Powerranking the Champions League contenders ahead of todays quarterfinal draw

first_imgSource: PA Wire/Press Association Images8. Manchester UnitedHave Manchester United ever been 20/1, rank outsiders to win the Champions League? They are now.Given their current form and the cloud of despondency that hangs over Old Trafford, it seems almost unthinkable that United can cobble together a challenge for their fourth European title. In the good old days you could never rule them out — not even if they were trailing by a goal in the 89th minute of the final — but this is a very different prospect.Wednesday’s win against Olympiakos was one of their most coherent performances in a long time, and their quarter-final opponents will rightly fear a sting in the tail, but it’s hard to have any real faith in United’s chances. NK7. Borussia DortmundThey may be last season’s finalists but Jurgen Klopp’s side have slipped back in the rankings to be one of the outsiders entering the quarter-final stage. They did finish top of their group, just edging out Arsenal and Napoli on goal difference, before getting past Zenit St Petersburg during the week.They lost Mario Gotze last summer to Bayern Munich while cruciate injuries have ruled winger Jakub Blaszczykowski and defender Neven Subotic out for the rest of the season. Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski ensure they carry a threat but it’s difficult to envisage Dortmund repeating last year’s heroics. FOT Source: AP/Press Association Images6. Paris Saint-GermainPSG have hardly put a foot wrong in the tournament yet this season. They were already comfortably through to the last 16 as winners before they lost their final group game against Benfica, and then continued that form with a 6-1 aggregate smashing of Bayer Leverkusen.Only Cristiano Ronaldo (13) has scored more goals than Zlatan Ibrahimovic (10) — so why can’t PSG get any love?If you want to find fault their defence hasn’t always been rock solid, though that rarely matters to their domestic dominance. The lingering concern is that they will be outthought and outplayed by one of the established powerhouses who have been here plenty of times before. NK Source: AP/Press Association Images5. Atletico MadridThe surprise package in this season’s La Liga title race, Atletico have lasted the course to be still challenging with ten games to go. Diego Simeone has also translated his side’s league form to the continent. They topped their group before Christmas and then claimed a 5-1 aggregate victory over AC Milan.The star man is undoubtedly Diego Costa. He has hit a rich goalscoring vein that has yielded 30 goals, causing Spain to savour the fact he is available to them for the World Cup and Brazil to bemoan his switch. The support cast of David Villa, Juanfran, Koke and Gabi isn’t bad either. FOT4. ChelseaChelsea’s squad has evolved considerably since their Champions League win in 2012 and the vast majority of those changes have been for the better.Eden Hazard’s class was glaringly obvious again in Tuesday night’s win over Galatasaray and if he stays fit and firing, Jose Mourinho’s side can rightly fancy their chances against any of the remaining teams.But can you win a Champions League with the strikers that Chelsea have? It doesn’t make the task any easier but as things tighten up in the knockout rounds, their defensive solidity could ease that burden. NK Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images3. BarcelonaThe beating they suffered last year at the semi-final stage against Bayern Munich brought a period of sobering reflection for Barcelona. Their elite status in Europe was altered even if they did win La Liga. Managerial upheaval has effected them in recent years while last summer’s marquee signing Neymar has not caught fire yet.They have slipped back in La Liga recently, magnifying the importance of next Sunday’s El Classico. But they are still likely to be one of Bayern’s biggest rivals for the title. In despatching Manchester City in the last 16, there was flashes of their class and with 31 goals this season, Lionel Messi’s stars shows no sign of dimming. FOT Source: EMPICS Sport2. Real MadridCarlo Ancelotti’s side need no introduction and if they do, they 29 goals they have scored on their unbeaten run to this point should do the job nicely.They’re hitting their peak at the perfect time too — they have won 17 games and drawn two in all competitions since the turn of the year — and they have managed to keep their star men fit.If there’s any hint of concern, it’s the pressure that they will come under as the competition reaches its climax. La decima — the club’s tenth European title — is spoken of in whispered tones around the Bernabeu and Ancelotti needs to manage that expectation. NK Source: Kirsty Wigglesworth1. Bayern MunichThe reigning champions are arguably stronger as they attempt to defend their title. The additions of Thiago Alcantara and Mario Gotze last summer have strengthened their hand while in Pep Guardiola at the tiller, they have a manager who knows how to land the Champions League crown. Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben are all in terrific form.Bayern have steamrolled through the Bundesliga and will retain their title shortly while a loss at home to Manchester City in the group stages is their only blip so far in Europe. Deserved favourites but the upcoming challenges will be greater than any they have been accustomed to so far this season. FOT– Fintan O’Toole and Niall KellyWho do you fancy to go all the way? United and Chelsea fans, what’s your dream draw? Let us know in the comments >Craven Cottage confirmed for Ireland v Italy friendlylast_img read more

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