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ESPN FC  By ESPN

Champions League: Man City top the ladder, United lurking with Sanchez

The FC crew discuss the Champions League round of 16 and who is going through.

ESPN FC's Champions League ladder ranks the teams left in the tournament. Who's top and who is sliding down ahead of the round-of-16 first legs?

We've looked at each team's hopes of progressing to the quarterfinals and will update after each round of fixtures. Manchester City may be our favourites for Champions League glory at the moment, with a favourable tie against Basel to come, but what will be the story after this round? 

ESPN FC's club correspondents discuss each side's chances for the tournament as it stands, as well as discussing the potential pitfalls that could lead to their team sliding out of the competition.

After each round, you can see who has moved up (+), who has slid down (-) and who remains the same. 

The Ladder

1. MAN CITY 

Manchester City have been fearless in the Premier League, deservedly beating all of their top-six rivals. If they show the same form in the Champions League -- which they already have done in winning home and away at Serie A leaders Napoli -- there is no reason they can't go on and win the trophy in Kiev. But Pep Guardiola's philosophy is high-risk and the danger is the defence can be left exposed by the better and more experienced leading teams from Europe. -- Jonathan Smith

2. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

PSG could not have wished for a better moment to come up against a vulnerable Real Madrid. Desperate to avenge last season's Barcelona humiliation and prove they are no longer mentally fragile, Unai Emery's men have already scored over 120 goals in all competitions this season. Also, ex-Real man Angel Di Maria is on fire and complementing PSG's "MCN" trident of Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar. Defensive midfield is a worry, though, with none of Thiago Motta, Lassana Diarra, Giovani Lo Celso and Adrien Rabiot clear starters at the Bernabeu. PSG's defence remains largely unbalanced and the unfamiliar position of being considered favourites by many has added to the pressure on Les Parisiens. -- Jonathan Johnson

Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar will provide a troubled Real Madrid with a stern test.

3. BARCELONA 

Since the Spanish Super Cup in August, Barcelona have lost just once in 37 games. During that time, they've beaten Real Madrid 3-0 away and Juventus 3-0 at home. Lionel Messi is having a fine season and Ernesto Valverde has improved them in defence. Thoughts are beginning to turn to an unbeaten league season and a third treble, which would include a sixth Champions League trophy. There will be caution, though, ahead of the trip to Chelsea. The Catalans were torn apart by Paris Saint-Germain and Juve away from home in last year's knockout stages and haven't always been that impressive on the road in Europe in recent seasons. -- Sam Marsden

4.  BAYERN MUNICH 

Grateful recipients of plum draw Besiktas, Bayern Munich's chances of going deep have already received a real boost, while two favourites from Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Chelsea will have exited too, meaning Bayern's first final since 2013 moves significantly nearer. However, Bayern will definitely be keen to avoid La Liga opposition in the latter stages, having exited every year since lifting the trophy at Wembley in 2013 (under Jupp Heynckes) to a Spanish side (Real twice, Barcelona and Atletico). -- Mark Lovell

5. REAL MADRID

Real Madrid's current domestic form -- 17 points adrift of runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona and last month's embarrassing Copa del Rey exit to Leganes -- does not suggest that Zinedine Zidane's side should be counted anywhere among the favourites for this season's Champions League.

But history suggests that Madrid, more than any other team, can refocus quickly and find their best form when the European knockout stages start -- as Zidane knows from his playing days. Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric & Co. have the experience and quality to beat any other side on their day. The question around the Bernabeu now is can they "change the chip" in time for the crunch tie against Paris Saint Germain? -- Dermot Corrigan

Real Madrid
Real Madrid are the back-to-back defending champions but have struggled in La Liga this season.

6. MAN UNITED

Manchester United will expect to get past Sevilla and into the quarterfinals. From there, anything can happen, especially with a manager like Jose Mourinho in charge who has plenty of experience of getting into the latter stages of the competition. However, even with Alexis Sanchez now in the ranks, United are not yet at the same level as Barcelona, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain and they will need a bit of luck and a few Mourinho tactical masterclasses to win it. -- Rob Dawson

7. LIVERPOOL

Handing Manchester City their first league defeat of the season was a sign that Liverpool can compete with Europe's best on any given day. Liverpool's relationship with the Champions League and Jurgen Klopp's successful record in European competitions seems like the perfect cocktail. However, with Champions League football not yet secured for next season, juggling the European knockout rounds and top four battle will stretch and test Liverpool's relatively thin squad. -- Glenn Price

8. JUVENTUS

After a wobbly start to the season, Juventus are back to exhibiting their tremendous form as they are not only the highest scoring team in Serie A this but they have only conceded one goal in their last 16 matches, making them likely to challenge for the Champions League again. However, missing several key players for their match against Tottenham may hamper their journey going forward. Should they succeed, the form of several big teams around Europe will demand much more of Juve this season, especially on a mental level. -- Mina Rzouki

9. TOTTENHAM

Tottenham's energetic young squad fear no-one after taking four points from holders Real Madrid in the group stage, where they found the right balance between attacking exuberance, led by Harry Kane, and a solid defence, marshalled by experienced Belgians Jan Vetonghen and Toby Alderweireld. But although Kane, Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min and others have found their level in the Champions League, their lack of experience (and their manager's) at this stage of the competition could be telling against an experienced Juventus side. -- Dan Kilpatrick

Harry Kane and Tottenham showed their strength by topping their group including Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.

10. CHELSEA

If the miracle of 2012 taught us anything, it was that Chelsea should never be counted out in the Champions League knockout stage. Antonio Conte's team arguably don't have the same mental resilience as that band of grizzled veterans, but they still won the Premier League title convincingly last season and have showcased that performance ceiling in flashes this term. Find a way past Barcelona, and the Blues will fear no-one. However, it looks like Barcelona are about to catch Chelsea at the best possible time. The Blues' form has collapsed in 2018 and a 3-0 win over West Brom won't do much to ease concerns. -- Liam Twomey

11. ROMA

Since shocking everyone by topping their group ahead of Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, Roma have been engulfed in a funk the likes of which has ruined nearly every season for as long as anyone can remember. The 1-0 win over Qarabag in October that secured Roma top spot was the first of an 11-match run in which the Giallorossi scored one goal or fewer and fans are as worried about the constant threat of big name sales as they are about a disjointed set of displays that has seen their side win just twice since seeing off the Azerbaijanis. After finishing the group stage on such a high, few expect Eusebio Di Francesco's side to go very far, and the tie with Shakhtar Donetsk looks far more daunting than it did three months ago. --Terry Daley

12. PORTO 

Porto will not suffer from the usual problem for Portuguese clubs when they face English teams which is a physical mismatch. The likes of Felipe, Danilo (provided he recovers from injury), Vincent Aboubakar and Moussa Marega lend the side brute strength and a fierce fighting spirit, and the new lease of life given to the side under inspirational coach Sergio Conceicao suggests the club are heading in the right direction. Porto are still fighting hard on three fronts and their hectic schedule is beginning to take its toll on a squad that is not abundant in high-quality back-ups. To have a chance of overcoming European heavyweights, the Dragons need their very best team on the pitch, but with the medical department currently working overtime that seems unlikely. -- Tom Kundert

13. SEVILLA 

Sevilla will have Vincenzo Montella at the helm when they resume their Champions League campaign against Manchester United in the round-of-16. The Italian coach has proven he can succeed in big ties after steering the Andalusian club past Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. But there are worries for Sevilla fans still nursing a hangover from last season's defeat to Leicester City at the same stage of the competition. Since Montella replaced Eduardo Berizzo in December, the team have won just twice in La Liga, against Espanyol and Girona. -- Cindy Garcia. 

Fans light flairs ahead of the Sevilla clash with Liverpool in the Champions League.
Sevilla's intimidating Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan will test Manchester United's resolve.

14. SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Shakhtar don't feel any pressure as they have already overachieved in the eyes of their own fans by sensationally outfoxing Napoli in the group stage, consigning them to the Europa League. Further success would be a huge bonus, and the draw can be considered favourable, especially because the Ukrainians have good memories of beating Roma to reach the quarterfinals in 2011. However, they are still clear underdogs as far as the squad quality is concerned, and haven't played a competitive game for two months due to a long winter break. -- Michael Yokhin 

15. BESIKTAS 

Besiktas have already defied expectations to book their place in the knockout stages and will feel confident facing any team in the world at their famous Vodafone Park stadium in the heart of Istanbul. However, they will have to make do without star striker Cenk Tosun after his transfer to Everton. The Turkey international will be much missed after he fired in four goals and provided two assists for the Black Eagles during the group stages. Besiktas will look to the likes of Anderson Talisca -- who also has four goals -- Ricardo Quaresma and Ryan Babel to bring some much needed magic if they are to spring a surprise against Bayern Munich. -- Eren Sarigul


16. BASEL 

Visitors to Basel need beware -- especially those from England; particularly from Manchester. It is not a joke: Basel are a force to be reckoned with -- just ask Chelsea, Liverpool and United (twice). Even Bayern Munich came away from St. Jakob Park beaten in a round-of-16 tie, and the Swiss champions have shown this season how their focus has shifted to shining in Europe this term. Realistically, however, Basel's best route into the UCL next season is by winning a ninth straight Swiss Super League, and with a five-point deficit on Young Boys, they find themselves in an unusual catch-up position which could take away some of their focus from another magical European night. -- Ben Gladwell

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