We're at the halfway mark of the Champions League last-16 ties, with this week's fixtures coming to an end following the conclusion of the AC Milan vs Barcelona match at the San Siro on Wednesday evening.

Whilst some sides will be thinking they have one foot in the next round after a favourable outcome in the first leg, others have it all to do if their European dreams are to continue.

Here we look at five of the strongest contenders for this season's crown. Who will be named Champions of Europe 2013? Leave a comment below.

Barcelona 

Despite being dealt a huge blow in the first leg at the San Siro, as AC Milan ran out 2-0 winners, you'd be foolish to rule out Barcelona altogether. 

If the Rossoneri score in the return leg, the Catalan giants will have to score at least four times in order to progress. Whilst that would be an insurmountable deficit for most, with four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi in their ranks, Barca are more than capable of making the impossible possible.

Manchester United 

An excellent domestic campaign thus far has seen Sir Alex Ferguson's team lead the Premier League by 12 points, while an FA Cup quarter-final home tie awaits.

With United going full steam ahead in Europe too, there's a genuine chance that the Red Devils could replicate their heroics from 1999, winning the treble in what was Ferguson's greatest achievement as manager.

A fine display in the Bernabeu earned United a credible 1-1 draw, with Real Madrid left with an unenviable task of getting the better of the Reds at Old Trafford if they are to progress.

With United as marginal favourites, who'd bet against them going the whole way and being crowned European champions?

Bayern Munich 

After securing a 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium in such comfortable fashion, Bayern are in a very good position at present. 

Having established a 15 point lead in the Bundesliga already, attention can temporarily be diverted towards their Champions League campaign, as they hold a strong advantage going into the home tie in two weeks.

There formidable defensive record of conceding just seven goals in 22 appearances, with Arsenal's goal the first they conceded in 2013, shows that Bayern are an all-round force to be reckoned with and are serious contenders for Europe's top crown.

Real Madrid 

Although their league form is way below-par, Madrid are a team capable of anything on their day. 

They may feel a little aggrieved to not be leading United after the first leg but they are definitely a side capable of coming out on top on the night at Old Trafford. 

Cristiano Ronaldo & co. are sure to have the Champions League as their top priority now their La Liga title challenge has faltered. As such, Jose Mourinho's men must surely be considered as possible winners of the Europe's top competition - just the small matter of Manchester United to overcome first.  

Juventus 

Juventus are one of the best teams in world football. As the reigning Italian champions, they are looking to add the Champions League to their ever-growing list of honours.

They finished unbeaten on their way to the Scudetto last May and now after just four defeats this season, they are capable of anything. 

Despite failing to get out of second gear at Celtic Park, the Old Lady still came away with a 3-0 win, despite a below-par performance.

On their day with Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Gianluigi Buffon, Juve can beat anyone, and are genuine contenders for this season's title.

 

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Topics:
#European News
#UEFA Champions League
#Manchester United
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