Ranking the teams most likely to be eliminated from the Champions League Round of 16

Champions League (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)
Champions League (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images) /
5 of 8
Villarreal, Raul Albiol (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Villarreal, Raul Albiol (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

8. Villareal

Villarreal’s journey in the top flight of Europe is one to be inspired by. A club from a town of 50,000 people that had never seen silverware before went all the way up, suffered, battled, and overcame every single team, as well as the popular notion that winning trophies is reserved for larger clubs with a lot of money.

Villarreal were guaranteed a place in the Champions League as a result of their Europa League victory, and they did not disappoint, giving tough competition to their groupmates Manchester United (whom they crushed in the UEL final the past season) and earning against equally impressive teams like Atalanta and Young Boys, making it to the final 16 where they met Juventus from Italy.

The encounter against Juventus was very modest and calm, with the Yellow Submarine struggling for chances to equalise after Dusan Vlahovic’s early strike. Dani Parejo scored in the 66th minute to guarantee that the encounter in Turin opens with an equal score.

However, it was clear from the start that Juventus would keep Villarreal at bay, and while Villarreal have always been unpredictable, the Italians remain the favourites to advance to the quarter-finals.

7. SL Benfica

The Portuguese league’s most recent European representation was when it briefly slipped up the ranking of the top 5 European Leagues, only to be reclaimed by Ligue 1 because the recent past in terms of European glory has remained evenly empty for the Portuguese clubs, and it shows up to continue this season as well. Sporting and now SL Benfica, the only two teams from the Primeira Liga, are on the verge of exiting the Champions League.

Benfica’s game against AFC Ajax was, to say the least, interesting, as both teams scored two goals, with one of Benfica’s goals coming off Ajax’s Sebastian Haller’s foot, who then went forward and scored on the proper side. While the game was entertaining, Benfica failed to establish consistency.

The hosts had opportunities, but something prohibited them from taking advantage of them. It’s easy to say that Benfica desired results, but the ones who were supposed to score couldn’t. Nelson Verissimo’s men came back from a shortfall admirably twice, but what’s the point if your skill only shines when you’re down? For the same reason, Benfica could only manage a stalemate, not a win.

Everything indicates that their inability to extract a win would lead to regret as the caravan now goes to Ajax’s cave, where winning and simultaneously halting the Dutch would be extremely tough.