16. FC Porto
Domestically, FC Porto is surprisingly sitting in third place. The club hasn’t been as clinical in the final third as they’ve been in recent years. To make matters worse, they earned a Round of 16 matchup with a highly motivated Juventus squad. While we believe Jesus Corona (aka Tecatito) to be one of the world’s most underrated footballers, he won’t be able to prevent his side from bowing out early in this competition.
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15. Borussia Mönchengladbach
Borussia Monchengladbach is currently experiencing a rather sizable dip in form. They currently sit in 8th place in the Bundesliga table. Even more challenging, Man City awaits them in the initial round of the knockout stage. City is the prohibitive favorite in this draw. Very few are giving Monchengladbach any sort of chance to advance. If they do, it’ll be via the scoring prowess of Lars Stindl. Marcus Thuram (pictured above) might be able to be a bit of a wildcard option heading into the first leg of these two fixtures.
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14. S.S. Lazio
Lazio faces arguably the toughest Round of 16 matchup, as it’s slated to go up against Bayern Munich. While it’s highly unlikely Lazio will advance, there are a few things going for the Italian club. Namely, it has an established goal scorer (Ciro Immobile) leading its line. While Lazio’s play in Serie A hasn’t been outstanding, it is an opponent which needs to be respected. Along with Immobile, Bayern must be mindful of both Felipe Caicedo and playmaker Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
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13. Sevilla F.C.
This Round of 16 matchup will be highly intriguing. We’ve got a complete contrast in styles. Sevilla and manager Julen Lopetegui play a distinct style of play in which they attempt to control tempo, strike on the counter, and all the while limit fast transitions from the opposition. We could see a scenario in which this sort of ‘bunkering in’ could frustrate a young yet highly-talented Dortmund side. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Sevilla advance to the Round of 8. They don’t score a ton of goals, though they’ve conceded the third-least amount of goals on the year in La Liga.
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12. Atalanta B.C.
Atalanta won’t sneak up on anyone this season. The swashbuckling style implemented by Gian Piero Gasperini allows for his side to be a major threat when it comes to scoring goals. On the flipside, this willingness to press forward with a pair of very attack-minded wingbacks (Robin Gosens, Hans Hateboer) could leave them susceptible to counterattacks. While they’ll be underdogs to Real Madrid, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities to see La Dea advance from the Round of 16.
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11. Chelsea F.C.
We are not a believer in Chelsea. On paper, this team is loaded with quality. They may be a year away from contending for anything seriously — which partially has to do with a lack of overall chemistry. However, Frank Lampard doesn’t appear to be the answer at the club. His tactics constantly are called into question. He has a very strange willingness to play Mason Mount despite rearranging the positioning of better players in order to include him into the side. Duly, taking your most gifted attacking player (Christian Pulisic) and playing him away from his favored left winger spot is truly perplexing. Atletico Madrid is a far more disciplined side, and one with a much better manager.
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10. Borussia Dortmund
Much of Borussia Dortmund’s potential success sits with the health of Erling Haaland. If the Norwegian striker is healthy, this team’s ceiling is rather high. He’s already one of the best goal scorers in the world today. Additionally, Dortmund has an elite winger in Jadon Sancho, proven attacking players in Julian Brandt and Marco Reus, and one of football’s best young players in Gio Reyna. The defense has been worrisome in recent weeks — particularly with an aging Mats Hummels.
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9. Red Bull Leipzig
Red Bull Leipzig is a scary Round of 16 opponent for Liverpool. Julian Nagelsmann is one of the brightest up-and-coming managers in Europe. His Leipzig teams are organized, clinical, and play with tons of energy. They won’t be giving Liverpool anything easy despite a rather considerable gulf in overall talent. The fact RB Leipzig is going up against an inexperienced CB pairing of Rhys Williams and Fabinho instead of Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk is certainly something to watch.
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8. FC Barcelona
We all know Barcelona has been an inconsistent mess for the vast majority of this year. Lionel Messi is visibly frustrated, Antoine Griezmann is a shell of his former self, and Ronald Koeman remains somewhat of a lame duck manager. All that aside…the team still has Messi. With him on the field, Barcelona has a puncher’s chance against literally any opponent (despite PSG being a difficult Round of 16 opponent). Expect to see some fireworks from these two fixtures.
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Juventus has not won a Champions League trophy since the 1995-96 season, when the side beat Ajax in penalties. There’s a lot of pressure sitting on the shoulders of both manager Andrea Pirlo and Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus has had its ups and downs this year. Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala have been wildly inconsistent up top alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. Pirlo has also insisted on a rather liberal rotation from his midfield — both centrally and on the wings. Some feel as if the group members aren’t gelling as well as they could. Interestingly enough, American central midfielder Weston McKennie has played quite well to the point where he’s essentially a regular next to the likes of Rodrigo Bentancur/Adrien Rabiot/Arthur.
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6. Real Madrid
Real Madrid should never be looked at as a dark horse. However, this is a year where they’re sort of flying under the radar. Eden Hazard has been in and out of the lineup. It appears as if he’ll be available for Madrid — which is a major plus. Concerns about an aging lineup remain. With that said, Karim Benzema can still bang in goals. Sergio Ramos is also quite capable when it comes to leading from the back. When factoring in a workmanlike midfield with world class players (Luka Modric, Rodrygo, Toni Kroos), this is a club no one really wants to face.
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5. Atlético Madrid
Currently atop the table in La Liga, Diego Simeone’s side has conceded only four goals in 11 games. The staunch defensive effort is led by supreme organization and an unabated desire to play for one another. It’s the type of spirit Simeone had himself as a player. Atleti is comfortable playing a free flowing game — as well as one which is a bit of a slog. This ability to adapt to multiple styles of play gives them a real chance at winning Champions League. Additionally, the revamped front two of Joao Felix and Luis Suarez gives this team a new dynamic not previously had in recent CL iterations.
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4. Paris Saint-Germain
Despite having a +25 goal differential in Ligue 1 play, PSG curiously finds itself a point behind table leader Lille. PSG has been beset by both injury and constant squad rotation. We have some questions about the collective bite of its midfield — as well as some reservations when it comes to the back three. However, this club has Neymar and Kylian Mbappe — two of the top four attacking options on the entire planet. When you also include rising starlet Moise Kean, veteran Angel Di Maria and cagey midfielder Marco Verratti, PSG has the ability at any moment to strike. It’s what makes them so dangerous. This group should be able to expose some of Barcelona’s major weaknesses.
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Liverpool’s depth has certainly been tested this calendar year. As mentioned previously, injuries have forced Liverpool to start a teenager and a converted defensive midfielder at center back. Getting Thiago and Diogo Jota back will help immensely, particularly when it comes to possession. As we know, Jurgen Klopp employs a structured high press. Liverpool should be able to best Leipzig based on talent alone — though the club is certainly susceptible to anyone who possess legitimate counter-attacking principles. Liverpool could be doing cartwheels if it can poach Dayot Upamecano from (ironically) Leipzig. He’d shore up a massive hole for the club — and perhaps would make them the favorites.
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2. Manchester City
City has all the ingredients for a team poised to win the CL. The attacking talent is nearly unrivaled. Pep Guardiola is a genius from a tactical standpoint, and will put his club in position to succeed. City is having a disappointing campaign within the Prem. Far too often has the team allowed the opponent to either equalize or take the league within the final 20 minutes of a match. Assuming City will become more ruthless when it comes to putting clubs away, they should at the very least make the Round of 8.
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1. FC Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich is still the favorite to win Champions League. You’ve got loads of quality all over the pitch — particularly in the attacking third (led by the best No. 9 in the world in Robert Lewandowski). If we’re nitpicking a bit on the roster as a whole, the backline is a bit of a question mark. Both Jerome Boateng and David Alaba have been somewhat shaky (and injury-prone). Any sort of sustainable knock could put the favorites in a bit of a tricky spot. Still, the Bavarian giants should cruise through their Round of 16 matchup with Lazio.
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