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Dublin: 10°C Thursday 1 October 2020
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Ranking the 8 remaining teams in the Champions League

Man City, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid are among the contenders.

Man City players celebrate.
Man City players celebrate.
Image: Peter Powell

Remaining fixtures:

Quarter-finals

Quarter-final 1: Man City v Lyon (15 August)

Quarter-final 2: RB Leipzig v Atletico Madrid (13 August)

Quarter-final 3: Barcelona v Bayern Munich (14 August)

Quarter-final 4: Atalanta v PSG (12 August)

Semi-finals

Winners of quarter-final 1 v Winners of quarter-final 3 (19 August)

Winners of quarter-final 2 v Winners of quarter-final 4 (18 August)

Final: 23 August.

8. Lyon

Surprised everyone by dumping out Juventus on Friday night on away goals, yet Lyon still remain the rank outsiders in the Champions League. They had a poor year in Ligue 1, dropping points in 17 of their 28 games and finishing seventh — a position not even good enough for a Europa League spot next season. They did at least reach the Coupe de la Ligue final, only losing to PSG on penalties, while they have been somewhat fortunate up to now in Europe, finishing second in their tightly contested group, behind RB Leipzig and a point ahead of Benfica and Zenit Saint Petersburg in third and fourth respectively.

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7. RB Leipzig

It’s amazing to think RB Leipzig were founded just 11 years ago. They started off in the fifth tier of German football, swiftly climbing up the ladder and arriving in the Bundesliga for the 2016–17 season, before coming second in their debut top-flight campaign. Their rise has been thanks in no small part to the financial might of owners Red Bull GmbH. Yet Julian Nagelsmann’s team still have one of the weakest and least well-funded sides left in the competition. This is the first time they have gotten further than the Champions League group stages, while they finished third in the Bundesliga this year, 16 points behind Bayern Munich. Although they are used to attaining rapid success, a triumph in this year’s Champions League would represent a major shock.

6. Atalanta

Gian Piero Gasperini’s side have really punched above their weight of late. They finished third in Serie A, just five points behind champions Juventus. They have also enjoyed a remarkable Champions League campaign, taking one point from their first four games, but improbably qualifying by winning their last two. They convincingly overcame Valencia 8-4 on aggregate in the round of 16, continuing an astonishing run. However, the prospect of going all the way for a club of that stature is a big ask. 

5. Atletico Madrid

They may be fifth on this list, but they’re probably the lowest-placed team here that you could genuinely imagine winning it, particularly given that they are on what is seemingly the easier side of the last eight, with Atalanta or PSG waiting for them in the semis if they beat RB Leipzig. In the past seven seasons, Diego Simeone has guided them to two Champions League finals and one semi-final, so they have plenty of experience competing at this level. Nonetheless, they probably have had better teams in the past and only finished third in La Liga this year. Moreover, their pragmatic brand of football may be limited, but it is often effective, as evidenced when they knocked out many people’s favourites to win the competition, Liverpool, in the round of 16.

4. PSG

Thomas Tuchel’s side won this season’s prematurely halted Ligue 1 on the basis of points per game, but any other outcome seems inconceivable had the season been completed, as PSG dropped points in just five of their 27 games, and were 12 points ahead of second-place Marseille with a game in hand when the campaign came to its sudden conclusion. They have now won Ligue 1 in seven of the last eight seasons. Despite all the money that has been pumped into the club though, they have not got further than the quarter-finals of the Champions League in recent times — their best-ever performance saw them reach the semis, but that was way back in the 1994-95 campaign. They are capable of brilliant standalone performances, and have plenty of talent in their squad, with players such as Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Marco Verratti and Ángel Di María the envy of most European clubs. But will the pressure and the weight of history once again be their undoing?

3. Barcelona

So far, it’s been a disappointing season by Barcelona’s high standards. For just the fourth time in the past 12 campaigns, they failed to win La Liga, with champions Real Madrid finishing five points ahead of them. They also dropped points in 13 of their 38 league matches, losing six, in what many critics consider to be a two-team league. Adding to their woe, they were dumped out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao at the quarter-final stage, so clearly have had plenty of off days this season. Nevertheless, if the team and particularly Lionel Messi can maintain the form they demonstrated against Napoli on Saturday night, then it would be foolish to write them off.

2. Man City

On their day, Man City are undoubtedly as good as any team in Europe. Yet they have been inconsistent all season. A highly impressive 4-0 victory over champions Liverpool in July occurred in between losses to Chelsea and Southampton. You could argue that they didn’t have much to play for, given that Liverpool effectively had the title wrapped up prior to the pandemic, but they were also recently unconvincing in the FA Cup, losing 2-0 in the semi-finals against eventual winners Arsenal. That said, with the likes of Ederson, Aymeric Laporte, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero (who is currently injured but could still play a part in the competition according to Pep Guardiola), they have a squad as good as any of the teams remaining.

1. Bayern Munich

It’s difficult to suggest anyone are strong favourites in this year’s Champions League, given how chaotic and disrupted this season has been, but Bayern Munich deserve the tag as much as anyone. Since losing 2-1 to Borussia Mönchengladbach on 7 December, Hans-Dieter Flick’s side have played 20 matches in the Bundesliga, winning 19 and drawing one — form that saw them prevail in the league by a 13-point margin. They also claimed the DFB-Pokal, beating Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 at the start of July. Their Champions League form has arguably been most impressive of all. They triumphed in all six of their group-stage matches, with the highlight being an emphatic 7-2 victory away to Spurs. They comfortably dispatched Chelsea on Saturday evening, winning 7-1 on aggregate, and will fancy their chances of completing a famous treble, particularly if they can get past another highly touted side, Barcelona, in the quarters.

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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