Barcelona and Bayern, or maybe Real Madrid or PSG: Who can win the Champions League?

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Below, The National Sportsdesk staff offer their take on why various teams can win the Uefa Champions League ahead of the competition's return for the last 16 stage next week.

Andy Mitten, European football correspondent, Barcelona

They are already the best team in the world, while Luis Suarez and Neymar have improved in the last year. With Lionel Messi, the planet’s best player, there is not a front three to touch them. Barca have lost Xavi, but he wasn’t as integral to their last treble. They have also added Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal. Coach Luis Enrique remains highly motivated and on track in every competition this season, just as he was last term. If they avoid serious injuries, the only thing which will stop Barca is the knock-out format of the competition – as they found out in 2010 and 2012 when confronted by obdurate Inter Milan and Chelsea sides.

Richard Jolly, English football correspondent, Bayern Munich

They are one of the two best teams in Europe. The others are the defending champions Barcelona and history shows how hard it is to retain the trophy. Pep Guardiola may have learned the lessons of successive semi-final exits and the fact this is his last chance to win the Champions League with Bayern may render them still more dangerous.

Greg Lea, Premier League correspondent, Barcelona

While no club has retained the Champions League in its current format, Barcelona look pretty well placed to make history this season.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar is a frighteningly good front three, and Barca seem to have developed an ominous knack for winning games without playing particularly well of late.

Thomas Woods, Sports editor, Bayern Munich

Bayern are about the only side who can match Barcelona in terms of possession football and, providing their defensive injuries clear up, they have the backline to shut out the European champions. Just look at their semi-final meeting in 2013, when Bayern beat the Spanish side 7-0 on aggregate. Pep Guardiola’s side also have two star additions this season in wingers Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman, who can run any side ragged.

Jon Turner, Web editor, Paris Saint-Germain

Barcelona are understandably favourites, but such is the task of winning back-to-back Champions League titles, PSG are as well-equipped as any to land the trophy. Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria, and Lucas Moura are a formidable attack, and having all but wrapped up the Ligue 1 title already, the club’s focus and energy will be fixed firmly on Europe. There is a case of PSG being undercooked such has been the ease of the domestic campaign, but on the flip side, 20 wins and three draws in 23 league games has bred an invaluable winning mentality. Concerns over the defence remain, but this is the same defence that conceded just once in the group stages, away to Real Madrid.

Steve Luckings, Senior editor, Atletico Madrid

Diego Simeone’s side are perfectly suited to knockout football that more often than not are decided by the odd goal. They boast a stingy defence, are killers on the counterattack and no team shares around the goals like they do. The 2014 runners-up were unbeaten in their three away group games, and travel to the Netherlands to face PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of their last-16 encounter. in fine fettle domestically, although they lost their most recent game to Barcelona to surrender top spot in the Primera Liga. Atletico have a miserable record against Dutch teams in two-legged affairs having lost all four previous ties. However, in Antoine Griezmann they possess perhaps Europe’s most underrated frontman. The 24-year-old Frenchman is rarely mentioned in the same breath as his peers at Barcelona or Real Madrid, but he is just as lethal in front of goal as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo. With four goals in the group stages, expect Atletico’s go-to-guy to spearhead their charge to the title.

Jonathan Raymond, Web editor, Manchester City

It wouldn’t be too much fun if we all picked Barcelona, now would it? So here is what is already in Manchester City’s favour – they emerged as winners from perhaps the most well-rounded group, edging out the likes of Juventus, Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach. They have proven their quality by stretching across four competitions and yet maintaining a solid run at the Premier League title – six points off the lead with England’s second-best goal difference. They have a simple route into the quarter-finals, drawn against Dynamo Kiev. On top of that Vincent Kompany is set to return soon and reinstill solidity to their defence, and they expect Kevin De Bruyne will be ready to return for the quarter-finals. As Sergio Aguero reaches peak fitness City can boast a weapon on par with any in Europe, and have added the fast-improving Kelechi Iheanacho to their UCL squad. Add it all up and it’s pretty formidable, no? And with Manuel Pellegrini confirmed to be making way for Pep Guardiola, he can impart a no-expectations compsure in his squad.

Graham Caygill, Deputy editor, Real Madrid

The arrival of Zinedine Zidane as Real coach has given them a new lease of life, at least in home games, with 16 goals in their past three Primera Liga games at the Bernabeu.

Zidane is yet to be in charge for an Uefa Champions League game, but with players the calibre of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema at his disposal, they will almost certainly sweep past Roma in the last-16.

They certainly have the quality in attack to win their 11th European Cup in May.

Zidane’s managerial inexperience is a question mark, but with a bit of luck – avoiding Barcelona in two-legged ties – Real have the goalscoring prowess at their disposal to be the side standing tall on May 28 when the final takes place at the San Siro Stadium in Milan.