We have a new leader! For the fourth time in a row, there have been changes at the top of the table, and I’m under the impression this will be the last time until the end of the group phase. Also, for the first time there’s a new team in the top four, and it could have been two, if PSG had managed to display in the scoreboard their superiority over Real Madrid on the pitch.
1. Bayern Munich (+1): Despite their defeat at the Emirates in the previous matchday, they have been, by far, the best team in the group phase. Yesterday they completely obliterated Arsenal, the same way they would have done it if they had been a bit luckier in England.
2. Real Madrid (-1): Somehow, Real Madrid keep on getting the results despite not playing well. This time, the team looked completely overwhelmed by PSG but rode their luck to practically assure the first place of the group. The reason why I didn’t punish them more on the list is because of the many absences the team has had in the previous weeks. Once everyone is back we will see Real Madrid’s true potential.
3. Barcelona (-): They still don’t play at the level they could but they have managed to survive the absence of Messi in the European front. Barça were lucky, though, to be drawn in a relatively easy group and should be back to full force by the knockout stages.
4. Manchester City (+5): By the way they started, I would have never thought I would place Man City here after four matchdays, but their performance in Seville more than merits it. They will arrive to their key match against Juventus in first place and playing better than ever. Who’d dare to bet against them this time?
5. Zenit Saint Petersburg (+1): 4 games, 4 wins… what a group phase from Zenit. They were a bit lucky at the beginning of the competition but have improved with every game. With the first place of the group almost assured, they can now rest, save strength and prepare for the Round of 16.
6. Juventus (-1): Their shaky start in the league is starting to be reflected in Europe as well. They faced the worst team in the group and couldn’t even muster a victory against them. Let’s hope they improve by the next matchday or they could really suffer against an in-form Man City.
7. Paris Saint-Germain (-2): It’s true that they lost to Real Madrid, but they played so well and were so much better than the Spanish giants that they don’t deserve to be penalized that much in this list. If they manage to avoid one of the top three in the Round of 16 they should be favorites to advance.
8. Porto (-): They always do well in Europe but nobody expected this Porto side to be as strong and consistent as they have been so far. They confidently lead a group with Chelsea on it and would need just to avoid a two-goal defeat in the last game at Stamford Bridge to confirm their ticket as group leaders.
9. Benfica (+2): The Portuguese sides are acquitting themselves quite well in this Champions League. Their victory on Tuesday coupled with Atletico’s draw in Azerbaijan, means that they now need just a draw at home against the Spanish giants to finish first in their group.
10. Valencia (-3): So what the hell did it happen there. Granted, Gent had been solid throughout the competition but the gulf in quality between the two teams was just two big to forecast a defeat in Belgium. The problem with Valencia, as usual, is internal turmoil as coach Nuno is under extreme pressure by the fans. This doesn’t bode well for the knockout stages.
11. Atlético Madrid (-1): The 2015 edition of the Simeone boys seems to be a dull version of previous incarnations. Maybe it’s just a slow start but the prospect of facing Bayern or Man City in the Round of 16 would have to be enough to wake the players up for the last two matchdays.
12. Manchester United (+1): A win, extremely dull but a win nonetheless. The extremely uninspiring Red Devils arrive to their last two games with a slim advantage over PSV and Wolfsburg in what has been the tightest group of the competition so far. They can’t afford a misstep.
13. Olympiakos (+3): They suffered until the very end but beat Dinamo Zagreb and need just a draw against Arsenal at home to book an extremely unexpected ticket to the Round of 16. That game should be fun.
14. Chelsea (+1): Somehow, Mourinho managed to preserve his job for one more week and Chelsea managed to stay alive in the Champions League for one more matchday. In fact, with against Maccabi and Dynamo going to Porto, they should be fine, but finishing first seems like a distant dream at the moment.
15. Roma (+2): They suffered, they struggled but they made it. Their dramatic victory against Leverkusen means that barring an unexpected catastrophe (or Barça playing with their B side in Germany), the Italian runners-up will be in the Round of 16.
16. PSV Eindhoven (+7): They 2-0 win over Wolfsburg put them on the driving seat for the second place in the group albeit only by having scored more goals than the Germans. If they avoid a catastrophe in Manchester, they could feel perfectly confident to book their ticket at home to CSKA in the last matchday.
17. Wolfsburg (-5): If they hadn’t received that second goal in Eindhoven… Now Wolfsburg desperately needs to get a draw in Moscow. If they manage, then a home victory against a (probably) already qualified Man U doesn’t seem out of the question. Losing in Moscow seems like a death sentence, though.
18. Bayer Leverkusen (-): Their two games against Roma were probably the most exciting in the competition so far and it’s quite unfair that such a generous side is on the brink of elimination. They still have hope however, they need to dispose of BATE in Belarus and hope for a Barça off day in the last matchday… Not impossible.
19. Sevilla (-5): Goodbye sweet princes! Possessing a quite decent squad, Sevilla were very unlucky with the draw in this Champions League. Finishing ahead of two of the richest teams in Europe was an extremely hard feat and it took only one misstep to kick the Andalusians out. They should be very competitive in the Europa League though.
20. Dynamo Kiev (-): Poor Dynamo, they have been pretty good in this competition and deserved more against Chelsea. They lost in the end and seem now to be condemned to bow out, but they leave a very good taste and will be fun to watch in the EL.
21. Arsenal (-1): Based on what I had seen in their home game against Bayern, I refused to prop up the Gunners in these rankings and it turns out I was right. They had been poor but lucky at the Emirates and they were very poor and quite unlucky in Munich. They can still qualify to the second round but need to improve a lot, really a lot.
22. Galatasaray (-1): They had good performances in their matches so far but their talent is just not enough. No regrets for the Turkish side though, sometimes you can’t get farther than what your quality allows you.
23. CSKA (-1): They are still in it, but they need some sort of a miracle now. They have to beat Wolfsburg at home and then put an extremely brave performance and win in Eindhoven. Given how poor their results away from Russia have been, it doesn’t seem likely, but it’s not impossible.
24. Borussia Moenchengladbach (+1): They put on two impressive performances against Juventus, but the group was just too hard. They can still pip Sevilla of the third place which would be an extremely good result, given the circumstances.
25. Gent (+1): Of the smaller sides, they have been the most impressive by far. Well organized and serious, they victory against Lyon was a fair reward for their efforts so far in the campaign. The ticket for the Europa League is way within their reach.
26. Lyon (-2): It’s true that they were a very young side but finishing fourth in the group behind Gent was disappointing even given the circumstances.
27. Dynamo Zagreb (-): They were close to pull another upset against Olympiakos. In general, they have been a pleasant surprise during the competition.
28. Shakhtar Donetsk (+4): Finally! The Shakhtar of old reappeared and thrashed a team the way they used to do. Too bad it was Malmö and it will just be useful to get a Europa League spot, but beggars can be choosers.
29. Malmö (-1): I expected way more from the Swedish side in Ukraine, given their previous performances. It was disappointing, but they have still been decent in many matches during the competitions.
30. Astana (-): They were solid in both games against Atlético, a team that has 100 times their budget, so they can feel good about themselves.
31. BATE Borisov (-1): Losing to Barça 3-0 away is no shame and they can still go to the Europa League, although it doesn’t seem likely at this point.
32. Maccabi (-1): Four defeats, one goal for, 11 against. It has been rough, and will not get better, but at least they lived the experience.