The Champions League is officially done and dusted for 2020.
It’s been a chaotic year for Europe’s premier competition with the 2019/20 climax being held at the end of a single-game knockout tournament in Lisbon merely proving the tip of the iceberg.
And after all the delays inflicted upon last season’s competition, European football fans have barely been able to contain their excitement over a cluttered fixture schedule for the 2020/21 group stage.
2020/21 Champions League
However, after three months of anarchic back and forths across the continent, we can finally take a breather and look back across what’s already shaping up to be a Champions League to remember.
Besides, the culmination of the group stages always gives you a good idea of who the main contenders could be with the potential suitors cut in half from 32 to 16.
No Champions League until 2021
Nevertheless, we can now put the 16 remaining teams under the microscope as we await both the draw for the knockout rounds and the resumption of the competition, in general, in the New Year.
But we know that football fans, ourselves included, can’t go an entire two months without getting a small amount of their Champions League fix – and we have just the solution for that.
That’s because we’ve taken on the unenviable task of ranking the 16 clubs who have qualified for the round of 16 from the least likely to win the Champions League to the most likely.
Ranking Champions League clubs
If you think that sounds like controversy waiting to happen, then you’d be exactly right, so strap yourselves in and see where your club appears in our Champions League power rankings:
Despite the holder of the European Golden Shoe leading their line, just two wins in the group stages and occupying seventh place in Serie A suggests the Romans could be cannon fodder in the round of 16.
15. FC Porto
Credit to the Portuguese side for holding their own in a group with Manchester City, but third place in Primeira Liga and facing a brutal second-round draw hardly screams ‘potential champions of Europe’.
Julen Lopetegui’s men must be getting a nosebleed with no Europa League football and it’s only because of their six triumphs in the competition over the last 14 years that we rate them as leading outsiders.
13. Borussia Monchengladbach
It’s tough to see a world where the team seventh in the Bundesliga wins the Champions League, though qualifying from a group including Real Madrid and Inter Milan proves they love upsetting the applecart.
For all their woes in Serie A, Atalanta are once again punching above their weight in Europe, even bagging a historic win at Anfield, so they stand a better chance than many at securing a Leicester-like fairy tale.
Barcelona have endured a horrendous start to the Ronald Koeman era and their recent Champions League history has been crippling at the best of times, so it’s only Lionel Messi that elevates them near the top ten.
10. Borussia Dortmund
If BVB can hold onto their assortment of young talent for three years, then perhaps they’ll rise in our rankings, but it’s hard to see Lucien Favre elevating them beyond the semi-finals even with Erling Braut Haaland.
9. RB Leipzig
For us, the last club that we can genuinely imagine winning ‘Big Ears’ this year because if any team has the potential to cause a seismic upset then it’s Julian Nagelsmann’s swashbuckling and thrilling thoroughbreds.
Dark horses? Maybe, but Frank Lampard’s side are still a team finding their feet in Europe’s premier competition, so the jury is out for this newly-gelling outfit when they come up against the likes of Bayern and Liverpool.
7. Real Madrid
Despite only reaching the round of 16 by the skin of their teeth, Real proved their mettle with victory over Gladbach and you’d be stupid to dismiss a Zinedine Zidane squad with boundless Champions League pedigree.
You can only write off a team including the Champions League’s greatest ever player so much; you just wonder whether the mixed form of Andrea Pirlo’s side in Serie A could bleed into their continental endeavours.
5. Atletico Madrid
You’d be forgiven for thinking I’d lost the plot after Atletico’s tough time in the groups, but their flying La Liga start, recent European history and the spirit of Anfield makes me think they’ll be contenders at the very least.
4. Paris Saint-Germain
Last year’s finalists aren’t as impenetrable as they were in 2019/20, but emerging from the ‘Group of Death’ is no mean feat, while Kylian Mbappe and Neymar arguably make for Europe’s most fearsome frontline.
3. Manchester City
Despite their wobbly start domestically, you can expect Pep Guardiola to throw the kitchen sink at the Champions League and go all out to end their well-documented curse in quarter-finals.
You’d hardly blame the ex-Barcelona boss for following in the footsteps of Liverpool’s European-heavy approaches of 2004/05 and 2006/07 as long as they reach the top four in the league.
Make no mistake about it: this Liverpool side is one of the greatest the Premier League has ever seen and favourites to retain their title, so expect them to crank up a gear when the knockout rounds commence.
When their injury list shrinks and they start to gain momentum, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them channel the spirit that saw them reach two Champions League finals in the last three seasons.
1. Bayern Munich
Who else? The reigning European champions almost made it two years without even drawing a game in the Champions League, romping their way to ‘Big Ears’ in historically-emphatic fashion.
A few more chinks in their armour are starting to appear this time around, but dominating a group including Atletico Madrid shows Hansi Flick’s men are well worth their value as the favourites.
The more you think about it, the more teams there are who could go all the way this season and lest we forget that Real are the only club to have ever retained the Champions League since 1992.
So, as unbeatable as Bayern have looked over the 18 months, we can’t forget that the competition we all love so dearly is also beautiful in its unpredictability – and we want it back already.