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English teams remain Europe's premier performers

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

With every passing season, the UEFA Champions League has an increasingly English flavor, as Premier League teams continue to wield the ultimate power in Europe's ultimate club competition.

The EPL's four-strong contingent had another big week as knockout action got underway and, judging by their first-leg performances, the pro-Anglo trend shows no sign of abating.

Having produced three of the four semifinalists the past two seasons, including both finalists last May with Manchester United and Chelsea, the Premiership is once again in position to match that success. United, Chelsea, Liverpool and United still have to work to do, but with three wins over top-notch opposition and one away draw (United at Inter Milan), the EPL quartet will be feeling good heading into the second legs in two weeks.

That belief was reflected in our last Champions League rankings, as all of the Premier League teams made our top six. But in our new rankings, Bayern Munich – the only team that is effectively guaranteed a place in the last eight – gets the No. 1 position.

Here's a look at all 16 teams one game into the knockout round.

1. Bayern Munich. The performance of the competition has the German giant on the verge of the quarters after exploding for five away goals against Sporting.

2. Liverpool. Wednesday's 1-0 victory at Real Madrid will boost morale and spark dreams of more Champions League glory.

3. Manchester United. The defending champion is still the team to beat but has to get past Inter Milan – and Mr. Mourinho.

4. Barcelona. The Catalans are arguably the most talented team in the tournament despite a slight recent dip.

5. Chelsea. Finally getting their act together under Guus Hiddink, the Blues want European success to make up for domestic disappointment.

6. Arsenal. Arsene Wenger is running out of time to achieve something special with his corps of youngsters.

7. Inter Milan. The Serie A leaders are in-form and feeling confident, but getting a positive result at Old Trafford is a monumental task.

8. Juventus. The matchup with Chelsea doesn't suit the Italian club, which needs a huge second-leg performance at home to stay alive.

9. Real Madrid. The home defeat to Liverpool was a bitter blow to a team that has won 10 straight in Spain.

10. Roma. Rarely mentioned among the title contenders, Roma is desperate to reach the May 27 final at its home stadium.

11. Porto. Has a big chance to reach the last eight but will struggle to go any further.

12. Panathinaikos. Big-hearted team wants to continue its fairytale run but will eventually be outgunned.

13. Villarreal. Struggling for form and could be heading out of the competition.

14. Lyon. It's hard to see the French champions getting a result in the Camp Nou against Barca.

15. Atletico Madrid. Atletico is not good enough to challenge for the crown, even if it scrapes past Porto.

16. Sporting Lisbon. Dead and buried after being thumped by Bayern at home.


Man of the matches

Franck Ribery. The Bayern Munich playmaker was at his best against Sporting Lisbon and showed why he is one of Europe's very best.

Shock of the week

Liverpool. The Anfield side was looking shaky following its troubles at home (namely Rafa Benitez's uncertain future as Reds manager), while Real Madrid was coming off an impressive run of form. But Yossi Benayoun's late goal proved to be the difference and gave Liverpool a massive boost ahead of the second leg.

Milestone

Manchester United's 0-0 draw at Inter Milan set a new record of 20 games unbeaten in the Champions League.

We're happy

Bayern Munich. Who else? The Germans can relax and watch everyone else slug it out for a quarterfinal spot, while enjoying their five-goal advantage over Sporting Lisbon.

We're not

Fans of Serie A. The possibility of having no Italian teams in the quarterfinals is now very real, with Inter, Juventus and Roma all underdogs heading into their second legs.

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