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UEFA Champions League power rankings: Real Madrid, Man City lead the way

After a two-month hiatus, the UEFA Champions League returns to action this week with the first legs of the Round of 16.  

The group stage of European club soccer’s most prestigious tournament produced several upsets and memorable performances as the 32-team field was cut in half en route to the final on June 1 at London’s Wembley Stadium. 

What will the first stage of the knockout round bring? We rank all of the remaining teams in the Round of 16. 

1. REAL MADRID 

Path to the knockout stage: First place in Group C
Round of 16 opponent: RB Leipzig 

Los Blancos were one of only two teams to go a perfect 6-0-0 in the group stage of the Champions League. Jude Bellingham scored four goals in the first round, marking his European debut for Real Madrid in style. The Spanish giants currently top the La Liga table and have won 22 of 28 matches in all competitions this season with only two losses.  

2. MANCHESTER CITY 

Path to the knockout stage: First place in Group G
Round of 16 opponent: FC Copenhagen 

Like Real Madrid, the reigning European champions went a perfect 6-0-0 in the group stage, buoyed by the attacking exploits of Erling Haaland and Julián Álvarez who combined for nine of their 18 goals. The Blues are unbeaten in 13 games (with 12 wins) in all competitions and haven’t lost since Dec. 6 

3. ARSENAL 

Path to the knockout stage: First place in Group B
Round of 16 opponent: FC Porto 

The Gunners easily cruised through the group stage by earning 13 out of a possible 18 points on the strength of four wins, a potent attack led by Brazilian Gabriel Jesus (four goals) and a miserly defence that conceded just four times. The London-based club is also mounting a serious challenge for the Premier League title this season — they sit in third place, just two points behind leaders Liverpool. 

4. INTER MILAN 

Path to the knockout stage: Second place in Group D
Round of 16 opponent: Atletico Madrid 

The Nerazzurri easily qualified for the knockout round by going unbeaten (with three wins) and finishing in a tie for first place with Real Sociedad in their group. The Italians are riding high in Serie A at the moment — they top the table and are unbeaten in 17 league matches, and haven’t lost since Sept. 27 

5. BAYERN MUNICH 

Path to the knockout stage: First place in Group A
Round of 16 opponent: Lazio 

The German giants went undefeated in the group stage (with five wins) but didn’t look completely comfortable coming out on top of a relatively easy group that included Manchester United, Copenhagen and Galatasaray. The Bavarians are also in a dogfight in the Bundesliga, as they trail front runners Bayer Leverkusen by five points after being blanked 3-0 by them on the weekend. 

6. FC BARCELONA 

Path to the knockout stage: First place in Group H
Round of 16 opponent: Napoli 

The Blaugrana beat Porto twice to edge the Portuguese for first place in their group, and they’re within touching distance of bitter rivals Real Madrid in the battle for top spot in La Liga this season. You get the sense we haven’t seen the best from Xavi’s team and that they’re ready to break out once the knockout round starts. 

7. ATLETICO MADRID 

Path to the knockout stage: First place in Group E
Round of 16 opponent: Inter Milan 

Atlético impressively went unbeaten in the group stage (with four wins) and had the second-best attacking unit amongst all 32 teams with 17 goals. Álvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann scored five goals apiece to lead the way for Diego Simeone’s side which is usually known for its defensive strength. 

8. FC PORTO 

Path to the knockout stage: Second place in Group H
Round of 16 opponent: Arsenal 

The Brazilian attacking duo of Galeno and Evanilson combined to score eight of Porto’s eight goals in the group stage, playing a pivotal role in helping the Portuguese club go undefeated in six games with four wins to finish just behind FC Barcelona. 

9. REAL SOCIEDAD 

Path to the knockout stage: First place in Group D
Round of 16 opponent: Paris Saint-Germain 

Real Sociedad didn’t score a lot in the group stage — their seven goals were tied for the fewest of all the 16 teams who advanced to the knockout round. But the Basque club sported the best defensive record out of all 32 teams in the first round with just two goals against and four clean sheets. 

10. NAPOLI 

Path to the knockout stage: Second place in Group C
Round of 16 opponent: Barcelona 

The reigning Italian champions comfortably finished in second place in their group behind Real Madrid. But they’ve fallen on hard times in Serie A this season, as they sit ninth on the table and 25 points behind leaders Inter Milan. 

11. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN 

Path to the knockout stage: Second place in Group F
Round of 16 opponent: Real Sociedad 

Once again PSG is running away with things in Ligue 1 this season — the Parisians lead second-place Nice by 11 points and have won 15 of 21 league matches with just one defeat. But Kylian Mbappé and his cohorts stumbled through the group stage by winning just two games and only managed to advance to the knockout round via a superior goal difference than AC Milan. 

12. RB LEIPZIG 

Path to the knockout stage: Second place in Group G
Round of 16 opponent: Real Madrid 

The Red Bulls emerged from a pretty easy group that included Manchester City — they won four games (vs. Young Boys and Red Star Belgrade) and their two losses were at the hands of the reigning European champions.  

13. BORUSSIA DORTMUND 

Path to the knockout stage: First place in Group F
Round of 16 opponent: PSV Eindhoven 

The Black and Yellows came out on top in a challenging group that included Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Newcastle thanks to a stout back line that was breached just four times, while managing to score just seven goals. 

14. LAZIO 

Path to the knockout stage: Second place in Group E
Round of 16 opponent: Bayern Munich 

Lazio took all six points against Scottish champions Celtic in the group stage, which was enough for it to beat out Dutch club Feyenoord for second place in their group behind Spain’s Atletico Madrid. 

15. PSV EINDHOVEN 

Path to the knockout stage: Second place in Group B
Round of 16 opponent: Borussia Dortmund 

The Dutch giants edged out French club Lens for the runners-up spot in Group B behind Arsenal after going winless through the first three games. The current Eredivisie leaders enter the Round of 16 as the only team that conceded more goals (10) than it scored (eight) in the opening round. 

16. FC COPENHAGEN 

Path to the knockout stage: Second place in Group A
Round of 16 opponent: Manchester City 

FC Copenhagen overachieved by advancing out of a group that included Bayern Munich and Manchester United — a thrilling 4-3 home win over the Red Devils proved decisive for the reigning Danish Superliga champions. But they haven’t been in action at all in 2024 as their domestic league has been on hiatus since December.  

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic can be found here.


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