What better time, then, to predict exactly how everything will shake out. Who will be the 16 teams fighting to be in Istanbul come June and which sides will gatecrash the Europa League?
The top two are all but guaranteed in this group and they might just rank among the hardest to read of the likely last 16. One could talk oneself into either Liverpool or Napoli winning the whole thing but in the case of the former it will require a level of consistency that has eluded Jurgen Klopp’s side this season. At their best they could absolutely win out in Group A, albeit not by the margin to wrestle top spot off its current incumbents.
This is by far the most intriguing group left standing in the Champions League, one where there are serious question marks over every team, even a Club Brugge side who are through, topping their group without a single goal conceded. They have been a little reliant on the heroics of Simon Mignolet at one end, the stunning emergence of Ferran Jutgla at the other. It is feasible that one of those keeps up over the next two games but maybe not both.
Bayer Leverkusen aren’t mathematically eliminated but their exit is a near certainty. However don’t rule out them scrabbling into third at Atletico Madrid’s expense. If Lukas Hradecky can just recover some semblance of form over the next few weeks then Xabi Alonso’s side would improve no end.
When the group stage draw was made there were plenty suggesting that Benfica might edge Juventus to one of the top two spots in this group, but few thought it would be almost done and dusted with a third of the fixtures left to play. All Benfica need to do is avoid defeat to an opponent that have been proven to really rather ordinary by Champions League standards. Even if Massimiliano Allegri’s side were to win in Lisbon it would merely be postponing the inevitable. Expect them to lose at home to PSG, a result that will hand top spot to the Parisians.