The UEFA Champions League is back with a bang following a long break since the group phase concluded. As we take a step forward with the second set of the Round Of 16 first-leg encounters that will take place next week, we expect to see many more action-packed matches, magical moments and, of course, more surprises.
Ajax gave us a big shock in the tournament last season, putting up extraordinary performances and slaying a number of giant clubs, including Real Madrid and Juventus, on their way to the semi-finals. We expected them to entertain us with their beautiful style of play in the knockout phase this term but they have instead been relegated to the Europa League after failing to survive the group stage.
Notwithstanding, we still have a number of clubs who are looking promising at the moment and could go forward to land us a big surprise in Europe's elite club competition. Without further ado, below are three teams that could shock us in the Champions League this season:
#3 RB Leipzig
When we talk about the clubs that could hand us a massive surprise in the Champions League this season, German outfit RB Leipzig is a no-brainer on our list. The Red Bulls are on an incredible run, putting up scintillating performances and earning plaudits across all competitions.
Julian Nagelsmann's men are locked in a heavy battle with Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga title race. Only one point separates them from the defending champions as they sit second on the table with 45 points from 22 games so far.
RB Leipzig are also enjoying a fantastic Champions League outing this season. They came out on top from Group G, outpacing the likes of Olympic Lyon, Benfica and Zenit Saint Petersburg with 11 points from six games. They also took a step forward by beating Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 away from home in the first leg of their Round Of 16 tie on Wednesday. If anyone could hand us a surprise in the UCL this term, it could be this team.
#2 Borussia Dortmund
Since Lucien Favre managed to save Borussia Dortmund's sinking ship, there is a consensus that it is just a matter of when, and not if, they will step up to plate. The club enjoyed a decent outing last season, giving Bayern Munich a scare in the Bundesliga title race and are back with a series of impressive performances in all competitions this season.
The German giants have been a standout side in the Champions League as well, surviving their group of death- Group F- where they were placed alongside Barcelona, Inter Milan and Slavia Prague. They came out with 10 points from the group phase, with a resounding 3-2 victory over Inter helping them pip the Italians to qualification.
Favre's men sent a fantastic message across with their 2-1 victory over Paris Saint Germain in the first leg of their Round Of 16 encounter at the Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday. With young striker Erling Haaland showing no respect in front of goal, the likes of Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus helping to break down opposition defenses and players like Axel Witsel and Emre Can helping to dictate the tempo of games, the Bundesliga giants have what it takes to give us a phenomenal surprise in Europe this term.
#1 Manchester City
Enough has been written about's Manchester City's UEFA ban: the Citizens won't participate in the Champions League and other UEFA competitions for two years starting from next season unless they can overturn their fate when they appeal against the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
While we are awaiting the appeal, it shouldn't be forgotten that Pep Guardiola's men are one of the sides to take part in the Round Of 16 clash of the Champions League next week. While many do not rate City among the top contenders for the European crown, the possibility of spending two years away from the competition could prove to be enough motivation for them to land us the surprise of our lives.
Guardiola recently claimed that he could be sacked if he doesn't deliver in Europe this term. Nothing might be bigger than having a group of world-class players like Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, and Riyad Mahrez all inspired and determined to prove a point. Should it turn out in their favour, we'd be in for a big surprise.