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Ranking UEFA Champions League's sweet 16

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

Even before the final round of UEFA Champions League group matches, 13 of the 16 teams had booked their place in the knockout phase.

That's why Matchday 6 was an odd way for the competition to close up shop for the next couple of months.

Several teams that had already advanced to the last 16 decided to rest key players this week. So the groups provided little in the way of major shocks, with most of the usual suspects remaining in the hunt for the trophy.

Here we take a look at who is looking good for Champions League glory in Rome. All 16 teams are ranked in order of their likelihood for success.

1. Barcelona. The class of the competition and the hottest team in Europe. Forget about the meaningless defeat with a weakened team on the final qualifying matchday – Barca is the team to beat. However, a tough round of 16 clash beckons against either Chelsea, Inter Milan, Arsenal or Lyon.

2. Liverpool. Rafa Benitez loves this competition and can sense another deep run with his confident and in-form team. Steven Gerrard continues to churn out big performances as the group stage resembled a comfortable stroll for the Anfield club.

3. Manchester United. Not always convincing in a weak group, the defending champions will nevertheless be a force to be reckoned with. Cristiano Ronaldo is showing glimpses of last season's spectacular form, while Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov are firing.

4. Chelsea. Inconsistent at home and in Europe, Chelsea is still the most dangerous team floating among the second-place qualifiers. The Blues' recent form has been poor, though. They've displayed surprising frailties, irking volatile coach Big Phil Scolari.

5. Juventus. Whisper it now, but a certain Italian giant is looking sharp. Only three goals conceded in six games, with home and away victories over Real Madrid, has Juventus fans dreaming big. If Alessandro Del Piero can keep turning back the clock, then who knows?

6. Bayern Munich. Juergen Klinsmann suffered an awkward start to the Bundesliga season, but the Champions League has given him the platform to settle into the head coaching job and build some positive vibes. The attacking trio of Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose and Franck Ribery will provide a handful for any opponent.

7. Inter Milan. Inter's failure to win one of the tournament's easiest groups defies belief. All is not well under Jose Mourinho's watch, but the boss has until February to sort things out. Another second-place qualifier, Inter is a team no one wants to face in the last 16.

8. Arsenal. Will Arsene Wenger have fixed his Arsenal mess by February? Or will the team's deep-seated problems still be simmering? If anything, this Arsenal squad is better suited to Europe than to the frenetic pace of the EPL. However, an uninspiring defeat at Porto on Wednesday could lead to a much tougher last 16 matchup.

9. Roma. Just a couple of months ago, Roma was mired in crisis, losing the plot in Serie A and Europe. Now it's on a splendid run and Francesco Totti is beating the drum, demanding that his teammates start believing in their ability to reach the Champions League final – which will be played on home turf at the Stadio Olimpico.

10. Real Madrid. Who'd have thought Real Madrid could ever be the 10th favorites for the Champions League? But these are torrid times with coach Bernd Schuster axed after a dreadful start to the season. Juande Ramos has been handed the reins, though he faces an enormous task if he is to instill the consistency needed to make a run in this competition.

11. Lyon. Reaching this stage is no problem for the Ligue 1 champs – they've done it six years in a row. The next step is the difficult one and there is nothing to suggest Lyon has what it takes to topple the big boys. Karim Benzema is the star of a vibrant and prolific attack, but the defense is too leaky.

12. Villarreal. Villarreal is a great little club that can beat any team in Europe. But it doesn't have the depth to maintain its challenge for the La Liga title or in the Champions League. Strong defensively, Villarreal twice held Manchester United to 0-0 draws.

13. Atletico Madrid. Atletico hasn't really been tested in a high-pressure situation, having already effectively clinched qualification by the time it faced Liverpool in Group D. It is the least likely of the four Spanish qualifiers to make a deep run toward the final.

14. Porto. Porto topped Group G thanks to a final-day victory at home to a weakened and listless Arsenal. The 2004 champion doesn't look like a serious contender, though. Porto will be an underdog against whoever it faces in the next round.

15. Panathinaikos. The Greek side came back from the dead, winning at Inter Milan in the second-to-last game and finishing the job by beating brave Anorthosis Famagusta on Tuesday. Inter's lack of interest after it qualified handed Panathinaikos the top spot, but it's not good enough to go much further.

16. Sporting Lisbon. Sporting's group hinged on two games against Shakhtar Donetsk, and it won both 1-0. However, resounding defeats to Barcelona showed how far the Portuguese side is behind the top teams in the competition.


Man of the matches

Giorgos Karagounis (Panathinaikos). He ensured his team would finish atop Group B. Against Anorthosis Famagusta, Karagounis' low strike midway through the second half clinched a 1-0 win.

Shock of the week

On paper, Shakhtar Donetsk's victory at the Camp Nou was an almighty upset. In reality, it was due to Barcelona fielding a baby-faced squad of reserves and youngsters.

Milestone of the week

Porto's 2-0 victory over depleted Arsenal maintained its unbeaten home record against English clubs.

We're happy

Real Madrid put a turbulent week behind them, cruising past Zenit St. Petersburg 3-0 in the first game since coach Bernd Schuster was ousted.

We're not

For the second straight matchday, Anorthosis Famagusta was hurt by an Inter Milan defeat. Inter's loss to Bremen denied the Cypriot champion a UEFA Cup spot.