Spanish League Champions

ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti, Alejandro Moreno and Steve Nicol pick apart Shaka Hislop's Champions League power rankings.

The Champions League is back, and ahead of the round of 16, Power Rankings guru Shaka Hislop is doing double duty as he ranks the clubs who still have hopes of lifting the European Cup in May.

Six weeks ago, there was no way Luis Enrique's side would have topped this list, but Barcelona have since hit form. They were pushed hard by Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage but ended up on top and will fancy their chances of beating Manchester City for the second straight season.

The holders are going through a somewhat shaky spell in league play, but you know they'll be inspired when the Champions League music starts playing. Madrid won all six group games and beat last-16 opponents Schalke 9-2 on aggregate last season. They'll cruise past the Germans again.

Since coming so close to winning the European Cup last season, Diego Simeone's side appear to have acquired renewed resolve. They will expect to get past Bayer Leverkusen and after that will fear nobody, least of all their city rivals, against whom they are unbeaten in six matches since their Lisbon heartbreak.

Early results appeared to suggest Bayern enjoyed their winter break a little too much, but Saturday's 8-0 win vs. Hamburg saw them back to their best. That's bad news for their round-of-16 opponents, Shakhtar Donetsk. Bayern still have key players missing, but those who are available will be too good for the Ukrainian side.

Paul Pogba, left, and Arturo Vidal, right, will play key roles if Juventus are to go far in the knockout rounds.

This could be make-or-break for the Old Lady as she is currently constituted. Key men like Gigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo aren't getting any younger while the future of stars like Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal could lay elsewhere. Juve's tie vs. Borussia Dortmund is a mouthwatering prospect and one that they should get through.

Arsene Wenger's Arsenal are looking to make it three straight wins during the festive fixtures.Jose Mourinho has won the Champions League (twice). Chelsea have won the Champions League. But Jose Mourinho has never won the Champions League with Chelsea. The Special One has made it to three semifinals as Stamford Bridge manager - is this the year that he takes the next step?

After a dreadful start, Manuel Pellegrini's side showed character to avoid the embarrassment of another group stage elimination. Now they need to reach a new level on the biggest stage and make a deep run in the knockout rounds. Barcelona handled them comfortably last season - will this year be any different?

In Chelsea, PSG face familiar foes in the last 16. They were minutes away from eliminating Mourinho's men in last season's quarterfinals and will fancy their chances a year on, especially with the first leg at home. A lot of money has been spent in Paris, and it's time for the French champions to step up in Europe.

Arsene Wenger led Arsenal to the Champions League final in 2006, but since has struggled to reach the latter stages.

We've been here before, many times: Arsenal in the knockout rounds. But this year could be different. In the last four seasons, the Gunners have lost in the round of 16 to Barcelona, AC Milan and Bayern Munich (twice). Now they face Monaco. Expect Arsene Wenger to show little sentiment toward his former club.

With all due respect to Basel, every group winner will have wanted to be drawn with the Swiss club at this stage. That Porto were offers them a golden opportunity to go beyond the stage, at which they have been knocked out five times since they were unlikely Champions League winners in 2004.


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