Champions League Last 16 Power Rankings: Everyone Is Still Chasing Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich is vying for a Champions League repeat, and nothing from the group stage and start to the season indicates that the German power is in jeopardy of losing its crown.
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Just like that, the UEFA Champions League is down to its final 16.

The usual suspects have by and large reached the knockout stage, though group play was not without some drama and late jockeying for position. After it all, though, 15 of the 16 teams feature in Europe's "big five" leagues, and half of the clubs in the remaining field have won at least one European title. 

The Champions League has been a breakthrough affair from a U.S. perspective, as a record nine (of the 10 eligible) Americans appeared in the group stage–only Ajax's Alex Mendez did not. Weston McKennie, Sergiño Dest and Christian Pulisic all scored goals, with McKennie's a highlight-reel acrobatic volley in Camp Nou against Barcelona. Of those nine players to feature, eight advanced to the knockout stage (only Club Brugge's Ethan Horvath did not), where head-to-head matchups like McKennie and Dest's showdown on Tuesday are a distinct possibility.

After a compressed group stage, there's a break until the last 16 begins in mid-February. By then, another transfer window will have passed, and the outlook for the surviving clubs could be significantly different. Entering Monday's draw, though, here's who is through and how the field of contenders stacks up (and as reminder for the draw, teams from the same domestic league or from the same group cannot be drawn against one another):

Group winners: Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Dortmund, Juventus, PSG

Runners-up: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach, Porto, Atalanta, Sevilla, Lazio, Barcelona, RB Leipzig

Bayern Munich coasted through the Champions League group stage

1. Bayern Munich

Potential last-16 opponents: Porto, Atalanta, Sevilla, Lazio, Barcelona

The reigning champions have given no indication that there's reason to doubt their credentials. Repeating as Champions League winner is not as easy as Real Madrid made it seem from 2016-2018 (it had been more nearly three decades since the previous repeat winner), but no club in the world possesses the combination of star power, depth, ruthlessness and drive, and it's rolled to the last 16 without being at full strength. There isn't a side that should genuinely give Bayern a challenge until the quarters at the earliest, and a rematch with Barcelona six months removed from the 8-2 pasting seen 'round the world would almost be too cruel for the struggling Spanish power.

2. Liverpool

Potential last-16 opponents: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach, Porto, Sevilla, Lazio, Barcelona, RB Leipzig

The long-term injury to Virgil van Dijk is such a significant game-changer, but if there's a coach capable of overcoming obstacle after obstacle and emerging victorious, it's Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool has been decimated by injury beyond van Dijk, and it hasn't seemed to matter all that much. It won its group, remains tied on points atop the Premier League table and has the big-game knowhow that will make the club a tough out regardless of who's available. That said, Atletico Madrid, which knocked Liverpool out last season, is likely the last name Klopp & Co. want to see emerge from the pots on Monday.

3. Manchester City

Potential last-16 opponents: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach, Atalanta, Sevilla, Lazio, Barcelona, RB Leipzig

There's enough evidence from the past four seasons to suggest that you should favor Man City at your own peril once the competition is down to its elite eight, but its group stage performance (and not for the first time) was encouraging. While cycling through players both for rotation and injury reasons, City conceded just a single goal vs. Porto, Olympiakos and Marseille and remains focused on securing the trophy that's eluded the big-spending club since Pep Guardiola arrived. A last-16 pairing with Barcelona would be fascinating for many reasons, but chief among them is that, technically, Lionel Messi could sign a pre-contract with City before the competition resumes.

4. Chelsea

Potential last-16 opponents: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach, Porto, Atalanta, Lazio, Barcelona, RB Leipzig

Chelsea is still getting acclimated to all of its new, key parts, but the returns so far have been impressive for Frank Lampard's side. The Blues only conceded twice in the group stage–albeit against a very friendly slate of opponents–and are unbeaten in 14 games in all competitions. Edouard Mendy's arrival has coincided with the club's goalkeeping woes subsiding, and there's enough depth in the attack to overcome intermittent injuries to the likes of Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech. A pairing with Leipzig, considering Timo Werner's transfer to Chelsea and Julian Nagelsmann's tactical approach, would be fascinating. 

5. PSG

Potential last-16 opponents: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach, Porto, Atalanta, Sevilla, Lazio, Barcelona

PSG won the competition's most difficult group, though it didn't come easy. There's been a lack of consistency and cohesiveness that has resulted in both glimpses of the kind of PSG that reached last season's final and the kind that is a threat to flop at any stage. Its talent, especially going forward, has never been in question, and its leadership has claimed that talks are underway to secure Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for the long haul. There's optimism in Paris now, but things can change quickly in the French capital, as we've seen.

6. Juventus

Potential last-16 opponents: Atletico Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach, Porto, Sevilla, RB Leipzig

Juve handled its business at Camp Nou to top Barcelona, and by extension their group, and carve out a more favorable path to that elusive European crown. There remain questions about whether Andrea Pirlo is equipped to manage at the highest level–and matching wits vs. the likes of Diego Simeone and Nagelsmann in the next round could provide an answer awfully quickly. With Cristiano Ronaldo in scoring form and rumors of a Paul Pogba return this winter swirling again, Juve is in that second tier of contender, with enough flaws to temper expectations but enough talent to dream big.

7. Atletico Madrid

Potential last-16 opponents: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Dortmund, Juventus, PSG

It took until the final day of group play for Atletico Madrid to go through, but there's nothing shameful about finishing second to Bayern. Atleti is quietly leading La Liga (about as quietly as an undefeated team through 10 games can be), having conceded only twice domestically. It yielded eight goals in the group stage (five to Bayern), though, and its defensive solidity will be put to the test by any of the potential foes in the next round.

8. RB Leipzig

Potential last-16 opponents: Real Madrid, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Juventus

Last season's semifinalist is still missing something after losing Werner to Chelsea, but Nagelsmann has shown his proclivity at setting up his side for success, and its recent Bundesliga battle with Bayern was that of a club confident playing against anyone. That's important, because it's bound to draw a giant in the next round.

9. Borussia Dortmund

Potential last-16 opponents: Atletico Madrid, Porto, Atalanta, Sevilla, Barcelona

Dortmund's young studs carried the club to a first-place group finish, and Erling Haaland should be back from his injury long before the knockout stage commences. The knockout stage could be a make-or-break affair for manager Lucien Favre, who always seems to be one high-profile defeat away from being pushed out the door.

10. Real Madrid

Potential last-16 opponents: Porto, Atalanta, Lazio, RB Leipzig

Zinedine Zidane's side wound up winning its group, but it was anything but a straight procession. Madrid could have finished anywhere from first to fourth going into the final group matchday, and it remains ever-so reliant offensively on Karim Benzema and defensively on Sergio Ramos, two stars in their 30s still carrying their squad. Real Madrid can only draw one of four teams in the round of 16, and while it'd be favored against all except perhaps Leipzig, the two defeats to Shakhtar Donetsk are a warning sign that things could go south in a hurry for a squad typically comfortable on this stage.

11. Barcelona

Potential last-16 opponents: Bayern Munich, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Dortmund, PSG

Is there round-of-16 opponent Barcelona will feel confident beating? It can't be drawn against Real Madrid (same league) or Juventus (same group), leaving six better clubs (currently) as options. While none of those sides will be particularly enthused about drawing Messi this early in the competition, there's ample reason to think Barça is ripe for the picking. It's been dreadful in La Liga, capitulated vs. Juventus when a narrower loss would have been enough to top the group and looks like it's in store for an early exit and a lot of soul searching–all despite winning five of its six group games. The knockout rounds will begin after Messi is able to negotiate a pre-contract elsewhere and after the club holds its presidential elections. Suffice it to say, the next couple months will be pivotal as it relates to the club's future.

12. Lazio

Potential last-16 opponents: Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, PSG

Into the knockout stage for the first time in two decades, Lazio was one of four clubs not to lose in the group stage (joining Bayern, Man City and Chelsea). Provided perpetual transfer target and midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic stays put and veteran goal machine Ciro Immobile stays healthy, Lazio could be a tricky draw for one of the six powers eligible to face the Roman club.

13. Sevilla

Potential last-16 opponents: Bayern Munich, Man City, Liverpool, Dortmund, Juventus, PSG

Europa League contenders rejoice: Sevilla cannot win the crown again. That's because Julen Lopetegui's side eased its way into a top-two group finish, avoiding the drop down to the secondary competition. It's likely to be overmatched no matter the opponent, and the 4-0 loss to Chelsea in the penultimate group game is not a good indicator of what could come vs. top opposition. 

14. Porto

Potential last-16 opponents: Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea, Dortmund, Juventus, PSG

Porto fared about as expected in its group, losing to Man City and handling its business against Marseille and Olympiakos. The only club not in a "big five" European league still alive, the two-time European winners boast plenty of experience and could spring a surprise on the right, vulnerable opponent.

15. Borussia Monchengladbach

Potential last-16 opponents: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Juventus, PSG

Gladbach let a golden chance to win the group get away, and now the path is that much more difficult. Marco Rose's pressing side is teeming with talent, and Alassane Plea is a game-changing attacker, but any of the potential opponents will be equipped to handle what the Foals throw at them.

16. Atalanta

Potential last-16 opponents: Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Man City, Chelsea, Dortmund, PSG

Atalanta remains a high-wire act, and it's impressively back in the knockout stage after a storybook run ended in heartbreak and collapse in last season's quarterfinals. It won't be timid regardless of its opponent, which could open itself up to a lopsided exit or make for riveting upset potential. The club's scoring is considerably down (by its lofty standards) over the last six weeks, but there's time to get the mojo back before lining up against one of Europe's giants. A possible rematch vs. PSG would have two sides of the coin: a chance for revenge, but also the potential reopening of a traumatic wound.