Friday, 8 November 2013

Champions League power rankings: Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea on the rise but Man United drop

Champions League power rankings: Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea on the rise but Man United drop

Your fortnightly assessment of where the contenders stand in the pursuit of European football's top prize
Moving on up: Arsenal's win in Germany has seen them on the rise
Moving on up: Arsenal's win in Germany has seen them on the rise
Martin Rose
It was an excellent round of fixtures for the English clubs in the Champions League this week, with Arsenal's superb 1-0 win in Dortmund leading the way.
Manchester City booked their place in the knockout stages for the first time in their history thanks to their 5-2 win over CSKA Moscow and Chelsea last night eased to a 3-0 win over Schalke. David Moyes' Manchester United side remain on top of Group A despite a Robin van Persie penalty miss and a Marouane Fellaini red card in their 0-0 draw against Real Sociedad.
Remember, the power rankings are done in order of anticipated likelihood to win the competition and qualify for the next round, taking into account both long-term results and recent performances.
The root of them is that too much should never be read into any single result and there are explanations on certain positions below:
Let us know your view in the comments section or on Twitter @MirrorFootball:
1. Bayern Munich (no change, 1-0 win v Viktoria Plzen)
Arsene Wenger described them as the "super favourites" ahead of their dismantling of Manchester City, and there are no signs of that changing after a 1-0 over Viktoria Plzen. The benchmark.

2. Barcelona (no change, 3-1 win v Milan)
Not at their absolute best but that may also be because they're not exactly in any trouble as regards qualifying from this group. Perhaps more importantly, Leo Messi ended his recent blip with two goals and one of them a particularly brilliant strike. Barca may not currently have the cohesion of Bayern, but they do have the significant trump card of the Argentine - the type of individual the Germans simply do not possess.

3. Real Madrid (no change, 2-2 draw v Juventus)
Carlo Ancelotti may have a fair few tactical and structural issues, but the Italian did seem to come to something of a realisation at Juventus on Tuesday as he basically instructed Xabi Alonso to just keep seeking out the pace of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. Naturally, they both delivered, as the world-record signing came to what feels like a breakthrough moment and Ronaldo keeps up that scoring run. Real's season may well come down to this crux: will their flaws eventually outweigh the Portuguese's brilliance, or can Ancelotti fix the flaws in time to truly fire?

4. Chelsea (up one, 3-0 win v Schalke)
It’s remarkable to think Chelsea seemed at risk after that shock opening-day defeat to Basel. They have completely taken control of their group, and offered another commanding all-round display against Schalke. Even if Jose Mourinho’s side does still have a few gaps and flaws, he is gradually developing the type of approach and momentum that may render most of those issues irrelevant.
Happy campers: Chelsea are on the up
Clive Rose
5. Manchester City (up three, 5-2 win v CSKA Moscow)
A certain benchmark set, a milestone reached. Manchester City eased into the last 16 for the first time in their history, and continue to show signs of finally developing the high-quality integration that Manuel Pellegrini would demand. When they fully click, which this qualification has afforded them even more time and space to do, they are going to be very dangerous.

6. Borussia Dortmund (down two, 1-0 defeat v Arsenal)
If Wednesday night had the feel of ‘moving day’ in Group F, their high-intensity running game did not have the effect it usually does in the surprise 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal. An even greater worry for Jurgen Klopp was the utter panic displayed at both ends of the pitch after Aaron Ramsey’s goal, which was at complete odds with the manager’s description of this team as “monsters of mentality”. At the least, despite the sudden escalation in pressure, there is not quite the same need to panic in the group just yet. Although Dortmund now simply must win their last two games, a mere 1-0 win over Napoli would give them a better head-to-head record against both the Italians and Arsenal, which could be crucial in a group that is now set up to see three teams finish on 12 points each. The previous evidence is there that they can rise to the situation. Dortmund must again prove it.

7. Arsenal (up two, 1-0 win v Borussia Dortmund)
A moment of true deliverance for this team and this season? Granted, Arsenal have not even delivered a place in the last 16 yet, but all of the questions about big games have now evaporated. It cannot be asked again. And, even if they were reliant on a degree of fortune in the spell before Ramsey’s goal, the majority of the game was a masterclass in using their main strengths to frustrate Dortmund. The way in which they kept Jurgen Klopp’s side at bay with their first-half passing would surely have felt like a few different strands of this side coming together for Arsene Wenger. Another huge test must be passed next in Napoli. The difference will be the lack of questioning over whether they are capable of it.

8. Manchester United (down two, 0-0 draw v Real Sociedad)
To a certain degree, the 0-0 draw at Real Sociedad and United’s position in the group reflect the entire situation of the team at present. Although there were some positive signs in the game and the likelihood is that they will progress, the undue caution has created an unnecessary problem and tension. David Moyes could just have gone out to blitz the win that secured qualification here, with the early tentative approach arguably feeding into the laxness that saw United miss late chances, and instead had to accept a draw. Now, they have given themselves another question to answer in the next game away to Leverkusen.
Paying the penalty: RVP's spot-kick miss sees United drop two places
9. Atletico Madrid (down two, 4-0 win v Austria Vienna)
Brushed past Austria Vienna and breezing through their group. The key is how they stand up to stronger forces.

10. Napoli (up one, 3-2 win v Marseille)
Displayed some different strengths than we’ve generally seen this season by so resiliently and repeatedly coming back against Marseille to claim a late win. That will continue to make their group so difficult, and it will be impossible for any side to fully rest with Gonzalo Higuain on the pitch. One thing seems certain: the last 16 will not field the best 16, since it will be hugely unfortunate and almost unfair that one of Napoli, Arsenal or Dortmund misses out.

11. Paris Saint-Germain (down one, 1-1 draw v Anderlecht)
Perhaps displayed one of the reasons why they are not the finished article, as they failed to finally make sure of qualification in an eminently winnable home game. Against superior opposition, a more clinical nature will be essential.

12. Juventus (no change, 2-2 draw v Real Madrid)
A better result and performance, still not a better position. Although Galatasaray’s defeat at Copenhagen did them a huge favour, if simultaneously sending them down to fourth, they must now grasp a situation that mercifully remains in their hands.

13. Bayer Leverkusen (up one, 0-0 draw v Shakhtar Donetsk)
After such a deflating start away to Manchester United, Leverkusen have finally started to illustrate their Bundesliga quality, fully taking command of the rest of the group with a 0-0 draw at Shakhtar that also gives them what may prove a crucial superior head-to-head record. This build-up in Champions League form could yet see them disrupt the group leaders.

14. Olympiakos (up three, 1-0 win v Benfica)
Have not just bested Benfica over two games now, but have given themselves an outside chance of competing with Paris Saint-Germain for first. It could still all go wrong for the Greek side, but they have so far done an awful lot right.

15. Milan (down two, 3-1 loss v Barcelona)
Losing by a mere two goals at Barcelona is acceptable, another drab performance less so. Milan need to rediscover some of their old energy against Ajax and Celtic to finish this job, no matter how incomplete they are.

16. Schalke (down one, 3-0 loss v Chelsea)
Still strong for a last-16 place, particularly given they remain in second after two resounding defeats to Chelsea, but those defeats have made them look that bit weaker.

17. Zenit St Petersburg (up one, 1-1 draw v Porto)
After such a disappointing start, Zenit have reshaped their table by claiming superiority over Porto. The issue is now whether they can stay there.

18. Galatasaray (down two, 1-0 loss v Copenhagen)
A hugely damaging result that is arguably most damaging because of how quickly it brings up all the old questions about Roberto Mancini’s capacity for continental football. All of the work in the draw at Juventus is undone. Second place is still in Galatasaray’s hands, but is now accompanied by so much more doubt.

19. FC Porto (up two, 1-1 draw v Zenit St Petersburg)
Recovered some credit with the draw at Zenit, but didn’t make up any ground in the group, After such early promise, they have an awful lot to do to progress.

20. Shakhtar Donetsk (down one, 0-0 draw v Bayer Leverkusen)
After losing so many big players in the last year, they are now going to have to come up with a big statement over the next month to stay in this tournament.

21. Ajax (up four, 1-0 win v Celtic)
Right back in it with a relatively commanding win over Celtic.

22. Benfica (down two, 1-0 loss v Olympiakos)
At first glance, they’re just three points off second. On deeper look, the task is much more difficult than that given they now have an inferior head-to-head with Olympiakos and still must host Paris Saint-Germain. The performances do not exactly inspire confidence either.

23. Basel (down one, 1-1 draw v Steaua Bucharest)
It remains hugely difficult to square a team that could win away at Chelsea with one who failed to beat Steaua Bucharest at all, and it has arguably meant Basel have squandered a chance of second last-16 qualification in two years.

24. Copenhagen (up six, 1-0 win v Galatasaray)
A supreme victory, the impact of which is reflected by the fact that, although it is their first of the campaign, it suddenly puts them right in the hunt. There is an outside chance - if a hugely complicated one - that things could fall their way, if even to just get into the Europa League.

25. Celtic (down two, 1-0 loss v Ajax)
Worse than the defeat was the performance, they are now reliant on a big win against either Barcelona or Milan. The displays of this group indicate lightning is unlikely to strike twice.

26. Real Sociedad (no change, 0-0 draw v Manchester United)

27. Steaua Bucharest (up one, 1-1 draw v Basel)

28. CSKA Moscow (down four, 5-2 loss v Manchester City)

29. Anderlecht (up three, 1-1 draw v Paris Saint-Germain)

30. Marseille (down one, 3-2 loss v Napoli)

31. Austria Vienna (down four, 4-0 loss v Atletico Madrid)

32. Viktoria Plzen (down one, 1-0 loss v Bayern Munich)

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