Three matchdays on, and the surprises don’t really slow down. Who’d have thought Wolfsburg would be leading a group with Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven on it? Or that, despite beating Bayern Munich, Arsenal need nothing short of a miracle to qualify to the knockout phase? And let’s not get started with Chelsea’s struggles…
Well, that’s the reality of the Champions League 2015/2016, and these Power Rankings are trying to make some sense of it. There are less drastic jumps this time, however, especially at the top and bottom of the rankings. Let’s check them out.
1. Real Madrid (+1): Sure, it was ugly, but getting a draw at the Parc des Princes with so many absences is an extremely impressive result, even if there was nothing spectacular on Real Madrid’s approach. We all knew Rafa Benítez, though, so this is hardly a surprise, and get ready to see a repetition of this every time Real Madrid play away to a difficult team.
2. Bayern Munich (-1): I’m not going to penalize Bayern too much for losing at the Emirates. They were the better side by far and if it weren’t for a completely unexpected mistake by Manuel Neuer, they would have probably ended up winning. If I were a betting man, I’d put a lot of money on a German revenge at the Allianz Arena.
3. Barcelona (+1): They weren’t exactly brilliant in Belarus but they keep on getting things done without Leo Messi. Still, some doubts linger about the true potential of this Barça side, both in the domestic and the European fronts. For the moment, I can’t place them higher than third in these rankings.
4. Juventus (-1): Their home draw to Borussia M. was the wtf result of the matchday. The Italians didn’t play well against low-tier opposition, they just managed two shots on target for crying out loud! Still, I think this is just a blip, and will get things back on track in Germany.
5. Paris Saint-Germain (-): This was the chance to prove the continent that they belonged in the elite group and they failed to seize it. Against a very defensive Madrid side, PSG should have shown more courage and imagination. Let’s say how they fare in Spain next time.
6. Zenit Saint Petersburg (-): Three games, three wins. Zenit haven’t been amazing but in a competition where so many others have failed, the Russians are taking care of business. They could be the first team to qualify to the knockout phase on the next Matchday.
7. Valencia (+2): I haven’t been too impressed by their last performances. Actually, their best match could very well have been their home loss to Zenit! Anyway, with 6 points, they are essentially qualified to the next phase.
8. Porto (+2): Beating Maccabi Tel Aviv is no feat, but at this point the most important thing is to keep the wins coming and the other teams as far as possible. Porto managed both so there are no complains there.
9. Manchester City (+2): For the competition’s ultimate choke artists, these last two matchdays have been an interesting turnaround. It seemed that they would lose in Germany and draw against Sevilla, and somehow they managed to get 6 points off it and have their destiny in their own hands. Pretty impressive.
10. Atlético Madrid (+4): Beating Astana is nothing to write home about, but the team managed to rebound nicely after their shock defeat against Benfica. They are still in pole position to win the group after the Portuguese lost in Turkey.
11. Benfica (-3): It’s the nature of this edition of the Champions League that, other than the top dogs, almost no team can really separate from the group. This was Benfica’s case. A win in Istanbul would have essentially secured the Eagles’ a ticket to the knockout rounds. It wasn’t to be but they’re still in a good position to do it in Lisbon.
12. Wolfsburg (+6): They have been, by large, the best team of a really even group and confidently sit top after the first round of matches have been played. They still have to host Manchester United and their visits to Moscow and Eindhoven don’t seem impossible anymore.
13. Manchester United (-6): With 4 points, Man U’s chances are still intact. However, the team is just not playing well and Louis van Gaal is struggling to find a starting XI he can trust. He has Martial, however, and if the kid plays to 50% of his potential in the next few matches, the Red Devils will easily qualify to the second round.
14. Sevilla (-2): They have been pretty good so far, but losing that game in Manchester might come back to haunt them. They will have to beat them in Sevilla by two goals (or 3-2) to hold the edge in the tie-breakers. It definitely can be done, but there’s no more room to fail anymore.
15. Chelsea (-2): Drawing in Kiev was a very good result, but this Chelsea team is dull and ineffective. If they go through, they will be hard to beat, but so far it has been better to watch a re-run of the second trilogy of Star Wars than Mourinho’s 2015 crop.
16. Olympiakos (+5): So, the surprise side of the Champions League keeps marching on. Winning in Zagreb was huge for the Greeks who now need to beat the Croatians at home in the next matchday to force a showdown with Arsenal, in which they would just need to avoid losing by 2 at home.
17. Roma (+3): It could have been so much better if they managed to hold on a few more minutes… Still, the point in Germany was extremely good and now the Italians need to beat Bayer and BATE at home to go through.
18. Bayer Leverkusen (-3): What a game! In 90 minutes Bayer were really close to book their tickets to the Round of 16, then really close to say goodbye to the competition and then really close again to qualify to the next round. As it stands, they need at least a point in Rome and beat BATE. Not impossible but not easy either.
19. Arsenal (+3): What? The Gunners beat Bayern and only climb 3 positions in the Power Rankings. Well there’s a simple and a detailed explanation. The simple one is that these Rankings suck. Now that we’ve catered to Arsenal fans, let’s go for the detailed one. Despite winning, Arsenal’s prospects are still really slim. They need to avoid losing to Bayern in Munich and then to beat Olympiakos away by two goals in order to survive. And they weren’t that good in the last match as to think that might happen. It might, of course, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
20. Dinamo Kiev (-4): Drawing at home to Chelsea shouldn’t normally merit going down 4 positions in the Rankings but it’s difficult to envisage Dynamo getting something from Stamford Bridge and by that point Porto might be too far away already.
21. Galatasaray (+4): They were playing for their lives against Benfica and they survived the first match point. The other two are going to be way harder but if they manage to win in Lisbon or Madrid, their ticket would be completely merited.
22. CSKA (-3): The Russians have 4 points but visits to Manchester and Eindhoven don’t look good for their prospects. They need a point in Old Trafford in the next matchday, whatever it takes.
23. PSV Eindhoven (-6): The Netherlands are going through a severe footballing crisis and PSV are in the middle of it. They play two games at home and need all 6 points to stay in contention. So far, the way they have been playing, it doesn’t seem an easy task.
24. Lyon (-1): They are essentially out of the race to remain in the Champions League and must now focus on finishing third and qualify to the Europa League. They are not a bad team but still too young to properly challenge. Next year could be a better one… if they qualify, of course.
25. Borussia Moenchengladbach (-1): Earning a point in Turin was pretty impressive but it doesn’t change much in the group picture. With Juventus, Man City and Seville, the Germans’ chances were very slim from the beginning.
26. Gent (-): They didn’t embarrass themselves at Valencia. In fact, they have been pretty solid throughout their three matches in the competition. They could very well overtake Lyon for the third place of the group.
27. Dinamo Zagreb (-): It’s been back to normal for the Croatians after their shock win over Arsenal. They weren’t bad against Olympiakos but you can’t lose to a middling team at home if you want to do something in the world’s best club competition.
28. Malmö (+2): Great result for the Swedish champions, who are playing their particular playoff with Shakhtar for a spot in the Europa League. They now need to score in Ukraine and half of their primary goal will be attained.
29. BATE Borisov (-1): They managed to hold Barcelona goalless for 45 minutes. Not so bad for a team that has been better than expected after their first game collapse.
30. Astana (-1): It’s been a learning experience for the newcomers. Maybe they’ll improve in the second round of matches… or maybe not.
31. Maccabi (+1): See above.
32. Shakhtar Donetsk (-): It’s understandable because of the awful conditions they’ve had to face, but it’s still disappointing that a team that was challenging the best not so long ago are now an afterthought after three matches. Really sad.