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

Champions League: Man City top the ladder, United lurking with Sanchez
From ESPN - February 13, 2018

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 have 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 ca not 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

3. BARCELONA

Since the Spanish Super Cup in August, Barcelona have lost just once in 37 games. During that time, they have 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 have not 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

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

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