Kovac is out as coach? Whether Arsene Wenger comes in or somebody else, it just feels like Bayern is going to need that stability at coach to push the right buttons and win this thing. But, let’s not forget that Chelsea won UCL after Roberto Di Matteo replaced Andre Villas-Boas in March of 2012.
Now for the rankings …
1. Bayern Munich (–): Bayern may have a new coach and be struggling in the Bundesliga, but it’s hard to argue with 4-0-0 with 15 goals scored and a spot in the round of 16.
2. PSG (+1): PSG has yet to concede and pretty much have Group A wrapped up. At this point, the French giants are going to trigger the buy option for Mauro Icardi, right? They almost have to.
3. Manchester City (-1): The Ederson injury is one to watch. If he’s out for a while, City could be in trouble. Liverpool weathered the storm without Alisson though.
4. Liverpool (+1): Not the most comfortable scoreline against Genk, but a win is a win. The Reds just need to find that consistency in attack to put teams away.
5. Juventus (+1): Massive play from Douglas Costa to score that dramatic winner, but Gonzalo Higuain’s assist was just as big. Still work left to be done in order to win the group.
6. Barcelona (-2): An ugly draw at home to Slavia Prague in what’s been a rough week. The attack is struggling without Luis Suarez and the pressure is mounting on Ernesto Valverde.
7. Ajax (–): Sure, blowing a 4-1 lead at Chelsea isn’t great, but a draw isn’t that bad in the end when you consider Ajax had two red cards on the same play and very well could have lost. Still in a good spot to advance.
8. Chelsea (+2): A momentum-producing comeback against Ajax to potentially save the Blues’ Champions League campaign. That defense needs a lot of work though.
9. Napoli (-1): There’s turmoil at the club and the players aren’t happy. Expectations may be too high.
10. Atletico Madrid (-1): A surprising defeat, one may say. It’s never easy to play in Germany, but that Thomas’ own goal was just baffling.
11. Dortmund (+5): The German club may have just done enough to advance to the round of 16 with that magical comeback against Inter.
12. RB Leipzig (+2): Two wins in a row has this club on the verge of a spot in the round of 16. RB Leipzig has conceded just one goal in its last two UCL matches, both wins over Zenit.
13. Valencia (+2): Had to win and did just that. Four goals in the second half including the top goal of the matchday from Geoffrey Kondogbia has Los Che feeling confident.
14. Real Madrid (+7): Welcome to the big stage, Rodrygo. Awesome hat trick. Looks like the budding Brazilian superstar on this team is him and not Vinicius Junior.
15. Tottenham (+7): Don’t look now, but Spurs have found their form in the Champions League. Heung-min Son’s two goals on the road have them inching closer to the knockout stage.
16. Dinamo Zagreb (-3): Really blew it against Shakhtar. From having a grip on second place to now sitting uncomfortable in third.
17. Red Bull Salzburg (-3): The draw at Napoli probably won’t be enough to get into the round of 16, but it sets the club up to potentially make a run deep in the Europa League. Don’t count RB Salzburg out yet though.
18. Lyon (–): Finding footing now and looking like dark horse after really stinking it up in Ligue 1. Memphis Depay was the difference as usual.
19. Zenit (-2): In real trouble now with those back-to-back losses against RB Leipzig. Zenit mus beat Lyon or will be crashing out of the cup.
20. Lokomotiv Moscow (-1): Another late defeat to Juventus has to be frustrating. Now third place is in jeopardy with Leverkusen snagging a win.
21. Slavia Prague (–): That point earned at Barcelona had fans celebrating as if they just won the tournament. They’ll remember that game for years to come.
22. Inter Milan (-10): Choke job at Dortmund. Taking a 2-0 lead was hugely impressive, but by blowing that lead, Inter’s UCL campaign is pretty much on the ropes.
23. Benfica (–): Unimpressive and uninspiring. Last place in the group and looking like it won’t have nearly enough to get back into the fight. Absolutely outclassed by a Lyon team out of form.
24. Club Brugge (–): A 1-0 loss at PSG is almost a win! Brugge actually played well but had a penalty kick saved by Keylor Navas. Still the favorite to finish in third over Galatasaray.
25. Shakhtar Donetsk (+1): That crazy 3-3 draw sees this club stay in second place, but it’s tight as can be. Pressure is on against Manchester City later this month.
26. Red Star Belgrade (-1): Destroyed by Tottenham and this team has conceded 13 goals now in four games. Not going to get any easier with Bayern Munich next.
27. Olympiacos (–): Still winless, but that was expected in such a tough group that includes Bayern Munich and Tottenham. Still alive for third place.
28. Genk (–): Fought Liverpool valiantly but was lucky to keep in close. Still with a chance of moving on to the Europa League, but must be more in sync in defense.
29. Bayer Leverkusen (+2): It’s always nice to beat a team like Atletico Madrid, but this team’s problems run deep. Four of its last six goals have been from own goals.
30. Lille (–): Didn’t do much in attack after capitalizing on an early error from Valencia. Lille will finish in last place in the group and head home early, trailing by six points with two games to go.
31. Atalanta (+1): A solid draw against Manchester City, but Atalanta needed more and now will almost certainly finish dead last in the group.
32. Galatasaray (-3): This squad hasn’t won a game and hasn’t even scored a goal. This UCL campaign can’t end soon enough.