The Group Phase is over and now that the dust is settled, we can analyze, in Power Rankings style, how did the teams do and how their future fares toward the knockout rounds. This time I will focus more on the 16 qualified teams but there will also be some words of kindness (or not so much) for those who didn’t make it.
The qualified teams:
1.- Bayern: Other than a very unlucky defeat at the Emirates, the German giants were completely dominant in their group. They scored 19 goals, received 3 and didn’t miss a beat even when they rested some starters in Zagreb. For me, the main favorites for the title so far.
2.- Barcelona: It wasn’t always a walk on the park for Barcelona during the Group Phase, they struggled in both games against Leverkusen and away to Roma, but when they tried their best they were as dominant as usual. With Messi back in full form, they will be formidable opponents for anyone from here on.
3.- Real Madrid: Their impressive numbers shouldn’t mask the fact that they struggled mightily against the other top team in the group. Rafa Benítez will have to find answers to his questions soon enough because what the team has shown so far has not been enough to mark the merengues as challengers for the title.
4.- Atlético Madrid: In pure Diego Simeone style, the colchoneros played at their effective best in the moments that mattered. They got the 3 points they needed in Lisbon to pip Benfica off the first place of their group and showed, as they have been doing for the last years, that they are an extremely hard team to defeat, even against the best of the best.
5.- Zenit St. Petersburg: Let’s not pay too much attention to their last-match defeat at Genk, as André Villas-Boas rested most of his starters for a match in which they had nothing at stake. It’s difficult to know the real level of this Zenit side but they have disposed with ease with the challenges they have faced so far.
6.- Paris Saint Germain: It’s not far-fetched to say that they were the best side of their group despite finishing second to Real Madrid. If they manage to avoid Barcelona and Bayern, they could give everyone a run for their money and position themselves well for the quarterfinals.
7.- Manchester City: They often left it late, but the Citizens managed to finish first in which probably was the hardest group of the first round. They were never extremely impressive but they avoided the disappointments that had plagued them in the previous editions of the Champions League.
8.- Chelsea: They weren’t very good in general but Mourinho-style they managed to deliver when they needed it the most and, after finishing first in their group, they will become extremely dangerous rivals in the knockout rounds. They still have to improve a lot if they want to go past the quarter-finals though.
9.- Juventus: They have their future in their hands and they threw it away. If they won at Sevilla they would have finished first and their knockout round prospects would be much better. They lost and the way the team has been playing they need a very kind draw if they want to stay alive and dream with a Final repeat.
10.- Wolfsburg: Finishing first in a group with Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven was really impressive but let’s not fool ourselves. Wolfsburg are a good side but far from the European elite. If they get a good draw they would make it to the quarterfinals but further progress doesn't really seem likely.
11.- Arsenal: They were absolutely horrendous during most of the group phase but managed to deliver when it counted the most. Given the strength of their squad, they will be dangerous in the knockout rounds, provided they don’t face Barcelona or Real Madrid. If that’s the case, Arsène Wenger’s boys will surely fall short again.
12.- Benfica: The Portuguese champions are a good, solid side, and did quite well in a complicated group. A defeat at Galatasaray had them lose the first spot but they can feel satisfied about their progress so far. Now, they need to pray that luck gives them Wolfsburg in the Round of 16.
13.- PSV Eindhoven: It’s true that this Manchester United was extremely underwhelming but in any case, advancing in a group containing the Red Devils must always be considered a success. This is a young, interesting side, which will be fun to watch from now on.
14.- Dynamo Kyiv: They seemed to be on their way out until they managed to get an extremely impressive win at Porto in the fifth matchday. They need Yarmolenko and Rybalka to still be in the team by the time the knockout rounds start if they want to be competitive.
15.- Roma: I don’t know what happened to Roma, but they were absolutely horrendous in their last two matchdays (and in the Serie A as well). To be honest, BATE deserved more the ticket than them but now that they are through they could try not to embarrass themselves.
16.- Gent: The surprise of the competition no doubt. They were talented but I thought they were too inexperienced to make an immediate impact. I was wrong. Kicking out Valencia was extremely impressive and whomever they face in the knockout rounds shouldn’t take them lightly.
17.- Porto: They were almost spotless in their group but their only really bad performance –at home against Dynamo- was enough to send them to the Europa League.
18.- Bayer Leverkusen: They were the second best team in the group but played their worst when it mattered most in both matches against Roma.
19.- Olympiakos: They shouldn’t be ranked so high after their debacle at home against Arsenal, but the other third placed teams were not really good.
20.- Sevilla: They were decent in a tough group but at some point it seemed they could aim for more. They have become instant favorites in their usual turf, the Europa League.
21.- Galatasaray: That’s the reality of Turkish football at the moment. They weren’t terrible in any match but ended up far from the level of the top 2 teams in the group.
22.- BATE: After a horrendous start, they were one lucky shot away to sneaking through the knockout rounds. Not bad for a team with 1/1000 of the budget of a certain team dressed in red.
23.- Valencia: Talk about a collapse. After the first round of matches it seemed all but a certainty that the Chés would go through. Three defeats and a new manager later, they will try to recover their mojo in the Europa League.
24.- Astana: I expected them to be whipping boys but they more than held their own in all their games. Their draws at Galatasaray and at home against Atlético were particularly impressive.
25.- Borussia M: After a slow start, the Germans were really close to make it to the Europa League. In the end it wasn’t enough but they were quite good in a tough group.
26.- CSKA: The Russian giants were in contention until a disappointing home defeat against Wolfsburg did them in. Not a bad performance in general.
27.- Lyon: Finally, the team managed to get their thing together in their last match at Valencia. Too little, too late for a team that was just too young.
28.- Dynamo Zagreb: They got that impressive win against an Arsenal B-side and were unlucky to lose at home to Olympiakos, but not much more to salvage in their adventures.
29.- Shakhtar: They were third in their group only by virtue of having Malmo on it, but were really poor throughout the competition. Not being able to play at home had an influence, of course.
30.- Malmö: Their final collapse is explained by the fact that they didn’t have domestic games for months. Still, losing 8-0 against a Real Madrid B side…
31.- Maccabi: 1 goal for, 16 against, 0 points.
32.- Manchester United: They obviously weren’t the worst team in the competition, but finishing third in a group with teams with one quarter of their budget is unforgivable. Embarrassing stuff.