Champions League guide: Man City and Napoli among the favourites

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUARTER-FINAL LOWDOWN: Man City are the favourites with Haaland on fire and Napoli have taken Europe by storm… but can anyone knock Real Madrid off their perch?

  • The Champions League quarter-final draw takes place at 11am on Friday
  • Man City, as well as the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are contenders
  • Napoli have been the best team this season and are dark horses to lift the trophy 

There’s a bit of an old school feel over the eight teams that have made the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

While Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Man City and Chelsea are ever-regulars at this phase of the competition, it’s been a long time since the best-represented country at this stage is Italy.

AC Milan and Inter Milan are both in the quarter-finals for the first time since 2006 – the same year that three Italian sides reached this stage of the competition. Napoli are dark horses to win it all after reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. 

Rounding off the last-eight are Benfica, who have remarkably lost just one match in all competitions this season.

Sportsmail runs you through the runners and riders ahead of Friday’s draw, and assesses each team’s chances of lifting the trophy on June 10 in Istanbul.

Defending champions Real Madrid are again amongst the favourites to lift the trophy in June


Given Chelsea have spent £600million since the summer, you’d expect them to be one of the favourites to win the Champions League. 

That is far from the case however, with their poor campaign domestically meaning there is a real chance that they won’t play in Europe’s elite competition next season.

There has been a recent improvement to their form, winning three games on the bounce since Graham Potter switched to a 3-4-3 formation – which previously worked for both Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel at Stamford Bridge. 

However, an even bigger step will be required if they are to be drawn against the likes of Man City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Napoli.

While their January signings have boosted their squad depth, they are still lacking an out-and-out striker which might hurt their chances.

It’s been a tough season for Chelsea but they have shown signs of improvement in recent weeks

Champions League form guide 

Group stage 

Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 Chelsea

Chelsea 1-1 RB Salzburg 

Chelsea 3-0 AC Milan

AC Milan 0-2 Chelsea

RB Salzburg 1-2 Chelsea

Chelsea 2-1 Dinamo Zagreb 1


Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Chelsea 

Chelsea 2-0 Borussia Dortmund 

ONE TO WATCH: Kai Havertz – Given the lack of striker, Kai Havetz could play a huge role in ensuring Chelsea get enough goals to help them progress through the latter rounds.

The German, who scored the winning goal against Man City in the 2021 final, will likely play down the centre of Chelsea’s attack despite their abundance of signings over the last two transfer windows.

Kai Havertz could be crucial to Chelsea’s chances of lifting the trophy due to their lack of an out-and-out striker

CHANCES OF WINNING –  If they are to continue their recent improvement and finish off the season strongly they could still make for an awkward opponent for the rest of the teams in this competition.

Thiago Silva is currently out with an injury, but upon his return, if they can keep him and Reece James fit then they will have a tough defence to break down. Though they will need better output from their attacking players.



Despite the sale of Darwin Nunez last summer, the Portuguese side have showed no signs of decline reaching the quarter-finals for the second season in the row.

They sailed through to the last-eight with a 7-1 aggregate victory over Club Brugge, and also did a brilliant job in the group stage – topping a group which included Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus. 

Other sides left in the competition would be happy to draw Benfica who are one of the weaker sides left in the competition.

However, they have lost just one game in all competitions this season – suggesting they won’t be a walk in the park if they are drawn against one of teams who are considered amongst the favourites to lift the trophy in June.

Benfica have lost just one game in all competitions this season and were undefeated in a group that included European giants Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus

Champions League form guide

Third qualifying round

Benfica 4-1 Midtjylland

Midtjylland 1-3 Benfica 

Play-off round

Dynamo Kyiv 0-2 Benfica

Benfica 3-0 Dynamo Kyiv 

Group stage

Benfica 2-0 Maccabi Haifa

Juventus 1-2 Benfica 

Benfica 1-1 PSG 

PSG 1-1 Benfica

Benfica 4-3 Juventus

Maccabi Haifa 1-6 Benfica


Club Brugge 0-2 Benfica 2

Benfica 5-1 Club Brugge 1 

ONE TO WATCH: Joao Mario – Could easily be given to top scorer Goncalo Ramos or Rafa Silva, but the 30-year-old midfielder, who has previously played on-loan for West Ham, has been one of the surprise stars in Europe this season.

After scoring just four goals in all competitions for Benfica last season, this campaign he has netted 21 times while also registering 12 assists. His previous highest goal total in a season was seven for Sporting Lisbon seven years ago.

He has scored in his last five Champions League outings in games against PSG, Juventus, Maccabi Haifa and Club Brugge.

Former West Ham player Joao Mario has scored 21 goals for Benfica in all competitions 

CHANCES OF WINNING  –  Extremely unlikely. Despite their impressive record, it has to be balanced out with the fact that the Primeira Liga is not the strongest.

They did well to avoid defeat and top a group involving PSG and Juventus, but it would be a surprise if they didn’t come unstuck against the stronger sides remaining in the competition.


Bayern Munich

The Bundesliga giants looked mightily impressive as they were rarely troubled by Paris Saint-Germain and their megastars in a 3-0 aggregate victory in the last-16.

Bayern will be determined to emulate their achievements in 2020 and win another Champions League title, the seventh in their illustrious history. 

It was at the quarter-final stage last year where Bayern suffered a stunning defeat to Spanish side Villarreal – and they will be hoping to avoid a repeat exit this season.

Though they lost their star man Robert Lewandowski last summer, the likes of Sadio Mane, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane can all certainly chip in with a goal.

Unlikely hero Eric Maxim Choupo Moting – has also increased his output with 17 goals in all competitions this season already – compared to nine when he was playing second fiddle to Lewandowski.

Bayern Munich are always strong contenders to win the Champions League, despite the sale of key striker Robert Lewandowski last summer

Champions League form guide

Group stage 

Inter Milan 0-2 Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich 2-0 Barcelona 

Bayern Munich 5-0 Viktoria Plzen

Viktoriz Plzen 2-4 Bayern Munich

Barcelona 0-3 Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich 2-0 Inter Milan


PSG 0-1 Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich 2-0 PSG 

ONE TO WATCH: Sadio Mane – The former Liverpool star has recently returned from injury and has experience in this competition helping the Reds lift the trophy in 2019, while also playing in a further two finals.

The Senegal star played just eight minutes against PSG but will likely play a bigger part in the latter stages if he can stay injury-free. 

Sadio Mane’s recent return from injury could be a huge boost for Bayern in the latter rounds

CHANCES OF WINNING –  Bayern Munich always have a chance of winning the Champions League. 

They will need to avoid the complacency that partly contributed to their exit in the quarter-finals last year. They will also be hoping that their lack of a top striker, like Lewandowski, won’t hurt their chances.


AC Milan 

The Italian giants are a welcome sight in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, having not made this phase of the competition since 2012.

Only Real Madrid have lifted the competition more than AC Milan, but since they last won the trophy back in 2007 they have largely reflected the image of fallen giants.

However, they didn’t look entirely convincing against an underwhelming Tottenham side in the last-16 and they are a massive 20 points off leaders Napoli in the fight for the Serie A title. 

They look weaker than the side who crashed out in the last-16 last year, who also won their first Scudetto title since 2011.

AC Milan are through to the last-eight of the Champions League for the first time in 11 years

Champions League form guide

Group stage

RB Salzburg 1-1 AC Milan 

AC Milan 3-1 Dinamo Zagreb 

Chelsea 3-0 AC Milan 

AC Milan 0-2 Chelsea

Dinamo Zagreb 0-4 AC Milan 

AC Milan 4-0 RB Salzburg 


AC Milan 1-0 Tottenham 

Tottenham 0-0 AC Milan

ONE TO WATCH: Rafael Leao – The Brazilian is attracting the interest of some of Europe’s top clubs and it’s no surprise going off his performances for AC Milan.

He has scored nine goals and registered ten assists this season, and the tricky winger is a player that opponents will have to be wary about in the next round.  

AC Milan star Rafael Leao has been linked to some of the top clubs across Europe

CHANCES OF WINNING – Unfortunately on their return to the quarter-finals, AC Milan look like the weakest side left in the competition. 

Stefano Pioli will be keen to avoid the favourites left remaining in this competition. A derby against Inter Milan would make for a mouth-watering quarter-final clash. 


Inter Milan 

Like their city rivals, it has been a long time since we’ve seen Inter Milan in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

They last played at this stage back in 2011 – a year after Jose Mourinho guided them to glory in the final. 

Inter edged past Porto in the last-16, but like AC Milan, they will be one of the sides other teams hope to draw in the next round.

They are second in Serie A, but a massive 18 points off Napoli, and there could be a similar gulf in class to some of the other teams left standing in the competition.

Inter Milan edged past Porto to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2011

Champions League form guide 

Group stage 

Inter Milan 0-2 Bayern Munich

Viktoria Plzen 0-2 Inter Milan 

Inter Milan 1-0 Barcelona

Barcelona 3-3 Inter Milan 

Inter Milan 4-0 Viktoria Plzen 

Bayern Munich 2-0 Inter Milan


Inter Milan 1-0 Porto

Porto 0-0 Inter Milan 

ONE TO WATCH:  Lautaro Martinez – The Argentine World Cup winner is Inter Milan’s top scorer with 17 goals across all competitions.

He has been unable though to bring his partnership with Romelu Lukaku back to the days when they helped fire Inter Milan to the title two seasons ago.

That is more down to Lukaku than Martinez however, with the Belgian’s injury issues limiting his game-time so far this season. 

Lautaro Martinez has been Inter Milan’s most prolific attacker this season with Romelu Lukaku struggling since his return on loan from Chelsea due to injuries

CHANCES OF WINNING – Slightly better than AC Milan due to their better squad depth, but that’s not saying much.


Manchester City 

Despite all of their domestic brilliance in recent years, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City must wonder if they’re destined never to win the Premier League.  

Their defeat to Chelsea in the 2021 final is the closest they’ve come, but there have also been disappointing exits to the likes of Monaco, Liverpool, Lyon and Real Madrid during Guardiola’s tenure at the club.

Guardiola will have to use those bad memories as fuel for his players as they again approach the final stages of the competition.

They are five points off Arsenal in the Premier League title race, but as much as they would never like to admit, if they can give up the title to finally win the Champions League they would snatch at the opportunity. 

Manchester City are the favourites to win the competition for what would be the first time

Champions League form guide 

Group stage

Sevilla 0-4 Man City

Man City 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

Man City 5-0 Copenhagen 

Copenhagen 0-0 Man City

Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Man City

Man City 3-1 Sevilla


RB Leipzig 1-1 Man City

Man City 7-0 RB Leipzig 

ONE TO WATCH: Erling Haaland – Who else would it be? Just the five goals for the Norwegian striker in his last outing against RB Leipzig – taking his tally in a record-breaking season to 39 goals across all competitions.  

The 22-year-old Norwegian could be the player to end City’s pain in Europe and guide them towards a historic first Champions League triumph.  

Erling Haaland scored five goals for Man City in their 7-0 victory over RB Leipzig

Chances of winning – City are the bookies favourites and looking at the strength of their team they should be. 

With players the calibre of Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Ruben Dias and more, Guardiola’s side certainly have a strong chance of triumph in Istanbul on June 10.  

It’s normally at this stage though where concerns over Guardiola’s supposed ‘over-thinking’ of big games comes into question – something they hope won’t come to bite them once again. 



Undoubtedly the surprise package of European football this season. They are also perhaps the most enjoyable team to watch, as well as the best performing side.

After a transitional summer where they lost long-serving stars such including Lorenzo Insigne, Kalidou Koulibaly and Dries Mertens, the new generation consisting of Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Kim Min-jae have all risen to the fore.

Their advantage in the Serie A standings is so significant, they could almost take their foot off the gas and focus fully on the Champions League. 

There are very few weaknesses to Luciano Spaletti’s side, and are perhaps the most awkward side that a team can be drawn against in the quarter-finals.

Napoli have been the surprise package across European football so far during this season

Champions League form guide

Group stage

Napoli 4-1 Liverpool

Rangers 0-3 Napoli 

Ajax 1-6 Napoli 

Napoli 4-2 Ajax

Napoli 3-0 Rangers

Liverpool 2-0 Napoli


Eintracht Frankfurt 0-2 Napoli

Napoli 3-0 Eintracht Frankfurt  

One to watch: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia – A big argument could be raised for Victor Osimhen who is scoring goals for fun and is being scouted by some of Europe’s elite sides.

However ‘Kvaradona’ gets our nod as Napoli’s key danger man. The fearless winger has been a menace for the Italian side this season with 13 goals and 15 assists in all competitions.

The Georgian international who was signed from Dinamo Batumi from his home nation last summer, is arguably one of the biggest steals in recent season at a price of around £10m.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has proven himself to be one of the biggest bargain buys in recent years

Chances of winning – They’ve never had a better chance of winning the Champions League – even going back to the days when Diego Maradona graced the stadium that is now in his name.

They have shot up the odds as one of the tournament’s favourites. 

While others such as Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Man City are known quantities for the talent at their possession, Napoli as the new kids on the block, are the real unknowns going into the final stages which makes them even more dangerous. 

Danger rating – 5/5 

Real Madrid 

Even in a season where Real Madrid aren’t even the best team in their league, they are always a huge danger in the Champions League no matter what their situation is.

Barcelona are nine points above them in LaLiga, but were knocked out at the Champions League group stage and then in the Europa League by Manchester United

Real Madrid on the other hand, just know how to win the Champions League and are full of players with winners’ medals on their tables. 

They were hugely impressive against Liverpool in the last-16 – particularly in their 5-2 triumph at Anfield.

Carlo Ancelotti’s team proved themselves superior to three English opponents – Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool also last season – during the business stages and they still remain the ones to knock off the pedestal this season. 

Real Madrid comfortably reached the quarter-finals with a 6-2 aggregate win over Liverpool

Champions League form guide

Group stage

Celtic 0-3 Real Madrid 

Real Madrid 2-0 RB Leipzig 

Real Madrid 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk

Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 Real Madrid

RB Leipzig 3-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid 5-1 Celtic


Liverpool 2-5 Real Madrid

Real Madrid 1-0 Liverpool 

ONE TO WATCH: Karim Benzema –  It felt after Benzema inspired Real to their latest Champions League triumph that the Frenchman finally gained the appreciation and affection he has long deserved.

The 34-year-old scored memorable hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, as well as contributing important goals against City both home and away.

This season, the Ballon d’Or winner has scored an impressive 19 goals in all competitions. However, he has missed a lot of games through injury and would be a big miss if he is forced to sit out any crucial games in the final stages of this year’s competition. 

Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema are arguably the most in-form attacking duo across Europe

CHANCES OF WINNING:  Last season they defied the odds on a number of occasions to reach the final and win their 14th Champions League trophy.

They know how to win games in this competition and it will be a big challenge for anyone to knock them off their perch. 



Man City 7/4

Bayern Munich 11/4

Napoli 5/1

Real Madrid 5/1

Chelsea 10/1

Inter Milan 20/1

Benfica 25/1

AC Milan 33/1

Odds provided by Paddy Power 


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