There’s no official ranking for the 16 teams left in the Champions League, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with one here at High Press Soccer.
We’ll keep the intro on this one short and sweet – below are your 1-16 rankings, from guess who Liverpool (the team I believe is most likely to win it all, regardless of odds*) to ?? (keep reading to find out which French team is least threatening**).
* Editor’s Note: 👏👏👏you still have a job!
** The team’s odds, and place in the “oddsmakers’ standings” are in parentheses.
1. Liverpool (+475, second) – They won this competition a year ago despite having to face Bayern Munich in the round of 16 and Barcelona in the semis. They didn’t add anyone this summer but somehow look even better than last year, when they were historically good. And now they’ve added high-impact signing Takumi Minamino to an already explosive roster. I could go on, but just look at the EPL table, and their recent track record of scoring in the waning minutes of a match whenever necessary, and tell me there’s a team whose chances you like better.
2. PSG (+750, fifth) – There are several strong candidates here. One of these years, Barcelona will not collapse after building a seemingly insurmountable lead in the first leg of a knockout match-up, right? If you’ve seen their shakiness on the road recently, it’s hard to have a lot of faith that this year will be different. Manchester City will be completely desperate considering where they’re at in the EPL and should have a better back line by February than what they’re currently working with, but they don’t seem like the second-best bet, either.
I’ll be a prisoner of the moment – and by the moment, I mean the knockout rounds – and go with PSG here. They’re more loaded than ever up top. They also finally seem to be solid defensively. The Parisians have been scored on just nine times in 17 Ligue 1 games and five of their six UCL group stage games were shutouts.
3. Manchester City (+375, first) – I’d have Pep Guardiola’s team even lower, but can’t ignore the odds here, even if futures should probably sway me less than a game line. Top to bottom, there probably isn’t a better roster in Europe. And there’s a good case to be made that a team this talented can’t suffer an inexplicable loss in the UCL every season. City, however, has a tough round of 16 match-up with Real Madrid that is the must-watch game(s) of that round.
4. Bayern Munich (+700, fourth) – This team has so much firepower that I’m overlooking their struggles (they’re currently in third place in the Bundesliga). No one in Europe is more dangerous right now than Robert Lewandowski, and *sarcasm voice* who is a more dependent second option in big games than HPS idol Philippe Coutinho? Seriously, though, I could have gone with Bayern, Barcelona or RM here, but gun to my head, I’ll go with the Bavarians as the next-best bet after the top three.
5. Real Madrid (+1,700, seventh) – There’s some serious value here. Before Wednesday’s Clasico at Camp Nou, I’d have Barcelona at no worse than third on my list. But I didn’t like what I saw from the Catalans at all, and I’ll spell that out in just a second. For now, let’s talk RM. On the road, without Eden Hazard, among other key pieces, Zinedine Zidane’s team played their hated rivals to a stalemate. This team looks much more formidable right now than anyone thought they would this summer. And considering the boost the Belgian will give this team once he’s fit and acclimated – assuming that happens, which I admit is no guarantee – this is a squad no one should want to see. Their track record – they won the UCL in ’14, ’16, ’17 and ’18 with a number of players who are still in the fold, in case you haven’t heard – also has to be mentioned.
6. Barcelona (+500, third) – Wednesday’s 0-0 draw vs. Los Blancos was not a disastrous performance by any means, but I’ve seen this team’s midfield fail to service Messi in one too many big games lately. Ernesto Valverde is yet to figure out his lineup, particularly his midfield, and the list of away games his team hasn’t showed up for continues to grow. Barcelona’s ceiling is obviously sky-high thanks to Messi, but this team has some flaws, and some recent history, that are extremely concerning. And yet I already have a weird feeling I’ll regret ranking them so low here, but I digress.
7. Juventus (+1,100, sixth) – Seventh place seems like a bit of a slight to the Italians, but I’m basically in line with the oddsmakers, for what that’s worth. They’re among the teams that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see in the finals.
The long shots
8. Chelsea (+5,000, tied-11th) – It’s been a rough couple weeks for this team, but their showings against Ajax and earlier in the EPL season gave us a good glimpse at their ceiling. I don’t think they’ll get by Bayern, but if they do, they can score enough to pull off a couple more upsets
9. Tottenham (+1,700, eighth) – Jose Mourinho has given this team a boost and I like their chances against RB Leipzig, but a run past the quarters would be a stunner. And this team would never pull off anything improbable in this tournament, would it??
10. RB Leipzig (+4,500, 10th) – Yes, they won their group and are leading the Bundesliga, but I guess I’m dinging them because of who was in that group. Their match-ups with Bayern and Dortmund this season both ended in draws, which tells you they’re a legit sleeper in this tournament.
11. Atletico Madrid (+3,500, ninth) – Their defense will keep their games close, but there’s not enough scoring. Moving on.
12. Borussia Dortmund (tied-11th) – Lucky to make it out of their group, BVB will not survive their round-of-16 clash with PSG.
13. Valencia (+6,000, tied-14th) – They’re a tough out thanks to that defense, and they’ve proven themselves against tough teams several times this calendar year, but the quarters is far as they’ll go barring a January infusion of scoring talent.
14. Napoli (+10,000, 15th) – There’s too much turmoil – they fired a proven coach in Carlo Ancelotti the night they advanced from group play – for me to trust Napoli.
15. Atalanta (+6,000, tied-14th) – They’ve got a shot to beat Valencia in the round of 16, but some of the duds they had in group play make them impossible to believe in.
16. Lyon (+25,000, tied-16th) – The oddsmakers are with me on Lyon, who are a staggering +350 AT HOME in leg 1 vs. Juve. This team is currently in eighth (!!) place in Ligue 1. How the hell did they get to the knockout round, again??