5. Manchester City
Are they cursed? After escaping by the skin of their teeth to make it out of group play alive, they draw Barcelona in the first knockout game. They have the talent to win that fixture, and advance much further, but I’m not sure how well their brute force modus operandi will translate to European knockout games, where the cards come flying at a much faster rate than the English Premier League. City certainly has the flair to put on a clinic over the course of the next six months, but the team that they become when their backs are against the wall won’t be able to gun down the big dogs over two fixtures.
This is not a vintage Barcelona team. It almost seems sacrilege to designate a team whose attack force includes the world’s best striker (when he’s not using his teeth) as well as the best player alive not named after Ronald Reagan. And then there’s Neymar. The jury is still out on how the Brazilian prodigy that cost half a million euros to pry from Brazil (and another half a mil under the table). Additionally, their midfield isn’t getting any younger, nor their defense any better. They also are running into a red hot Manchester City side right out of the gate. As evidenced by this piece they have been tipped to advance, but they clearly have a tough road.
On paper, Chelsea are a very skilled side. In the premier league, they have played with ruthless efficiency. Between Hazard, Fabregas, Costa, Courtoius (and the resurgent John Terry) the men of Stamford Bridge have some world class talent to work with. But standing next to the big boys, one might wonder why they are above the likes of Barcelona, City (and PSG). Simple: They are in the best form of any team on the planet, and they have the best manager on the planet. I like the chances of any side with that going for them
2. Bayern Munich
This is a disturbingly deep Munich side, even by their own standards. Pep Guardiola still may be employing curious tactics in big matches, but this side is more equipped to play to his sensibilities than previous years. Over 180 minutes, no one can match this side blow for blow except for…
1. Real Madrid
Just because it is the obvious answer doesn’t mean it is the wrong answer. The most technical midfield on the planet is feeding the best attack force of all time. Sure, they may skimp on defensive responsibilities in ways they didn’t in years past. 2014 Iker Casillas isn’t 2004 Iker Casillas. However, the men in white can get away with it. They have one of the most talented, but certainly the most versatile backline in the game today. And then there is Carlo Ancelotti. The only man who can rival his European wit is Jose Mourinho, but The Special One’s side isn’t nearly as special as Carlo’s.