Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi might both be missing for the first time in 15 years, but there’s still a heavyweight feel to the pointy end of this year’s Champions League.
Bayern Munich has barely missed a beat as it looks to defend its title and last year’s beaten finalist Paris St-Germain remains on track in its attempt to go one better.
Behind them arguably the form team on the continent in Manchester City is looming ominously, while perennial contenders Real Madrid and four other clubs in Liverpool, Chelsea, Porto and Borussia Dortmund whose domestic seasons haven’t gone entirely according to plan are throwing everything they have at a European crown.
Here’s how each team ranks ahead of Saturday’s draw for the quarterfinal and semi-final stage.
8. Borussia Dortmund
Currently languishing in fifth place in the Bundesliga — 16 points behind Bayern — Dortmund was fortunate to draw a Sevilla side that made it out of the group stage despite a pretty ordinary goal difference in the round of 16.
They weren’t overly convincing in either leg, winning 3-2 in Spain before a 2-2 draw at the Westfalenstadion.
But where there’s Erling Haaland, there’s hope. The 20-year-old prodigy is the competition’s leading goalscorer with 10 — four more than Juventus’ Alvaro Morata.
Ronaldo might be a prince in Portugal but Porto had no problems sending him packing in the round of 16 as it progressed from a tie that finished 4-4 on away goals.
That’s likely to be its last moment of glory in this year’s competition though. Sergio Conceicao’s side managed a 0-0 draw at home against Manchester City in the group stage but found it more difficult in a 3-1 defeat in England.
The Reds have endured a stunning fall from grace on the domestic front in 2021 but they’ve been able to take care of business in the Champions League after falling out in the round of 16 last year.
Five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with nine Premier League games remaining, Jurgen Klopp’s outfit is no guarantee to be back in this competition next season and it’s hard to see them giving it a real shake this time around.
5. Real Madrid
They were far from convincing during the group stage but survived before being handed the comfortable task of disposing of Atalanta in the round of 16.
But this isn’t a Real line-up with the same firepower as previous editions and they’ll be relying on another favourable draw to make it to the final four.
Back in the last eight for the first since 2014, the Blues remain undefeated in this year’s competition and have conceded just two goals in eight games.
Thomas Tuchel is dreaming of back-to-back finals after going so close with PSG last year.
“I’m pretty sure no-one wants to play against us,” said Tuchel, after eliminating Atletico Madrid and ending a run of four straight round of 16 exits for Chelsea.
The Blues can’t take their eyes off the ball domestically with West Ham continuing to fight for fourth place in the Premier League, but this is their time to add to their 2012 Champions League crown.
3. Paris St-Germain
After losing their first two group stage games, PSG has begun looking like the team that dominated most of last year’s competition.
A 4-1 away win against Barcelona without Neymar set up its round of 16 tie and with Kylian Mbappe playing as well as anyone they can go toe-to-toe with the best.
2. Manchester City
They have the deepest squad, a substantial buffer at the top of the English Premier League and have barely broken a sweat at Champions League level. Pep Guardiola’s team has everything going for it and arguably should be favourite, but until the Sky Blues win it all at this level there will always be a skerrick of doubt. Continuing to compete in four competitions is also a task none of the other contenders are burdened by.
1. Bayern Munich
The Germans remain an offensive juggernaut the likes we’ve rarely seen and the road to Istanbul runs through them until someone knocks them off.
A seventh title would move Bayern Munich level with AC Milan in second place on the Champions League totem pole, behind Real Madrid (13).