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Champions League panic rankings: How each team's feeling before second legs

Domestic action returns to the fore with the FA Cup, Copa del Rey and Coupe de France dominating the midweek action, but the Champions League is set to return with the Round of 16 second legs on March 7/8-14/15. 

We've got some dynamite return legs brewing with five of the eight matches separated by one goal or less, and who knows, maybe Liverpool can finally deliver some excitement now that nothing's expected from them. 

Ahead of the decisive matches, we've ranked the 16 remaining clubs on a scale of teams already looking forward to the quarterfinal draw vs. teams already looking forward to the 2023-24 season. 

Champions League Power Rankings 


#16. Liverpool

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Trailing by three goals, heading to the Santiago Bernabéu and playing a Real Madrid team that will probably delight in letting Cody Gakpo score the opener, giving the Reds that little bit of hope, before scoring three unanswered for an 8-3 aggregate victory. 

Jürgen Klopp said the tie was over after the Anfield beatdown and who are we to argue? 

#15. Eintracht Frankfurt

How good are Napoli? The Serie A leaders traveled to Frankfurt for the first leg and recorded 18 shots, putting two past Kevin Trapp while keeping the Germans off the scoresheet. Eintracht will also be without leading scorer Randal Kolo Muani in the return leg after his red card, so things look incredibly bleak for the Bundesliga's sixth-place team.  

#14. Club Brugge 

No one can take away those memorable September/early October group stage victories over Atlético Madrid, Porto and Bayer Leverkusen, but that feels like an eternity ago with the club slipping to fourth-place in the Belgian Pro League (20 points behind leaders Genk) and heading to Lisbon trailing Benfica by two goals. 


#13. RB Leipzig 

The 1-1 draw against Manchester City in Leipzig felt like a victory for the Red Bulls, but now comes the unenviable task of pulling off an upset at the Etihad. The formula: Josko Gvardiola and Willi Orbán make things miserable for Erling Haaland, and Leipzig hits on the counter through fliers Timo Werner and Christopher Nkunku. 

#12. Chelsea 

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We've all just been sitting around waiting for the $358 million January injection to kick in, but after following a 1-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund with back-to-back defeats to Southampton and Tottenham, I'd definitely be willing to describe a second-leg turnaround against BVB (requiring two Chelsea goals, two!) as a minor miracle.

The team looks like 11 guys playing FIFA Pro Clubs online and everyone up top has been drinking heavily.  

#11. Porto

Porto tasted a 1-0 defeat at the San Siro to open their tie against Inter Milan, but the Portuguese side gave as much as they got with André Onana denying them a goal during a man of the match performance. Inter didn't make the breakthrough until the 86th-minute with Porto down to 10 men (Otávio will be suspended for the return leg).

That indiscipline was on show again recently as Porto went down to nine men during a shock defeat to Gil Vicente in the Primeira Liga to hand control of the division to Benfica. The squad has a great young goalkeeper in Diogo Costa and a difference maker up top in Mehdi Taremi, and Inter have been plagued by some wild inconsistency this season so there's still hope.   


#10. Inter Milan  

One step forward with the 1-0 win over Porto, two steps back with a 1-0 defeat to Bologna to effectively hand the Serie A title to Napoli in February. Romelu Lukaku is back and nearing full fitness, but the keys to surviving the Dragão will probably be Onana, Alessandro Bastoni, Milan Skriniar and Francesco Acerbi in defense. 

#9. PSG

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So Neymar almost certainly won't play against Bayern after injuring his ankle, but the Brazilian's form since the World Cup (after looking ridiculously sharp before it) hasn't been great. Besides, as the first leg perfectly demonstrated, PSG's fate is dictated by their most important player, Kylian Mbappé. 

Mbappé is over a thigh injury, and a recent 3-0 victory over Marseille in Le Classique was a preposterous demonstration of what the Frenchman is able to accomplish alongside Lionel Messi. The shift to a 5-3-2 formation against Bayern at Allianz Arena might actually benefit Christophe Galtier's men. 

#8. Tottenham 

Since losing to AC Milan 1-0 at the San Siro, Spurs have impressively rattled off back-to-back EPL wins over West Ham and Chelsea to climb to fourth in the table. The feel-good factor is returning to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium ahead of the Rossoneri's trip, which makes you think that they're going to bottle this tie so damn bad. 

It's been a strangely quiet UCL campaign for both Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, so maybe they're do for an inspirational game to turns things around for Spurs.   


#7. AC Milan 

Milan looked cooked heading into the tie against Spurs, but suddenly the team has won four straight across all competitions while Zlatan Ibrahimović made his long-awaited return from injury. Danger man Rafael Leão is also recapturing his best form, so maybe the reports of Milan's impending doom have been greatly exaggerated. 

#6. Bayern Munich 

Ah, it's that time of the year again. After doing their traditional first-half Bundesliga thing of giving other clubs hope, Bayern Munich recently hammered challengers Union Berlin and a 11th consecutive domestic crown is inevitable. 

The team was hugely impressive in Paris (before Mbappé's introduction) with its electric assortment of wide players causing all sorts of issues (Jamal Musiala, Leroy Sané, Kingsley Coman, João Cancelo, Serge Gnabry, Alphonso Davies). It's clear that PSG has the quality to hurt Bayern and to score a couple in Munich, but the Germans can match their firepower in a shootout and still advance. 


#5. Borussia Dortmund 

If we're having a discussion over the most in-form team on the planet, Dortmund have to be in the conversation. Since the World Cup, BVB have rattled off nine wins across all competitions. They're level on points with Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga, through to the DFB-Pkal quarters and now enjoying a 1-0 lead over Chelsea (conversely one of Europe's most out-of-sorts teams).

The form guide says the time is now for young stars Jude Bellingham, Nico Schlotterbeck and Karim Adeyemi, but are they really sturdy enough to take out the 2021 European champions at Stamford Bridge?  

#4. Manchester City

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It feels like every time you look at City they're either being chastised for only scoring once or they drop four on their opponent. There's no happy medium here. 

Will Pep Guardiola overthink it? Does it matter at this stage as long as Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne are involved? RB Leipzig have some of the hallmarks of teams that've troubled City in Europe over the last few years, but the Citizens are heavy, heavy favorites to reach the final eight.   


#3. Benfica 

Benfica put the world on notice by topping a UCL group with PSG and Juventus, but the loss of Enzo Fernández to Chelsea in the January window was cause for concern. However, Benfica is flying at the top of the Primeira Liga and a 2-0 victory over Club Brugge in Belgium has them looking forward to the return leg at Estádio da Luz.

This team has an incredibly exciting front three led by Gonçalo Ramos (the guy who took Ronaldo's spot at the World Cup), João Mário and Rafa Silva with David Neres off the bench. They also have a very interesting defensive pairing in 35-year-old World Cup winner Nicolás Otamdeni and 19-year-old phenom António Silva. That's a fun combo.  

#2. Napoli 

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2022-23 Serie A winners! Napoli is enjoying an 18-point lead at the top of the table, and any lingering questions we had over their ability to translate that to the UCL — where they've never advanced to the quarterfinals before — were answered with a 2-0 victory in Germany.

Eintracht seem doomed in the return leg at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, and then we'll get a tantalizing look at striker Victor Osimhen and playmaker Khvicha Kvaratskhelia against one of the big boys. 

#1. Real Madrid 

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The last time Real wasted a UCL advantage at home, it was against that sensational Ajax team in 2019. Last year Real showed that the Santiago Bernabéu is only a place of pain for visitors, and despite the odd continued misstep in LaLiga this season, Los Blancos look much stronger than Liverpool across the pitch. 

After that two-year blip of back-to-back Round of 16 eliminations in 2019 and 2020, Real Madrid are again the team feared by all with Karim Benzema, Vinícius, Luka Modrić, Rodrygo and Fede Valverde all saving their best for the big UCL nights.  

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