The 2013/14 Champions League has reached its half-way point and we now know the 16 teams that have made it through to the spring. As ever these 16 teams predominantly come from the Big 5 leagues – England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France. A slight increase in fact this year. 13 of the surviving teams come from these five countries as opposed to 12 last year. There has been a bit of a resurgence for English teams. Last year only two survived the group stages, while all four have made it through to the last 16 this season. Though it was not all plain sailing. If Manchester City had scored one more goal in their last match they would have topped their group, while if Arsenal had lost one more goal in their last match they would have dropped out of the competition altogether.
Within the Big 5 once again England, Germany and Spain dominate. The four English teams are joined by all four from Germany and three from Spain. Real Sociedad finished bottom of their group in what was otherwise a very good performance by Spanish teams. Indeed when it comes to placings Spain comes out best. All three surviving teams were group winners, while only two of the English and two of the Germany teams won their groups.
The other group winner was PSG from France. This is a repeat performance by PSG, who once again are the sole surviving French team. Italy have slipped down a bit compared to last year, when they had two teams in the last 16. This time they only have one team left, AC Milan who finished second in their group. Juventus and Napoli both missing out by the narrowest of margins.
The remaining three teams come from Turkey, with Galatasaray, Greece, with Olimpiakos and Russia with Zent St Petersburg. Only Galatasaray reached this stage last year. This is only the second time in recent years that there is no Portuguese representative in the last 16. Which must be most disappointing as the final will be held in Lisbon.
In summary no great change from previous years, with the winner most likely to come from a very reduced number of teams from England, Germany or Spain. Too early to make any predictions. Will need to wait for the draw and most of all to see how the remaining teams are performing in spring. You cannot win the Champions League in December. You can lose it then, but you can only win it in May.