The line-up for the UEFA Champions League round of 16 is now confirmed.
UEFA.com profiles all the remaining contenders ahead of the round of 16 draw on Monday 7 November.
Bayern München (GER)
UEFA coefficient ranking: 2
Group C: W6 D0 L0 F18 A2
Last season: Quarter-finals (L 1-2agg vs Villarreal)
Best European Cup performance: Winners (1973/74, 1974/75, 1975/76, 2000/01, 2012/13, 2019/20)
Campaign in ten words: Business as usual as Bavarian giants set group stage record.
UEFA.com Bayern reporter: Bayern endured one of their worst Bundesliga starts in decades, and are still coming to terms with the loss of star striker Robert Lewandowski, but on the European stage they look as clinical as ever. Julian Nagelmann’s side cruised into the round of 16 with two games to spare, displaying the defensive solidity and attacking efficiency we have come to expect from the six-time winners in recent years. Having emerged yet unscathed from the toughest group in the competition, they deserve their place among the tournament favourites.
How do Bayern play?
No player can be expected to fill the 40-goal hole left behind by Lewandowski, but in the absence of a talisman, Nagelsmann is hoping to make assets of the unpredictability and fluidity of his forwards in a 4-2-3-1 system. The spread of goals among the likes of Leroy Sané, Sadio Mané and Jamal Musiala suggest his false nine experiment can indeed succeed, but only in May will this team truly be judged.
Coach: Julian Nagelsmann
Now 35, Nagelsmann became the youngest coach in Bundesliga history when he took the Hoffenheim reins aged 28 in October 2015. In his first full season in charge, he led them to a fourth-placed finish in 2016/17, and earned a Champions League slot. He continued to impress in two seasons at Leipzig prior to joining Bayern in summer 2021, and won the German title in his first campaign there.
Key player: Jamal Musiala
Bayern have a new star. The 19-year-old has established himself as one of the first names on Nagelsmann’s team sheet this season with performances displaying a maturity beyond his years. A delightful dribbler, a productive playmaker and an efficient goalscorer, “Magic Musiala” has more than a few shades of a young Lionel Messi.
Did you know?
On Matchday 6, Bayern extended their competition record of successive unbeaten matches in the Champions League group stage to 34 (W31 D3). They have won their last 13 games in the group stage, also a competition record.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 22
Group H: W4 D2 L0 F16 A7
Last season: Quarter-finals (L 4-6agg vs Liverpool)
Best European Cup performance: Winners (1960/61, 1961/62)
Campaign in ten words: Bold, confident side full of class: a match for anyone.
UEFA.com Benfica reporter: Roger Schmidt arrived at Benfica in the summer with a view to giving the Eagles a makeover, a new sense of identity. He has worked wonders, his side embarking on a long unbeaten run from the start of the season, and sensationally qualifying for the round of 16 as group winners. Before that momentous Matchday 6 triumph away at Maccabi Haifa, they beat Juve twice, and drew 1-1 twice with Paris; no side will relish meeting them in the knockout phase.
How do Benfica play?
The German gegenpress with a heavy Portuguese accent. Lining up in a 4-2-3-1, they press from the off. Attacking full-backs, wingers who can overload the midfield, a supersonic Rafa Silva and a hard-working attacker in Gonçalo Ramos. They mix youth and experience at the back, Enzo Fernandez manages the tempo with his heat-seeking passes, and Florentino is an octopus whose long limbs can do it all. Add in David Neres’s capacity for invention and you have the recipe for something special.
Coach: Roger Schmidt
Having made his name at Salzburg, the former midfielder coached Leverkusen in his native Germany and more recently was in charge of PSV Eindhoven, his side winning the 2021/22 Dutch Cup. He landed in Lisbon in the summer, at an Eagles side without a title in three years, and has been a huge success with his version of gegenpress.
Key player: Rafa Silva
A special character: quiet and capable of conjuring something from nothing. Schmidt has managed to harness the 29-year-old’s powers, to make the most of his capacity to run with the ball and create panic in any defence. He weighs in with goals and also contributes defensively, working hard in the press. He is in the form of his life and he knows it.
Did you know?
Before every Benfica home match, the club flies its bald eagle mascot (Águia Vitória), decked out in red and white ribbons, around their stadium.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 3
Group E: W4 D1 L1 F10 A4
Last season: Quarter-finals (L 4-5agg vs Real Madrid)
Best European Cup performance: Winners (2011/12, 2020/21)
Campaign in ten words: Life after Tuchel looks promising with Potter’s magic in dugout.
UEFA.com Chelsea reporter: The departure of their Champions League-winning coach after just one game in the group stage meant more upheaval for Chelsea, but Graham Potter has taken no time at all to put things right. After a game spent exploring the strengths of his new players in the 1-1 draw against Salzburg at home, Potter’s team burst into life with back-to-back victories against AC Milan before securing top spot with a stylish performance in Austria on Matchday 5.
How do Chelsea play?
Potter has built on the foundations of Tuchel’s Chelsea at their best, typically playing with a robust back three and the double No6 pairing in front. However, formations are famously a relative concept in the Englishman’s vision of football, so Chelsea have now added fluidity and interchangeability of positions that is making them very hard to work out. The football is improving with every game, which makes them a dangerous prospect given the quality in the squad.
Coach: Graham Potter
Taking over from Tuchel after Matchday 1, Potter raised eyebrows with his revelation that he’d never even been to a Champions League game before. He’s looked immediately at home in Europe’s elite competition and was unbeaten for his first nine matches at his new club.
Key player: Mason Mount
One of Chelsea’s most consistent performers last term, Mount was named by supporters as the club’s Player of the Year for the second season in a row. Only Antonio Rüdiger made more appearances than the versatile attacker, who is just as comfortable out wide as he is as a No10.
Did you know?
Chelsea have now qualified for the knockout phase in 18 of their 19 appearances in the competition.
Club Brugge (BEL)
UEFA coefficient ranking: 32
Group B: W3 D2 L1 F7 A4
Last season: Group stage (fourth)
Best European Cup performance: Runners-up (1977/78)
Campaign in ten words: Underdogs conquering with courage, excellent football and an unbeatable goalkeeper.
UEFA.com Club Brugge reporter: Fuelled by large dollops of bravery, maturity and focus, Club Brugge belied all expectations to reach the knockouts for the first time – with two matches to spare! The manner of the success has been phenomenal, with the indomitable Simon Mignolet keeping five clean sheets. They set their stall out with a stunning 4-0 victory at Porto on Matchday 2, promptly proving it was no fluke by taking four points off Atlético.
How do Club Brugge play?
Club Brugge play a 3-5-2 with firm defensive foundations. In front of the unbeatable wall that is Mignolet, experienced duo Denis Odoi and Brandon Mechele line up with this season’s revelation, the Ivorian crowd favourite Abakar Sylla. The midfield offers balance between attack and defence, and that equilibrium is replicated up front where the explosive Kamal Sowah lines up alongside Ferran Jutglà, an elusive dribbler with a razor-sharp right foot.
Coach: Carl Hoefkens
A former defender for Stoke City, West Brom and Club Brugge – among others – Hoefkens was part of Alfred Schreuder’s coaching team that guided the Blauw-Zwart to a third successive league title last term. He had previously worked as a coach with the club’s Under-18 and Under-21 teams.
Key player: Simon Mignolet
The goalkeeper’s signing from Liverpool in 2019 was a tipping point for Club Brugge. Since then the Blauw-Zwart have been Belgian champions three years running, success built on the bedrock of a sound defence. The now 34-year-old has kept clean sheets in over 60% of his 100+ appearances for the club.
Did you know?
Club Brugge have reached the round of 16 for the first time in ten attempts, becoming only the second Belgian club to do so after Gent in 2015/16.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 12
Group G: W2 D3 L1 F10 A5
Last season: Group stage (L 4-6agg vs Rangers in Europa League knockout round play-offs)
Best European Cup performance: Winners (1996/97)
Campaign in ten words: Jude Bellingham shines as Borussia Dortmund claim group stage redemption.
UEFA.com Dortmund reporter: After getting knocked out of the group stage in ignominious fashion last season, Dortmund atoned in successfully navigating a tricky section. Bellingham stepped up as both a goalscorer and a leader to prove there is life after Erling Haaland. The 19-year-old is part of a hungry young side who can cause any team in Europe problems, although they still have a lot to learn at the highest level as shown across two games against Manchester City.
How do Dortmund play?
Dortmund have forged a reputation as high-octane entertainers, but with Haaland leaving in the summer and injury issues rife amongst the squad, they’ve had to be more pragmatic. It’s resulted in a greater focus on defensive discipline and a reliance on the side’s counterattacking abilities, which is why 17-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko has proven a better, albeit more profligate, fit for the lone striker role than the more experienced Anthony Modeste. Sébastien Haller’s return in 2023 will only change things for the better.
Coach: Edin Terzić
The German began his coaching career in Dortmund’s academy in 2010. He had a spell as interim first-team boss during the 2020/21 campaign, when he led Borussia to victory over Leipzig in the German Cup final. Terzić succeeded Marco Rose, who left the club in the summer after one season in charge.
Key player: Jude Bellingham
Dortmund’s most used player in 2021/22, Bellingham’s star continues to rise. The 19-year-old was involved in a goal every 190 minutes last term, compared to one every 353 minutes the season before. A firm favourite under Terzić, this campaign already looks like being the most fruitful of the Englishman’s fledgling career.
Did you know?
Dortmund’s draw with Manchester City on Matchday 5 ended a run of eight consecutive Champions League defeats against English clubs.
Eintracht Frankfurt (GER)
UEFA coefficient ranking: 21
Group D: W3 D1 L2 F7 A8
Last season: Europa League winners
Best European Cup performance: Runners-up (1959/60)
Campaign in ten words: Frankfurt mature as a team as the fairy tale continues.
UEFA.com Frankfurt reporter: “We are a comeback side” and “We are enjoying these knockout-style matches” are oft-repeated phrases among the Eintracht players – the Matchday 6 triumph over adversity away at Sporting CP only reinforces that viewpoint for a side whose ability to feed off their fans is the envy of many. It has been an incredible 18 months for this club, who lifted the UEFA Europa League and have transferred that spirit into the elite club competition. Write them off at your peril.
How do Frankfurt play?
Eintracht play a 3-4-2-1 for the majority of the time, and experiments with a back four did not bring much success. Largely a counterattacking side when they won the Europa League last term, they have made giant strides branching out into a more possession-based game. Creative midfielders Mario Götze, Jesper Lindstrøm and Daichi Kamada all help in this endeavour, though there is room for further growth as a team.
Coach: Oliver Glasner
Glasner led Wolfsburg into the UEFA Champions League in 2020/21 but came in for criticism after his Frankfurt side made a slow start to last season. He won over fans and pundits with his honesty and down-to-earth demeanour, and his star has soared since leading the Eagles to Europa League glory.
Key player: Daichi Kamada
Serbian winger Filip Kostić’s departure for Juventus removed a key element from Frankfurt’s armoury, but creative midfielder Kamada is helping to fill that gap, the Japanese international’s ability to find space in midfield and create goals complemented by effective finishing. He has operated from deeper positions than previously this season, but still struck three times to make it 14 goals in 35 UEFA games.
Did you know?
Frankfurt won their first European trophy for 42 years when they triumphed in the Europa League decider against Rangers last season.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 17
Group C: W3 D1 L2 F10 A7
Last season: Round of 16 (L 1-2agg vs Liverpool)
Best European Cup performance: Winners (1963/64, 1964/65, 2009/10)
Campaign in ten words: When the going gets tough, few are tougher than Inter.
UEFA.com Inter reporter: Inter were drawn in one of the most difficult groups but they learnt from past mistakes to book a place in the knockout stage with a game to spare. The qualification was built around the two games against Barcelona, a 1-0 win at home and a 3-3 draw in Spain where Simone Inzaghi’s players showed fantastic team spirit to overcome the absence of key players like Romelu Lukaku and Marcelo Brozović. The Nerazzurri completed the job at home against Viktoria Plzeň on Matchday 5.
How do Inter play?
The system is a 3-5-2, where wing-backs are called to cover the entire flank. Unsurprisingly, Inzaghi often replaces them both during games with Matteo Darmian and Robin Gosens good alternative options to Denzel Dumfries and Federico Dimarco. One of the three midfielders is a deep-lying playmaker: Brozović is the perfect fit but Hakan Çalhanoğlu did well in his absence. The other two, Nicolò Barella and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, lead the pressing and support the attackers. When fit, Lukaku should return to form the ‘Lu-La’ partnership with Lautaro Martínez.
Coach: Simone Inzaghi
A Serie A and three-time Coppa Italia winner as a player with Lazio, the 46-year-old also brought a domestic cup to Rome during his five seasons in charge. Took over from Antonio Conte in 2021, winning the domestic Super Cup and Coppa Italia in his first campaign at the helm.
Key player: Lautaro Martínez
Nicknamed ‘The Bull’, Martínez ended the 2021/22 campaign with 25 goals in 49 appearances across all competitions – his best haul since arriving in Milan from Racing Club in 2018. Formed a prolific partnership with Lukaku, who returned from Chelsea but has not played much in the first half of the season due to injury.
Did you know?
Edin Džeko scored twice on Matchday 5 to take his tally to 11 goals in just seven European games against Plzeň.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 17
Group F: W4 D0 L2 F13 A9
Last season: Group stage (third place), Europa League semi-finals
Best European Cup performance: Semi-finals (2019/20)
Campaign in ten words: With their backs to the wall, Leipzig win four times.
UEFA.com Leipzig reporter: Leipzig did not play bad football under Marco Rose’s predecessor Domenico Tedesco, but they were a bit unlucky at times and had a habit of failing to push on. This has all changed now, and while Rose’s first game in charge in Madrid looked like more of the same (good performance, no result), this changed drastically in the weeks to follow. Strong performances brought four wins in a row – their best ever run in the Champions League – and entry into the next round.
How do Leipzig play
The biggest change Rose made was switching from a back three to a back four and a 4-2-2-1-1 set-up. The width is provided by pushing the full-backs up and wide, and Mohamed Simakan, a central defender by trade, has excelled at right-back. Rose has moved Christopher Nkunku into the hole behind André Silva, and those two attackers harmonise well, while Timo Werner and Dominik Szoboszlai drift inside to provide numerical superiority in the half-spaces.
Coach: Marco Rose
Rose succeeded Tedesco after the 4-1 home defeat by Shakhtar on Matchday 1 and quickly installed a highly effective formation with lots of pressing and counter-pressing. Confidence flowed back into the ranks and Leipzig were soon back on track in both the Champions League and the Bundesliga. Following defeat at Madrid, he has not looked back.
Key player: Christopher Nkunku
The Bundesliga’s 2021/22 Player of the Season, Nkunku attracted attention from a number of clubs after plundering 32 goals and 20 assists in all competitions for Leipzig. The Frenchman instead signed a two-year contract extension, committing to the club until 2026. His great strength lies with the way he combines pace and clinical finishes with great vision to play in his team-mates – a rarity.
Did you know?
Leipzig have never been involved in a goalless draw in the Champions League, 36 matches and counting.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 4
Group A: W5 D0 L1 F17 A6
Last season: Runners-up (L 0-1 vs Real Madrid)
Best European Cup performance: Winners (1976/77, 1977/78, 1980/81, 1983/84, 2004/05, 2018/19)
Campaign in ten words: Back on track in Europe after false start in Naples.
UEFA.com Liverpool reporter: A 4-1 Matchday 1 defeat by Napoli set alarm bells ringing on Merseyside, but Liverpool went on to navigate several tricky fixtures to reach the last 16 for the sixth consecutive campaign. The Reds’ passage from Group A was not as straightforward as comfortable victories over Ajax and Rangers might suggest, with Jürgen Klopp’s team taking a while to hit their stride in Glasgow and Amsterdam, although a closing win against Napoli showed their enduring class. If they can become more consistent over 90 minutes, a fourth final in six seasons is by no means out of the question.
How do Liverpool play?
A combination of poor form and personnel issues forced Klopp to abandon his tried and tested 4-3-3 formation on Matchday 3 against Rangers, when the Reds lined up in a 4-2-3-1. The German’s decision to experiment with different systems in subsequent games has yielded mixed results; a return to 4-3-3 may well be on the cards in the not-too-distant future, particularly once their injury problems start to ease.
Coach: Jürgen Klopp
Started his coaching career at Mainz then won two Bundesliga titles with Dortmund before heading to Anfield in 2015. Klopp led the Reds to Champions League glory in 2018/19, and their first English title in 30 years the following season, then took the FA Cup and League Cup last term before his side were edged out in the Champions League final.
Key player: Thiago Alcántara
While Mohamed Salah’s contribution to Liverpool’s recent success has been immense, the current Reds vintage are a much more formidable unit with Thiago in their side. Blessed with a phenomenal range of passing, great agility and superb technique, the former Barcelona and Bayern man also won more tackles (58) than any of his team-mates during the 2021/22 campaign.
Did you know?
The Matchday 5 win against Ajax was Liverpool’s 150th Champions League match, group stage to final. They are the tenth club to reach that landmark and the fourth from England.
Manchester City (ENG)
UEFA coefficient ranking: 1
Group G: W4 D2 L0 F14 A2
Last season: Semi-finals (L 5-6agg vs Real Madrid)
Best European Cup performance: Runners-up (2020/21)
Campaign in ten words: Routine passage into knockouts with a little help from Haaland.
UEFA.com Manchester City reporter: City wasted little time in securing their place in the knockout stage for the tenth successive season, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Pep Guardiola’s star-studded ensemble. The Cityzens needed a spectacular winner from the prolific Erling Haaland to complete the turnaround against Dortmund in September before playing over an hour with ten men in a goalless draw at Copenhagen. Beaten finalists in 2021, City fans will hope Haaland’s goals will help them finally go the distance.
How do Manchester City play?
A 4-3-3 on paper becomes more of a 2-3-5 when City are in possession – which is most of the time. Pinning opponents in their own half with a high defensive line, City circulate the ball with trademark ease until the relentless pressure finally tells. Unlike last season, when Guardiola often operated with a false nine, the Cityzens now have arguably the most prolific focal point in the game to finish off their free-flowing moves.
Coach: Josep Guardiola
One of the most decorated coaches in the game, the 51-year-old won this competition twice with Barcelona but will be desperate to end his 11-year wait for a third triumph. Scooped three league titles apiece at the helm of the Catalan club and Bayern, and made it four Premier League winners’ medals with City in 2021/22.
Key player: Kevin De Bruyne
The 31-year-old midfielder passed 300 appearances for City in 2021/22, when he won the Premier League Player of the Season award for the second time. He remains a talismanic figure, contributing a constant supply of chances for the relentless Haaland.
Did you know?
Haaland’s double against Copenhagen on Matchday 3 was the tenth time he had scored two or more goals in a Champions League game (group stage to final) – in just his 22nd game.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 46
Group E: W3 D1 L2 F12 A7
Last season: Group stage (fourth place)
Best European Cup performance: Winners (1962/63, 1968/69, 1988/89, 1989/90, 1993/94, 2002/03, 2006/07)
Campaign in ten words: Milan are back where they belong in the Champions League.
UEFA.com Milan reporter: The aim was to secure a spot in the last 16: mission accomplished. Milan were no match for Group E winners Chelsea, but made the most of their home games to secure the points they needed to progress. The San Siro crowd made a difference, and Stefano Pioli’s fluid style translated well into Europe football. Despite some serious injury blows, Milan kept on playing their game, and did the job they were sent out to do.
How do Milan play?
A flexible side with an attacking mentality, Milan can build from deep and hit on the break. Their basic system is a 4-2-3-1, with very attacking full-backs and two box-to-box midfielders – Sandro Tonali and Ismaël Bennacer – operating behind a lone striker. Rafael Leão and Theo Hernández combine brilliantly on the left, while defensively the Rossoneri have quick centre-backs and press high to help get the ball forward.
Coach: Stefano Pioli
The former defender has won over doubters at Milan with his calm and relaxed approach since taking over in 2019. Led the Rossoneri into the Champions League after a seven-year absence in 2020/21 and flirted with the Scudetto before steering the club to their first domestic title since 2011 last term.
Key player: Fikayo Tomori
The 24-year-old took a while to find his feet in Milan after joining in 2020 from Chelsea – initially on loan – but blossomed into a leader for the Rossoneri last term as they secured their first Serie A crown in 11 years. He has picked up where he left off this season.
Did you know?
Milan finished bottom of their Champions League section last season, the first time they had propped up a group since 2000.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 20
Group C: W5 D0 L1 F20 A6
Last season: Europa League knockout round play-offs
Best European Cup performance: Round of 16 (2011/12, 2016/17, 2019/20, 2022/23)
Campaign in ten words: Best side in Italy and impressing in the Champions League.
UEFA.com Napoli reporter: Where to begin? Napoli have been insanely good, almost perfect so far. They thrashed Liverpool, Rangers and Ajax and had the best ever start to a Champions League campaign by an Italian side, playing phenomenal football throughout. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Giacomo Raspadori, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Piotr Zieliński, to name but a few, have been sensational and coach Luciano Spalletti has moulded the team into a brilliant unit that is solid at the back and free-flowing, attacking, spectacular and efficient up front.
How do Napoli play?
The basic system is a 4-3-3 but, depending on what Zieliński does on the pitch, it becomes a 4-2-3-1. Defensively, the two wingers drop deep to help at the back in a 4-5-1 system. But, in the words of Spalletti himself, “football is not about systems anymore, but about using the spaces that are left by opponents”. Napoli use the wingers to quickly hit on the break, can go centrally straight to Victor Osimhen or link up play through Raspadori and the midfielders. A team that can score in any possible way.
Coach: Luciano Spalletti
An industrious midfielder in his playing days, former Inter and Roma coach Spalletti replaced Gennaro Gattuso in the Napoli hot seat last season after two years out of the game. He won ten of his first 11 Serie A games at the club, who led the way at the end of February but finished the campaign in third.
Key player: Victor Osimhen
The Nigerian’s performances for Napoli last season earned him Serie A’s Best Young Player award for the 2021/22 campaign. The 23-year-old had a direct hand in 32 Serie A goals – 24 strikes and eight assists – in his first two seasons with the Partenopei, and he has continued to hit the heights this term.
Did you know?
Napoli scored 17 goals in their first four group games, beating their previous highest tally in an entire single edition (group stage to final) – they managed 14 in eight games in 2011/12. They ended up with 20.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 6
Group H: W4 D2 L0 F16 A7
Last season: Round of 16 (L 2-3agg vs Real Madrid)
Best European Cup performance: Runners-up (2019/20)
Campaign in ten words: Parisian juggernaut powers through with MNM magic and Galtier guile.
UEFA.com Paris reporter: When Kylian Mbappé opened Matchday 1 with a stunning goal conjured by Neymar, the French champions looked poised to race into the knockout stage for an 11th successive season. The route was not quite so smooth, but a glittering squad showed a new-found resilience when required, notably against Benfica. With Lionel Messi now looking at home in Paris, and Christophe Galtier getting his superstar front trio firing, this could be the year the French capital finally welcomes European club football’s biggest prize. They will, however, be left wondering just how Benfica pipped them to top spot in the group.
How do Paris play?
How else are you going to play with Mbappé, Neymar and Messi in your side? Galtier’s Paris have been, naturally, on the front foot throughout, but the new coach has instilled a certain defensive discipline helped by midfielders Marco Verratti and Vitinha providing as much industry as inspiration. Injuries were key to the switch from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3 for the decisive Matchday 5 win against Maccabi Haifa with Galtier’s team showing a tactical flexibility that will surely serve them well.
Coach: Christophe Galtier
One of the most recognised coaches in French football, Galtier led Saint-Ètienne to their first major honour in 32 years – the Coupe de la Ligue – in 2013 before winning the Ligue 1 title with LOSC Lille in 2021, finishing a point ahead of Paris. A beaten Coupe de France finalist with Nice last term, he guided the club to fifth place in the league.
Key player: Kylian Mbappé
Burst on to the continental scene with Monaco in 2016/17, now Paris’ all-time leading scorer in European competition. The French World Cup winner has taken just 59 games to reach 40 UEFA Champions League goals – only Ruud van Nistelrooy has ever done it in fewer (45).
Did you know?
Paris’s 7-2 win against Maccabi Haifa was the ninth in the competition to yield nine goals or more, but it fell three short of the record, Borussia Dortmund’s 8-4 defeat of Legia Warszawa in November 2016.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 19
Group B: W4 D0 L2 F12 A7
Last season: Group stage (L 1-2agg vs Lyon in Europa League round of 16)
Best European Cup performance: Winners (1986/87, 2003/04)
Campaign in ten words: Stumbled out of the blocks but now flying over hurdles.
UEFA.com Porto reporter: A 4-0 home defeat by Club Brugge on Matchday 2 could have been the death knell for the Dragons, but instead it sounded the clarion call. They dusted themselves off, picked up back-to-back wins against Leverkusen and proved how far they’d come so fast by meting out revenge on Club Brugge in Belgium before wrapping up first place with a fine closing win at home to Atlético. Of course, it helps when you have a goalkeeper who saves penalties for fun.
How do Porto play?
Sérgio Conceição has persevered with the 4-4-2 but tweaked a few things to add flexibility, like transforming winger Pepê into an option at right-back. The mercurial Otávio provides the main conduit between defence and attack and Mehdi Taremi has developed a more rounded game, providing for others while losing none of his eye for goal. Goalkeeper Diogo Costa has provided leadership to a back line shorn of stalwart Pepe.
Coach: Sérgio Conceição
The architect of Porto’s return to the pinnacle of Portuguese football, Sérgio Conceição’s five complete seasons in charge have brought three league titles, two Portuguese Cups and three Super Cups. He has now reached the knockout stages in four of his five Champions League campaigns.
Key player: Mehdi Taremi
Equally adept whether employed as a lone striker or with a partner, the Iranian remains as deadly as ever, scoring five times in the group stage. The 30-year-old averages better than a goal every two games for the Dragons but his willingness to drop back into midfield and link up play mean he’s more of a No10 than a No9 at times.
Did you know?
Diogo Costa saved penalties in three successive matches in Group B, including a twice-taken spot kick against Club Brugge on Matchday 5 (different sides, both repelled).
Real Madrid (ESP)
UEFA coefficient ranking: 5
Group F: W4 D1 L1 F15 A6
Last season: Winners (W 1-0 vs Liverpool)
Best European Cup performance: Winners (1955/56, 1956/57, 1957/58, 1958/59, 1959/60, 1965/66, 1997/98, 1999/2000, 2001/02, 2013/14, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2021/22)
Campaign in ten words: Champions show character and quality, despite not excelling, to qualify.
UEFA.com Real Madrid reporter: It’s perpetually great fun watching Madrid play. You get everything. Moments (Celtic Park) where they play more consecutive passes (33) leading to a goal than any of the 434 they’ve scored since such data records began in 2003/04, moments (at home to Leipzig) where the opponents can’t believe they’ve not scored two or three before, you guessed it, losing. Trademark late goals, just like last season, which are a very healthy winners’ characteristic. And all-round consummate performances like the 5-1 defeat of Celtic on Matchday 6.
How do Real Madrid play?
The shape never really varies – 4-3-3 is the formation Carlo Ancelotti believes best suits his squad and how he wants Madrid to play. The two important tactical variants are: using midfielder Federico Valverde as the right-sided attacker, instead of a striker, and relocating David Alaba to left-back then allowing him the same freedom to attack as Marcelo had. One dramatic tweak was playing Antonio Rüdiger as an auxiliary centre-forward in the last minutes of the match away to Shakhtar, in a (successful) equaliser chase.
Coach: Carlo Ancelotti
The man who led Madrid to ‘La Décima’ in 2014 came back for a second spell in charge in summer 2021 and rewrote the history books by becoming the first coach to win the European Cup/UEFA Champions League four times. Cruised to the Liga title last season as well for good measure, making him the first coach to win championships in Italy, England, France, Germany and Spain.
Key player: Karim Benzema
The club’s talisman since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018, the France forward scored Madrid’s 1,000th European Cup goal against Shakhtar last term before playing a key role against Paris, Chelsea and Manchester City in the knockout stage to steer Ancelotti’s side to the final, where they got the better of Liverpool.
Did you know?
Real Madrid have never failed to make it through the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)
UEFA coefficient ranking: 19
Group D: W3 D2 L1 F8 A6
Last season: Europa Conference League group stage
Best European Cup performance: Runners-up (2018/19)
Campaign in ten words: Far from straightforward but Spurs kept finding a way eventually.
UEFA.com Tottenham reporter: Group D was the closest in this season’s Champions League and we were treated to the tightest of finishes. Spurs had a habit of starting games slowly and in the decider at Marseille it was exactly the same. Denied early progress by late drama against Sporting CP on Matchday 5, Tottenham must have feared more of the same in France before Pierre-Emile Højbjerg’s thrilling winner.
How do Tottenham play?
Antonio Conte favours a 3-4-3 formation. Spurs have generally improved as matches have gone on, and consistently responded to falling behind with great character and grandstand finishes. Performances against Eintracht Frankfurt and Sporting CP were lacklustre at times, but when it matters most Tottenham always found an extra gear, upping the intensity and gaining a stranglehold on their opposition.
Coach: Antonio Conte
A Juventus icon in his playing days, he took the club to three straight Serie A crowns as a coach before a spell in charge of Italy. League titles in England with Chelsea and back home with Inter followed before he joined Tottenham early last term, working his magic again to lift them into the Champions League spots.
Key player: Harry Kane
It appears a matter of time before the England captain becomes the record goalscorer for his club and country. The 29-year-old, who has won the Premier League Golden Boot three times and was top scorer at the 2018 World Cup, is equally adept as a creator and a finisher.
Did you know?
Spurs have now progressed in five of their six Champions League group stage campaigns.