UEFA Champions League power rankings: Bayern Munich top the pile as Chelsea, Inter Milan rise up


With just two rounds of games left in the Champions League group stage on Paramount+ the state of play is looking increasingly clear. Four teams — Liverpool, Ajax, Bayern Munich and Juventus — are already through to the first knockout round. Three teams are out. Here’s how the 32 clubs stand in terms of their likelihood of winning the whole thing:

The top tier: Title or bust

These teams should be disappointed with anything less than a semi final berth and frankly even that might not be enough, such is their talent profile.

1. Bayern Munich (+2)

Leapfrogging the two Premier League sides by virtue of their own excellence rather than anything the others have done wrong, Bayern are simply the most explosive team on the continent right now. Their two games against Benfica were rather typical of Julian Nagelsmann’s side this season, good teams can play very well against them but if they switch off for a moment they can find themselves on the end of what looks to be a trouncing.

2. Manchester City (-1)

Set aside the odd brief wobble here and there and this looks like a City team that are motoring along, with space to accelerate up towards top speed. Saturday’s 2-0 win over Manchester United was everything that a top team needs: a game where they never remotely seemed like they were playing their best football but never needed to as they eased to victory.

3. Liverpool (-1)

West Ham’s 3-2 win on Sunday showed there are chinks in the Reds’ defensive armor that the right players can exploit on the counter attack but so many other games in recent weeks have shown that the more likely outcome is that Mohamed Salah and company simply overwhelm you with attacking pressure. Liverpool were supposed to have landed in the group of death. With two games to spare they have already guaranteed top spot in it.

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Serious contenders: If things go right, why not us?

It certainly is not beyond the realm of imagination that any of these teams could be lifting the European Cup in Istanbul come May, though it may require a few fortunate breaks for the tournament to go their way.

4. Ajax (–)

There may have been some good fortune in their second victory over Borussia Dortmund, where Mats Hummels was given a red card that was at best debatable, but the way in which Ajax methodically wore down their opponents was another big plus in favor of viewing this team as serious Champions League contenders. Give Erik ten Hag’s side an opening and they will exploit it.

5. Chelsea (+1)

Injuries to Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner did not bring the headaches Thomas Tuchel might have expected in attack. Instead Chelsea have looked rather more fluid — albeit against largely subpar opposition — and have registered shots worth more than two expected goals (xG) in each of their last five Premier League and European games.

6. Paris Saint-Germain (-1)

A team that seems willfully intent on making life more difficult for themselves. Against RB Leipzig they seemed to have clambered out of the hole they had dug for themselves only to start peering over the abyss once more having glued a sign to their back saying kick me. They very nearly repeated the trick against Bordeaux in Ligue 1.

Dark horses: Unlikely contenders, but contenders all the same

These teams are unlikely champions, but then so were Chelsea this time a year ago. It may take a change of circumstances like the Blues had when they appointed Thomas Tuchel, perhaps a new signing or the unearthing of a new tactical plan. It’s possible, but certainly not probable.

7. Real Madrid (–)

Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior are carrying such a heavy load offensively that you wonder what might happen to Madrid’s offense if one of them went down, let alone both. Still when you have such a dynamic attacking duo leading your side, a world class midfield and a defense growing in surety, you merit dark horse status.

Bound for the last 16

They may not be in the mix to win the tournament outright but one has to assume now that they will be in the hat for December’s knockout stage draw

8. Juventus (–)

Surely it is only a matter of time before Juventus’ mixed form in Serie A is reflected in the Champions League but Massimilano Allegri’s side at least know that they are already comfortably ensconced in the knockout stages. Even if the team as a whole is not clicking, there are nights where Paulo Dybala and Federico Chiesa do and that proves to be more than enough.

9. Inter Milan (+5)

Simone Inzaghi’s side came through the potential banana skins that were their games against Sheriff in impressively professional fashion and look well placed to reach the knockout stages, barring any wobbles against a Shakhtar Donetsk side that look to have given up the ghost. Their results against the best of Serie A have been rather underwhelming, however, and suggest Inter may come unstuck early in the spring.

10. Manchester United (-1)

It often feels reductive to strip one player’s output out of a team and say “look how badly they’d have done without him” as if they would have labored on with 10 players rather than replacing him with anyone else. Still, in the Champions League it is fair to suggest that Manchester United would be nowhere if it were not for Cristiano Ronaldo, whose late goals have earned the Red Devils five points in the last three games that mean, underwhelming as they have been, they can qualify with a win or perhaps even a draw next time out.

Knockout stage contenders

The battle is certainly heating up for a spot in the last 16, these are the teams who are still just about in the hunt.

11. Red Bull Salzburg (+2)

It has been a rather common refrain throughout recent editions of the Champions League that Red Bull Salzburg tend not to react well to being thrust into favorable positions and they seemed to utterly lose track of their numerous qualities when they took the lead against Wolfsburg last time out. Suddenly, they don’t look entirely like locks for the knockouts, but it would still take quite the bottle job for them to throw it away.

12. Borussia Dortmund (-2)

13. Barcelona (+6)

14. Villarreal (+1)

15. Porto (+2)

16. Atletico Madrid (-5)

The situation could change in Group B with Porto still having to go to Anfield, but if there were to be a shootout for second place at the Estadio do Dragao which team would you fancy? Atletico’s form in Europe so far this season suggests that it is not unreasonable to doubt them, a team who made heavy weather against Porto and Milan while being comprehensively outplayed for much of their two games against Liverpool. At some stage they have to make up a point on the Portuguese champions. Right now there are no guarantees that happens.

17. Wolfsburg (+4)

18. Sporting (+6)

19. Atalanta (-1)

20. Benfica (-4)

Might it all come down to that dropped point against Dynamo Kyiv? One suspects that whatever the result at the Camp Nou later this month, Benfica will have the edge on head to head after their 3-0 win in Lisbon but Barcelona’s faltering but ultimately successful pursuit of six points against the Ukrainian champions means that Jorge Jesus’ side need a result in Catalonia.

20. Lille (+5)

21. Sevilla (-7)

22. Sheriff Tiraspol (-2)

In the end Inter Milan did to Sheriff what Real Madrid would have done in 90 out of 100 replayed versions of their meeting at the Santiago Bernabeu, burying the Moldovan champions under an avalanche of goals. It is too early to write off their dreams of a shock passage to the last 16, but it may well require four points from games against Madrid and away to Shakhtar. Yuriy Vernydub’s side couldl win in Ukraine but they are going to need a favor somewhere down the line.

Time is running out

In all likelihood these teams have left it too late to turn things around but they are not mathematically out of the Champions League yet. Win their final games and who knows?

23. Club Brugge (–)

24. Young Boys (+3)

25. Zenit (-3)

26. AC Milan (+4)

The most intriguing of the teams with one point to their name, since they have shown in Serie A that they can seriously compete with top tier opponents such as Inter and Juventus. Even in Group B they might feel like they deserve more with fine performances against Liverpool and Atletico Madrid going unrewarded. A win away to the latter next time out would need to come with a favor from Jurgen Klopp’s side. It would be miraculous but where Liverpool and Milan are concerned, there is at least precedent for such circumstances.

27. Shakhtar Donetsk (+1)

28. Dynamo Kyiv (-2)

Out of the Champions League

These teams cannot mathematically qualify for the last 16 but they can reach the Europa League.

30. RB Leipzig (-1)

31. Besiktas (–)

32. Malmo (–)





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