The UEFA Champions League finally resumes on Friday, and by the end of August, we’ll have crowned the winners of a tournament that started just under one year ago.
We have four remaining round-of-16 fixtures to be completed, and the winners of those will enter the quarter-finals, which start on Wednesday.
From the quarter-final stage onward, the tournament will be in single-knockout format—the two-legged, home and away ties are gone—and that adds a new, interesting element to a tournament that already represents club football’s zenith for entertainment and drama.
Here we’ve previewed the return of the Champions League in the form of a ranking, ordering each of the 12 remaining teams on how likely they are to win the competition. We set the scene for how each side’s season has gone, look at their fixtures and situation and determine how strong their title-winning credentials are.
The Blues are 3-0 down on aggregate against one of the strongest sides in Europe, Bayern Munich, after being torn apart in the first leg.
They’ll have a sharpness advantage on the Germans given they have actually played competitive football in the past month, but this comeback is beyond them.
Lyon hold command of their round-of-16 tie against Juventus, leading 1-0 on aggregate, so it may surprise to see them ranked so low—and, particularly, below their Italian opponents.
But those betting against Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. turning around this tie feel braver than those betting for it, and even if Lyon do grind their way through the second leg, their outlook beyond the round of 16 is bleak, with a possible quarter-final tie against Real Madrid or Manchester City and Barcelona or Bayern Munich likely awaiting in the semis.
Quality-wise, they just do not stack up against the rest.
Napoli feel like a big question mark.
You never know what kind of a performance you’ll get from them, and while it’s tempting to write them off on a quality basis, they do have the attributes to make a splash in the way Atletico Madrid would.
The Partenopei’s game plan will surely look similar to the one rolled out in the first leg against Barcelona—in which they had every man defending their own box at times—and if that is enough to clamber into the quarter-finals, they’ll suddenly become the team no one fancies playing.
But it’s much harder to trust Napoli to do an Atletico than, say, Atletico. They can go from beating Juventus in the Coppa Italia with a solid display to dropping points against Bologna or losing to Parma. Is it a case of rising to the big occasions? We’re about to find out. Continue reading