The 2021-22 UEFA Champions League season is nearing the end of group stages, with top clubs across Europe looking to cement their place in the knockout round. Chelsea are the defending champions, while the likes of Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain have made winning the Champions League their explicit goal for the season. Some of the European giants have shown superb performances, while others have succumbed to shock defeats that have put their Champions League hopes in jeopardy.
As the group stages of the Champions League reach their final stages, here are our power rankings of top clubs in the continental tournament:
The downfall of Barcelona since the exit of top stars including Lionel Messi has been swift and brutal – the once champions are now 9th in La Liga. Their Champions League stint has been equally woeful – they have won just two of their four fixtures – losing to Bayern Munich and getting humiliated in the hands of Benfica in Lisbon. Two 1-0 wins against Dynamo Kyiv have managed to keep them in the hunt for a knockout berth for now, but even if they qualify, Barca are unlikely to hold up against Europe’s top clubs.
#7: MANCHESTER UNITED
Despite the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United have failed to live up to their pre-season expectations. Continuous failures both at home and abroad against stronger clubs have dented their chances of winning both the Premier League and Champions League. Cristiano Ronaldo remains the lone spark for United – the star striker has bailed out United in both their fixtures against Atalanta. With five of the eight goals that the Red Devils have scored coming from Ronaldo, the rest of the attack has to step up for Manchester United to make any meaningful impact. The defence is already in shambles, and an exit from the Champions League might be the final straw of Solskjaer’s tenure at Old Trafford.
#6: PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
Paris Saint-Germain have invested millions in buying top players from across the continent this season with one explicit goal – to win the Champions League. The arrival of Lionel Messi was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle. But their performances since then have been anything but extraordinary. After a 2-0 win against Manchester City courtesy of Idrissa Gueye and Lionel Messi’s goals, PSG have lost their way. They barely won against RB Leipzig at home after a second-half penalty and could only manage a draw against them in the away fixture. The presence of Messi still makes them a potent force, but Mauricio Pochettino has his task cut out for him if PSG are to attain their dream.
The Reds started their Champions League journey with little expectations. Overshadowed by Manchester City and Chelsea at home, they were also placed in a difficult group along with Atletico Madrid and Porto which made their European chances look slim. But Jurgen Klopp’s side have caught critics by surprise through a brilliant start to the season both at home and abroad – led by the goal-scoring spree of Mohamed Salah. The Reds have won all four of their group stage fixtures so far, scoring 13 goals along the way. With 12 points and just two games left to play, they have already secured qualification to the next round, and Jurgen Klopp will be intent on pursuing European glory once again after a quiet two years.
#4: REAL MADRID
Under the stewardship of Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid are showing signs of returning to their former self – as the club has been able to stitch together enough wins to secure a place in the knockout round for now. Consistency has been an issue at the Santiago Bernabeu, but the club has been able to find goals at the right time in order to stay on top of their game. A 5-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk has given them enough goal difference to compensate for the loss against Sheriff Tiraspol, and the GD is set to take them through to the next round even if they lose their next two matches. Most of Real Madrid’s goals have come in the second half, and that will be a concern for Carlo Ancelotti going ahead.
The defending champions have been unable to replicate the success they have shown in the Premier League quite exactly on the European platform. The 4-0 home win against Malmo conceals the true picture – the Blues have won three out of their four victories by just a single goal. A loss to Juventus, coupled with Juve’s perfect streak of results will likely see them finish second in the group and a difficult round of 16 encounter. Chelsea’s perfect form in the Premier League can give the club some confidence, and Thomas Tuchel might rest some of his players in the domestic fixtures to keep them fit for the upcoming encounter against Juve.
#2: MANCHESTER CITY
The Blues might have marginally outperformed Manchester City in the Premier League, but Pep Guardiola’s side look more formidable in the Champions League. A 2-0 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in their second fixture of the tournament would have hurt them deeply, but the Citizens have since rallied together to register two thumping victories over Club Brugge both at home and away. An out-of-form PSG have aided their cause – with City now a point up against fellow title contenders. A win against the Parisians will cement their place at the top of the group and make them a force to reckon with in the next round.
#1: BAYERN MUNICH
Bayern Munich are by now the undeniable favourites to win the tournament, with the German club dominating games both in the Bundesliga and the Champions League with equal fervour. Julian Nagelsmann’s arrival at the club has transformed the German champions into a club with intent, which is on display not just in the results but also in the field. Robert Lewandowski’s goal-scoring spree has enabled the club to score a whopping 40 goals in the Bundesliga this season, far outscoring any other club. Lewandowski and Leroy Sane have also made the Champions League a goal fest – with the club scoring 17 goals while conceding just two. If the current form persists, Bayern are likely to go all the way to the finals once again.