Ahead of Monday’s draw for the Champions League round of 16, we use the Opta Power Rankings to rate each team and work out who the strongest and weakest remaining competitors are.
And then there were 16.
Following the culmination of the last ever (*wipes away tear*) UEFA Champions League group stage as we know it, 32 teams have been halved in the least dramatic fashion over six games played over three months.
In the round-of-16 draw on Monday, the remaining teams will be paired up to make eight two-legged fixtures to be played in February and March.
This draw is seeded, with each of the eight group winners to be drawn against a team that finished as a runner-up. The only restrictions are that teams from the same country can’t be drawn against one another, and teams from the same group cannot meet again.
These are the eight group winners (From Group A to Group H) who will make up Pot 1:
- Bayern Munich
- Real Madrid
- Real Sociedad
- Atlético Madrid
- Borussia Dortmund
- Manchester City
And these are the eight runners-up, making up Pot 2:
- FC Copenhagen
- PSV Eindhoven
- Paris Saint-Germain
- RB Leipzig
So, that means we could have Manchester City vs PSG or Real Madrid vs FC Copenhagen, but not Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig or Real Sociedad vs Inter.
But who are the best and worst teams still fighting in this season’s Champions League? Thanks to the Opta Power Rankings, we’re here with the definitive answer.
The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world. This system is constantly updating and is affected by any professional match played in world football, so we have had to take the rankings on a specific date – Thursday 14 December. All of the following Power Rankings that you are about to see are correct as of that day.
These Opta Power Rankings allow us to – as objectively as possible – compare teams from different leagues, meaning we can rank the 16 teams still in the Champions League.
Eight of the world’s top 10 teams are still in the competition, with Liverpool (fourth) and this season’s surprise Premier League package Aston Villa (10th) the only exceptions from that top 10. It will be no shock to see last season’s treble winners, Manchester City, top of the pile, followed by Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Two more group winners are in the top 10 in Arsenal and Atlético, making Inter, PSG and RB Leipzig the best of the runners-up. They are the teams to avoid for the Pot 1 sides.
Six more of the teams remaining in this season’s Champions League are between 12th and 20th in the global Opta Power Rankings: Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Real Sociedad, Napoli, PSV and Porto.
The highest-ranked of those teams – Dortmund (12th), Barcelona (13th) and Real Sociedad (14th) – won their group, though Porto (20th) finished level on points with the winner of their group, Barcelona.
That leaves two teams, and the drop-off to the remaining Pot 2 sides is stark. Lazio, who finished second to Atlético Madrid in Group E, are, at the time of writing, the 38th best team in the world, ahead of Ligue 1 high-flyers Nice and only two places above Fulham, who finished ninth in the Premier League last season.
To find the last of the remaining Champions League teams, you have to scroll quite a long way in our Opta Power Rankings list. Eventually, you’ll find FC Copenhagen, down in 80th, between Brest and Las Palmas. Brest are currently fifth in Ligue 1, and Las Palmas are eighth in La Liga.
Copenhagen, of course, qualified from a group containing Manchester United, who they beat 4-3 on Matchday 4. Most impressively of all, they managed a goalless draw away to Bayern Munich.
They will, nonetheless, presumably be the team that most of the Pot 1 sides hope to draw.
Most Evenly Matched Possible Draw
There are a few teams who are only one place apart in our Opta Power Rankings and could be drawn together. Inter (6th) could face Arsenal (5th) or Atlético (7th), who in turn could be drawn against PSG (8th).
So, the most evenly matched round-of-16 ties would be:
- Arsenal vs Inter
- Inter vs Atlético Madrid
- Atlético Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain
Biggest Possible Mismatch
Any of the Pot 1 teams against FC Copenhagen would be a huge mismatch, but Manchester City – currently the best team on the planet according to the Power Rankings (even if their recent form has been a little iffy) – being drawn against the Danish side would be a real David vs Goliath Champions League tie.
Then again, Copenhagen have already seen off one team from Manchester this season.