Champions League Power Rankings: Manchester City and Erling Haaland start as the tournament's team to beat


Manchester City

While just writing Erling Haaland over and over is enough to justify City’s rank heading into Champions League play, this team is much more than just the Norwegian. Rodri may actually be the most important player in the side as his presence in midfield makes work easier for all the defenders.


Bayern Munich

City showed how much a top striker is worth and the question for Bayern is how far can Harry Kane take them. Defensively there are holes in the team, but while Thomas Tuchel was trying to sign Joao Palhninha to fill them, persisting with Joshua Kimmich in midfield doesn’t seem like too bad of an option.


Paris Saint-Germain

In a vacuum, it would have been hard to not love PSG’s summer even if it only included an oft-injured Ousmane Dembele. But it didn’t stop with Dembele as PSG added interesting cogs at almost every position. From Manuel Ugarte to Bradley Barcola, the team will be able to morph as needed, but the goal under Luis Enrique is clear, feed Kylian Mbappe the ball and win Champions League. If it was good enough for France it should be good enough for the Parisians too.



Last season’s Champions League runners up, Inter are boosted by one of the most in form forwards in the world, Lautaro Martinez. Even after losing Andre Onana to Manchester United during the summer, Inter hasn’t missed a beat starting the season. They won’t be able to catch anyone by surprise now.



This is where we get to UCL contenders if things go right. After losing Ousmane Dembele, there are a lot of questions around what Barcelona’s attack will look like, but in a best case scenario, Joao squared (Felix and Cancelo) can replace the wide production while Xavi leans on his already strong defense.


Real Madrid

On one hand, Los Blancos can’t be counted out of Champions League contention but on the other their entire attack right now is contingent on getting the ball to Jude Bellingham and hoping for the best. Only time will tell if that’s sustainable. And if not, they’ll need a healthy return from Vinicius Junior.



Making their return to UCL play, Arsenal have high expectations but defensively it’ll be tough to see if they can reach them. Like coming up short in the Premier League title race last season, if all goes well, the Gunners can make the final, but how they respond to adversity will determine their fate.



Despite winning the Scudetto and keeping Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia through the summer, things don’t feel as rosy for Napoli as some of the other Italian sides. It’s not that they won’t do well in the group stages, because they will, but like Arsenal, it’s about what’s done in the knockouts as a deep run in the tournament has become the expectation now.


Atletico Madrid

Another hard club to gauge, when Atletico are on their game, they can put up goals between Antonie Griezmann, Alvaro Morata and Memphis Depay. Diego Simione teams just can’t be ruled out of grinding their way trough a competition.



Out of all the teams that need things to go perfectly to make a UCL final, Milan may have the highest ceiling. It would be cool to see Noah Okafor get minutes since Oliver Giroud can’t lead the line forever, but Giroud also hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Add Rafel Leao and Christian Pulisic and you can see that Milan are building something special, it’s just hard to tell if it will pay off this season or next season. 


RB Leipzig

Dani Olmo is becoming good enough to carry this team on his own but he also doesn’t have to because Xavi Simons is taking the next step to become a star and if teams forget to track Lois Openda they’ll be trailing in a match before they can even blink. Leipzig have shown that they can replace anyone without missing a beat and this season will see that continue.


Manchester United

Off-the-pitch issues putting Manchester United out of three forwards ahead of kicking off Champions League isn’t exactly what Erik ten Hag had in mind to kick off a year where United are supposed to return to the upper echelon of teams in the world.



While Benfica haven’t had issues in Portugal without Goncalo Ramos so far this season, Champions League will determine if Arthur Cabral and Angel Di Maria can carry them to glory. There’s still a strong midfield behind them but I’m struggling to see where the goals will come from. 


Newcastle United

Newcastle would be a sure team for the knockout stage, if they were in almost any other group in Champions League. Still a true star away from being a serious contender for competing in Europe, all hope rests on whether Alexander Isak can take the next step in his career. 


Real Sociedad

It was easy to forget that it was Sociedad that worked their way to a top four spot in La Liga on the back of their defense and a lot of good play from Takefusa Kubo. It may not be enough to get out of their group, but having an identity goes a long way in a knockout competition which could see Sociedad be one of the surprise outfits this season. 



Braga may certainly be too high here but I can’t resist their high octane style. If a team is going to defeat Braga, they’ll need to put three goals past them while also hoping that their defense doesn’t concede four.



Speaking of Portugal gets us to ole reliable in Porto. A team that will likely make the knockouts and not do much when they get there. It would be great to see something new from them but, they know who they are and they’re quite good at making a game ugly.


Union Berlin

New kids on the block, Union Berlin’s stadium can’t even host their home games causing them to play UCL fixtures at Hertha Belin’s ground. It can be hard to rate Champions League newcomers but if this late-career form from Kevin Behrens continues, Union won’t have an issue putting the ball in the back of the net. 



Ajax’s absence from Champions League play is quite notable, but their loss is PSV’s gain as this side is quite fun to watch — and not just because they have three Americans — Sergino Dest is being allowed to get forward and even in a group with Arsenal, PSV can make some noise.



Another hard team to figure out, it’s easy to forget that Lazo are even in the competition. They’ll go as far as striker Ciro Immobile can take them, which likely won’t get the job done but teams below them will need even more help.


Borussia Dortmund

While it was clear that the hole of losing Jude Bellingham would be impossible to fill, Dortmund have shown that they just aren’t a good soccer team without him. From coming within a goal of winning the Bundesliga to likely struggling to make it into the top four this season the Black and Yellow will be lucky to secure a Europa League place.



Youssef En-Nesyri is great. The rest of Sevilla… isn’t. While they’re a team that can never be counted out of a European competition, Sevilla will be lucky to even make Europa League but if they do, they’ll win that competition because that’s what they do.



On paper, Feyenoord should be as good as PSV but that’s where experience makes a difference. PSV expects to be in Champions League tangling with top teams each season while Feyenoord hasn’t made Champions League since 2018.



After almost winning Ligue 1, Lens got raided during the summer and now their European adventure could turn into more of a nightmare. I’ve already gone over the impact that Openda has on RB Leipzig and just losing that would be tough enough for Lens but adding in also losing Seko Fofana and it feels like too much to overcome.



Of any team not in a top five league, Galatasaray could be the ones to make the deepest run in Led by Mauro Icardi, they have names you know like Dres Mertens and Lucas Torreira but they’re also all two to three years older than you would think they are. But if Manchester United falters… look out.


RB Salzburg

Champions League play is the time of year when you find out if RB Salzburg are any good or not. One of the biggest overachievers in recent seasons, they can do it again and sneak out of the group but we’ll check in in a few weeks to see how that’s going.



In recent years Celtic haven’t been able to deal with the uptick in quality of leaving Scotland for Europe and while Brendan Rodgers may have the team better prepared than Ange Postecoglou did, just due to having experience in the competitions with multiple clubs, it still remains to be seen if their players can show up on the big stage.


Shakhtar Donetsk

A team that has competed against the odds to be UCL mainstays for years, things seem to be piling up too high for the Ukrainians side. While they remain reliable group stage competitors just getting that far is admirable, and recruiting enough talent while being in the middle of a war is a herculean task.



An excellent side at home, Copenhagen can give teams a scare but that’s about all. Defensively, the club allows too many chances and will be fighting for a Europa League spot. 


Crvena zvezda

Away trips to Serbia are among the hardest in the world, but this is again the stage of things where a team will consider it a success if they can score two goals in Champions League play.


Young Boys

Young Boys have had moments to remember in the competition, but like Red Star, just scoring a few goals and having a good time is the goal.


Royal Antwerp

On talent Antwerp should be a little higher in the rankings behind Shakhtar but they forgot to register and American for the competition and I make the rules which sees them wrap up our power rankings.

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