UCL Quarter-Finals Power Rankings

In another edition of The Spectator’s UEFA Champions League power rankings, be sure to find out who’s making it, who’s not, and who we think are the dark horses to win it all.

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Welcome back to The Spectator’s UEFA Champions League (UCL) power rankings! This edition of the rankings features the eight quarterfinalists and will give commentary on key players, strong contenders, and why each remaining team has a chance at winning the big-eared trophy. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the past rankings, which can be found in Issue 11!

8. A.C. Milan

Key Player: Rafael Leão

The second leg between AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspur took place away from home for the Italian side, which was aiming to protect a 1-0 lead from the first-leg fixture. Despite being a close game between two equally matched sides, the Rossoneri accomplished their goal. In particular, the left side of the Milan lineup, consisting of center-back Fikayo Tomori and left-back captain Theo Hernández, managed to suppress a lackluster Tottenham attack. Milan attacker Rafael Leão, who has been the team’s standout this season, was virtually uncatchable given his lightning pace and quick dribbling on the ball, but unfortunately could not make much of an impact on the scoreline. Dirty tackles and hard fouls from both sides made it a messy night, and a 77th-minute red card for Tottenham center-back Cristian Romero certainly made the task easier for Milan. While the Italian side may not boast incredible attacking play, their grit and perseverance make them a team to be aware of in the quarter-finals.

7. Inter Milan 

Key Player: Lautaro Martínez

Inter Milan visited the Estádio do Dragão for the second leg with a 1-0 lead over Porto, hoping to secure their ticket to the quarter-finals. A relentless Porto continuously attacked an unwavering Inter defense throughout the game, creating plenty of offensive chances. However, through it all, the Italian backline remained impregnable. A superb performance from Inter goalkeeper André Onana made the task even more challenging as Porto failed to find the back of the net. Despite star player Lautaro Martínez putting on a relatively quiet display for his standards, Inter saw out the goalless tie to win 1-0 on aggregate. While Inter may not look very threatening while attacking, it will prove costly to underestimate their resilient and aggressive mentality against Benfica.

6. Chelsea

Key Player: Enzo Fernández

Yes, yes, we know: we were very wrong about Chelsea last issue. While Chelsea did manage to win––and quite convincingly––they just don’t seem to have that killer instinct seen in past UCL-winning teams. The win against Borussia Dortmund was their third since the new year, showing a lack of consistent play and ability to pick up wins. Their quarterfinal match against Real Madrid will be much tougher, and Madrid will be just as desperate to move on to the semi-finals. While Enzo Fernández got left in the dust on that Karim Adeyemi goal, he’s looked like Chelsea’s best player in every game and has heaps of confidence with performances to support it. Chelsea’s other players are looking to improve their play, with attackers Kai Havertz and Raheem Sterling scoring in the crucial win against Dortmund. For Chelsea to win––and rise in the rankings––they need to show much more consistency and team play. Otherwise, they won’t make it through against Real Madrid.

5. Benfica

Key Player: Gonçalo Ramos

Well, that was expected. Benfica brushed aside Club Brugge in the second leg, 5-1 (7-1 on aggregate), earning them a spot in the quarter-finals. Benfica has looked strong all season, giving them the fifth spot in our power rankings. Star striker Gonçalo Ramos keeps delivering, scoring a brace in the second leg for his 18th goal in all competitions. Ramos has been a key player, and Benfica is looking to rely on him against Inter. Looking past Ramos, there are many quality players, such as João Mário and Rafa Silva, but not many proven winners or superstars that have made their names on the biggest stage. That might come back to haunt Benfica, as experience is crucial to winning it all (think back to Real Madrid 2021/2022). While Benfica may not have as much recent experience or as deep pockets when compared to other clubs in the UCL, they’ve shown passion all season and are dominating domestic competitions. They’re looking to turn their hard work into a third UCL title for their supporters but will have a tough time ousting giants such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. Look out for the Portuguese side, though––they have all the passion and hunger it takes to win it this year.

4. Bayern Munich

Key Player: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

Bayern aimed to protect their narrow 1-0 lead from the first leg as they hosted Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at the Allianz Arena for the second leg. However, all who expected the French team to make a comeback were proven severely wrong. After a close first half ended 0-0, the German side took full control of the tempo of the game in the second half. A true display of teamwork and cohesive link-up play, Bayern ripped open a disconnected PSG side that was too focused on creating something out of individual talent. PSG superstar forwards Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé drew blanks on the night, but virtually every Bayern player performed brilliantly. Careless possession play by PSG saw Bayern net their first of the night through target striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who has been brilliant this season and has a four-game scoring streak. A late counter-attacking goal from substitute Serge Gnabry secured Bayern’s ticket to the next round, proving why they remain one of the favorites to win the whole tournament.

3. Manchester City

Key Player: Erling Haaland

“Haaland, Haaland / He’s a blue, just like his dad / Now he’s at the Etihad / Ha-Ha-Ha-Haaland, hey!” These chants in Erling Haaland’s honor rang throughout the Etihad on Tuesday night. He notched an otherworldly performance, scoring five goals and equalling the record for most goals scored in one UCL game. Manchester City convincingly put away RB Leipzig, winning 7-0 at home. City has one of the––if not the––most complete squads in the competition. The only thing limiting them from rising up the ranking is the performances of the other teams and City’s inconsistent league form. In the return leg, City showed why this year could finally be their year, but they require consistency to do so. They’ve yet to win a Champions League title, and some say they’re cursed to never do so. Be on the lookout for any slips in form––that could be the catalyst in killing their title push.

2. Napoli

Key Player: Victor Osimhen

The Italian league leaders are one of the most in-form teams in Europe right now and many consider them to be one of the favorites to win the whole competition. An incredible first-leg win over Eintracht Frankfurt away from home meant Napoli was walking into the reverse fixture with a two-goal advantage. However, if you thought that the Italian side was going to play defensive and accept a goal-less tie, you were sorely mistaken. In front of their home fans at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, Napoli commanded the ball and created eight shots on target compared to Frankfurt’s one on the night. Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen, who’s been in scintillating form this season, found the back of the net twice, bringing his tally up to 23 goals in 28 matches now. Napoli certainly have their eyes on the trophy and will be betting on themselves to confidently dismantle any team in Europe right now.

1. Real Madrid

Key Player: Karim Benzema

Real Madrid had a simple task to complete against Liverpool––don’t lose 3-0 (a certain Spanish side would argue that it’s not so simple––looking at you, Barcelona). They accomplished that with excellence. Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema wrapped up the tie in the 78th minute, scoring the lone goal. This year hasn’t been all too smooth-sailing for Madrid, dropping points left and right in the league and seemingly handing the title to Barcelona. Moving past that, Madrid has looked like winners in the UCL, and has the history to back that up. If they can keep up their UCL form against Chelsea, then they’re the favorites to win it all. They’ll need stellar performances from Benzema, who has had another spectacular season. He and Luka Modrić have aged like fine wine, turning in brilliant performances match after match. Look out for Madrid––they’re already thinking about Istanbul.

With mouth-watering ties such as Chelsea against Real Madrid and Manchester City against Bayern Munich, this year’s quarter-finals surely won’t disappoint. History will be written and legacies will be made as the teams battle it out in the quarter-finals. Be sure to read our semi-finals article in Issue 14!