Power Ranking All 16 Teams in the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League Knockout Stage
Power Ranking All 16 Teams in the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League Knockout Stage
0 of 4
Erling Haaland and William Saliba might end up battling for the Premier League and Champions League.David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
The draw for the Round of 16 of the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League is officially set.
Europe’s elite clubs will be on hiatus until February before the tournament restarts. With that in mind and with the draw just completed, we thought it’d be a good idea to take a look at the state of all 16 teams remaining in the Knockout Stages and rank them. Criteria for the ranking is each team’s form in Champions League play so far.
Don’t agree with our picks? Make yourselves heard in the comments below.
16-13: The Heavy Underdogs
1 of 4
Victor Osmishen and Napoli are not having a great start to their campaign.Matteo Ciambelli / DeFodi Images via Getty Images
Lazio comfortably qualified in second from a Group E selection that included winners Atlético Madrid, plus Feyenoord and Celtic. Even though it wasn’t the toughest group going, it needed some decent performances to navigate. However, Maurizio Sarri’s side are currently sitting 11th in Serie A and just can’t get a decent run of form going. Sergej Milinković-Savić is sorely missed in big matches and there’s a lack of consistency across all comps that opponents should fancy chipping away at. A matchup against heavily favored Bayern Munich doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
15. RB Leipzig
RB Leipzig are just about where many would expect them to be right now. Third in the Bundesliga, albeit with more games played than teams below them, and through to the Champions League knockouts after only losing two games to Manchester City. They’ve hit a run of four wins after four losses in six prior and have exceptional talents like Xavi Simons and Loïs Openda; two players who can trouble anyone. Facing Leipzig is never a straightforward task, but being drawn against Real Madrid seems like a bridge too far.
There’s no doubt anything from here onwards is a bonus for Copenhagen. The Danish side did brilliantly to finish second in a group that included Bayern Munich, Galatasaray and Manchester United. They’re three points off the summit domestically and now have a winter break to recuperate after beating Gala 1-0. Whether or not the break will suit them could be key to their run in the Champions League. That said, Jacob Neestrup has instilled a fearlessness into the team this year; a mentality that must continue if Copenhagen are going to defy the odds. They’ll need it in the Round of 16 vs. Manchester City.
This season isn’t going to plan for Napoli. The Italian champions managed to keep hold of Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia during a huge summer that seemed like the beginning of their domestic dominance. Five losses in 16 Serie A matches is already more than their total from last season, though. Napoli were fortunate to have a fairly simple group, finishing behind Real Madrid and ahead of Braga and Union Berlin. Improvement is needed or else they’ll be gone before they know it. The draw fell kindly for the Neapolitans as they will take on a struggling FC Barcelona side.
12-9: The Long Shots
2 of 4
Kylian Mbappé will be looking to get PSG into the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League.Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images
12. FC Barcelona
Similar to Napoli, the Spanish champs are having a troublesome campaign. Xavi Hernandez consistently seems one bad result away from being under pressure, as Barca continues to falter in La Liga. They did win their Champions League group on a superior head-to-head record against Porto, but not as convincing as many would expect. It’s a results business; any issues will soon be forgotten If Xavi can turn inconsistent form around Christmas.
Porto were expected to make it through Group H alongside Barcelona. They came incredibly close to winning the group, only let down by two defeats to the Catalan club. It’s a useful snapshot of what we can expect from the experienced Portuguese outfit; they will beat the likes of Antwerp and Shakhtar Donetsk, but they are likely to hit a wall against the better teams. Whatever happens, Galeno is a ‘streets-won’- forget’ type footballer who deserves to be watched. A Round of 16 matchup against Premier League leaders Arsenal is a tantalizing prospect.
You just wonder how it’s going to go wrong for Paris Saint-Germain this year. The Kylian Mbappé-Neymar-Lionel Messi era failed spectacularly and the French juggernauts haven’t looked particularly great in Europe with Randal Kolo Muani, Ousmane Dembele and Bradley Barcola trying to pick up the slack. PSG needed a battling draw against Dortmund to finish second in a group that also featured Milan and Newcastle. As tough as that was always going to be, just two wins in six group games isn’t good enough. Verdict? A disaster will arrive at some point soon. The Parisians will probably go into their Round of 16 tie against Real Sociedad as favorites, but you wouldn’t confidently bet on it.
9. Real Sociedad
What an incredible competition Sociedad have put together so far. Unbeaten through the group stage against Inter, Benfica and RB Salzburg, Imanol Alguacil’s grafters also have the best defence with just two goals conceded. That’s half the next best accumulated by Arsenal and Dortmund. The technical ability of Mikel Oyarzabal and Takefusa Kubo are just two reasons to get excited about this talented squad that includes Ander Barrenetxea, Martín Zubimendi, Brais Méndez and others putting in real shifts. Long-term, Sociedad may have been better off in the Europa League if we’re talking trophy chances, but right now, they should be celebrated while there’s nothing to lose.
8-5: The Contenders
3 of 4
Is this the year Antoine Griezman and Atlético Madrid finally win the Champions League?David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images
Dortmund are using the Champions League to have fun away from a difficult Bundesliga campaign. Winning the Group of Death is an impressive feat, not least because they turned a bad start into an unbeaten run of five matches. Sitting fifth in Germany is nowhere near where they should be, so a deep run in Europe is vital to keeping their season alive. BVB can rumble with the best when they play freely, even though there is a tendency to leave themselves short at the back when they do. It feels 50-50 as to whether they can do deep or get knocked out before too long.
7. Manchester City
No matter where Manchester City are placed on this list, a huge amount of people will outline them as favourites for the competition. And rightly so. Pep Guardiola’s treble-winners barely hit their stride in the group stages and still racked up six wins from six. Poor form is crippling their Premier League defence and it looks like they have major domestic competition in Arsenal and Liverpool – but beating City across two legs is a different proposition. Pep’s men can be expected to get it moving soon, and when they do, it could be game over for everyone else.
6. PSV Eindhoven
Unbeaten in the Eredivisie and performing admirably in the Champions League, PSV have a lot to shout about right now. Many would have expected a shootout with Sevilla for second in Group B behind Arsenal. It was Lens who pushed them closest on a run that saw the Dutch side only suffer one defeat. PSV have goalscorers everywhere; 10 players have three goals or more across all competitions so far in a setup that is letting youngsters shine around in-form veteran Luuk De Jong.
5. Atlético Madrid
Diego Simeone’s Atlético remains a difficult side to beat. None of Lazio, Feyenoord, or Celtic could top them in a group run that saw them notch 17 goals, the second-highest in the competition behind Man City. We’re so used to talking about their defensive nous, that it almost feels strange to witness Álvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann celebrating goal after goal. Combine all the hallmarks of a Simeone side with a bit more attacking threat and it could be a special year.
4-1: The Favorites
4 of 4
Jude Bellingham has been a goalscoring machine for Real Madrid this season.Ruben Albarran/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
4. Real Madrid
Hmm, Madrid not reaching their best, but seems to be slowly heating up in the Champions League? That sounds familiar. Carlo Ancelotti’s team only have one loss across La Liga and Europe this season, the unbeaten run in the group stage a stark reminder that they should be considered among the favourites. Jude Bellingham alongside Rodrygo and a healthy Vinicius Junior is a frightening prospect for any side. Expect a deep run, as always.
3. Bayern Munich
Bayern have a wicked knack for making the group stages look incredibly easy. Harry Kane is replacing the goals of Robert Lewandowski and has 31 goal contributions in 21 matches for the German champions. Having that focal point makes Thomas Tuchel’s men tick; he can hold up the ball, he can spray passes and he can bring the wingers into play. When Bayern flow, there’s a dynamism and lethality that can end a game in minutes. Like some of the other big sides, defensive lapses have threatened their progress, as wildly highlighted during the recent 5-1 defeat to Frankfurt. Bayern are simmering, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the do-or-die moments of the knockout stages. You sense Tuchel will be decisively judged on the outcome.
Arsenal are mostly swatting away the doubters by sitting at the Premier League summit. The defeat to Lens was followed up with dominance in the group, while Mikel Arteta’s side brushed Brighton aside after their recent defeat to Aston Villa. We’re seeing late winners, attacking football that rips through teams, and a unit that doesn’t know when they’re beaten. There’s a winning mentality that needs to be turned into big trophies. It’s vital Arteta’s best team stays fit; remove one major piece and the Gunners’ edge never cuts quite the same.
1. Inter Milan
Four points clear in Serie A, unbeaten in the Champions League. Let’s make this clear: Inter are not the favourites to win the competition. They are, however, currently the most impressive side in Europe. The squad possesses tremendous firepower, great depth and tactical awareness to adapt to whatever challenge is in front of them. We’ve seen massive rotation during their Champions League run, yet Simeone Inzaghi’s coaching gives them great authority. Inter score for fun, are hard to break down and as defeated finalists last season, have the greatest motivation of all.