The hotly anticipated UEFA Champions League draw takes place on Monday, and with some of the biggest teams in Europe finishing as runners up in their group, a selection blockbuster last 16 clashes are highly likely.
With certain sides firing in Europe but underperforming domestically, and a couple of unfancied teams slipping through to the last 16, the knockout stages of this year’s competition promises to be another compelling spectacle.
Here’s how 90min ranks the 16 remaining Champions League sides…
Despite failing to win any of their first four group games, Atalanta somehow progressed to the last 16 for the first time in the club’s history.
Atalanta have done remarkably to make it this far, but their defensive frailties and high energy pressing will surely be exploited by Europe’s big guns.
Lyon scraped through to the last 16 after a Memphis Depay inspired display saw them come from 2-0 down in their final group game to draw 2-2 with RB Leipzig.
The French side are not enjoying a fruitful Ligue 1 campaign, occupying seventh spot following six defeats in their opening 17 league games.
The Spanish side go into the last 16 seeded, after impressively topping a tight group ahead of Chelsea and Ajax.
Valencia, who sit eighth in La Liga, knocked out last season’s semi finalists Ajax during the final round of group fixtures.
Napoli are the only team in world football who can cope with Liverpool. The Italian side nullified the usually potent Liverpool forward line during the opening group game in a 2-0 win, before frustrating the Reds at Anfield in a 1-1 draw.
However, Napoli’s European form has not been replicated domestically; they occupy seventh place in Serie A.
Imagine being thumped 7-2 at home and still qualifying for the knockout stages…
Last season’s beaten finalists were very much second best in their group, but with the newly appointed Jose Mourinho looking for a Champions League title with a third separate club, could Spurs spring a few surprises once more?
11. RB Leipzig
Leipzig are making their first foray into the knockout stages of the Champions League after topping their group, in only their second ever season playing Champions League football.
The club are currently a point off of top spot in the Bundesliga, and with highly rated young coach Julian Nagelsmann at the helm, Leipzig could be one to watch this year.
You never know quite what to expect from Frank Lampard’s young side, who did just about enough to book their place in the last 16 as group runners up.
With their transfer ban lifted in January, Frank Lampard may dip into the market to boost Chelsea’s chances of competing on both European and domestic fronts.
9. Atletico Madrid
Arguably the most stubborn defensive in the last 16, Atletico qualified behind Juventus to secure a last 16 spot.
Diego Simeone’s side have tended to lack a clinical edge of late, and their current La Liga standing of seventh is due to the sheer number of draws they have picked up this season.
8. Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund are just as unpredictable as Chelsea. They blew the league last season but currently sit third in the Bundesliga, and navigated a tricky Champions League group to qualify ahead of Inter.
Dortmund undoubtably have a world class side, but whether they can find some consistency will determine the duration of their European journey.
7. Bayern Munich
Europe has offered a welcome escape from Bundesliga life for the German champions this season. Bayern blitzed through the group stages with maximum points – the only side in the competition to do so.
However, domestically, Bayern are struggling. They currently sit seventh, but such is the closeness of the Bundesliga this season, they are still just six points off top spot.
6. Real Madrid
Despite not being at their best this season, Madrid are still level on points with Barcelona at the summit of La Liga.
Their European form has been below par; Los Blancos lost 3-0 to PSG, and were held at home by Club Brugge. Having qualified as runners up, a fellow European giant could await Real Madrid in the last 16.
5. Manchester City
This is the title Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are so desperate to win, having crashed out to Tottenham in an extraordinary game last season.
They are a shadow of the side they were last year, with Fernandinho’s absence in the middle of the park and the loss of Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte proving costly. However, going forward, fewer sides are more exciting.
Maurizio Sarri’s side topped their group ahead of Atletico Madrid, with Cristiano Ronaldo searching for a Champions League win with a third separate side.
Juventus conceded the joint second fewest goals during the group stages, and currently trail Inter by two points at the top of Serie A.
The most dominant side in France have a history of fluffing their lines in the Champions League, however, there have been no signs to suggest that will be the case this year. The French giants topped their group ahead of Real Madrid, convincingly beating the 13-time European champions in the process.
With Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi making up a formidable front line, could this finally be PSG’s year?
Like Real Madrid, Barcelona have arguably not been at their best this season, yet still lead La Liga and qualified for the knock out stages in top spot.
Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are obviously nothing short of spectacular, so when Barcelona do bring their best, you cannot help but fear for their opponents.
Liverpool have tunnel vision on the Premier League title, the trophy that has eluded them for so long, so probably would not be that bothered if they failed to defend the Champions League.
But from their fabulous full backs to their lethal front three, the Reds are the best side in Europe. Whether they will treat it as a priority alongside their domestic ambitions remains to be seen.
Original Author : 90min