1. Málaga CF
Last season it was APOEL FC, and the year before that Tottenham Hotspur FC. Málaga have continued the debutants reaching quarter-finals trend this term, after pushing AC Milan into second in Group C, before overcoming a first-leg deficit against FC Porto on Wednesday. Manuel Pellegrini’s side were watertight in the group stage and while Isco and Eliseu have provided the goals. Their La Rosaleda home has also become a noisy fortress.
Player to watch: Isco Alarcon
2. Borussia Dortmund
The German title holders have saved their best for the European stage this season. After finishing above the champions of Spain, England and the Netherlands in arguably one of the hardest groups in UEFA Champions League history, Dortmund faced another team to have enjoyed a superb autumn campaign – FC Shakhtar Donetsk – but came through that test with flying colours. They are in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1998, when they overcame domestic rivals Bayern.
Player to watch: Mario Goetze
3. Real Madrid CF
Second to Borussia Dortmund in the group stage, the record nine-time winners came through a compelling round of 16 tie against Manchester United FC with Old Trafford old boy Cristiano Ronaldo scoring in both legs. José Mourinho is looking to become the first coach to win the competition with three different clubs and Madrid seem to be hitting form at just the right time, with two recent Clásico victories testament to that.
Player to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo
With Burak Yılmaz sitting alongside Cristiano Ronaldo as the competition’s top scorer, Galatasaray have moved into their first quarter-final since 2001. They have certainly come a long way from their first two games which produced no points and no goals. The acquisitions of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder have given them a further dose of experience and their 3-2 win at FC Schalke 04 showed they can win on the road as well.
Player to watch: Burak Yilmaz
5. Paris Saint-Germain
Back in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1995 (when they defeated Barcelona), Carlo Ancelotti’s team negotiated the group stage smoothly but, after winning away at Valencia CF, were given a bit of a scare in the second leg of their round of 16 tie. Zlatan Ibrahimović – who has led the line with aplomb in his first season in Paris – will be suspended for the first leg of their next tie, though Ezequiel Lavezzi has excelled up front.
Player to watch: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
6. FC Barcelona
The four-time winners topped Group G in the autumn and, after their sensational fightback against AC Milan in the last 16, it seems that suggestions of decline emanating from some quarters are more than a tad premature. Barcelona have now reached this stage for the sixth straight season and are eyeing up a fourth European title in eight years. They are also 13 points clear in the Spanish Liga and are once again the team everyone has an eye on in the draw.
Player to watch: Lionel Messi
Perhaps the most consistent side in the competition – just the Italian champions and Dortmund remain undefeated – Juve helped depose the holders, Chelsea FC, in the group stage with a 3-0 matchday five home win. They were clinical in the round of 16, seeing off Celtic FC 5-0 on aggregate and Antonio Conte has blended a potent mix of experience campaigners (Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon) and those reaching the peak of their powers (Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal, Leonardo Bonucci) in his current Bianconeri vintage.
Player to watch: Arturo Vidal
8. FC Bayern München
Bayern were looking in ominous form at both home and abroad until Wednesday’s 2-0 home defeat by Arsenal FC. It may prove to be just a blip with their 3-1 win in north London in the first leg testament to the all-round excellence of the runaway Bundesliga leaders. Javi Martínez has given Jupp Heynckes’s side something extra in midfield and they will be looking to atone for last season’s heart-breaking final defeat on penalties in their own stadium.
Player to watch: Bastian Schweinsteiger