Arsenal v Bayern
Arsenal If any team could pat themselves on the back and kick themselves simultaneously come the final whistle of the group stage, it is Arsenal. They deserved credit for handling a complicated group and showing a broad brush of qualities along the way – both technical excellence and robust character were required. But a glitch in the final game in Naples relinquished their hold at the top of the group. Arsenal are one of the few runners-up with a half chance in the last 16, but it will take a monumental effort to progress.
Key man in Europe so far: Aaron Ramsey, a player reborn.
Manager: Arsène Wenger.
Domestic form: Vastly improved this season, a work in progress hanging on at the top.
Bayern Munich Every year at some stage the question arises about whether it is possible to retain Europe's top honour, a feat that has not been achieved since the Milan vintage of 1989 and 1990.
Between them, Bayern and their coach (in his Barcelona days) have appeared in each of the past five finals, so they could hardly be better placed to defend the trophy won at Wembley last spring. Having played against Manchester City in the group stage, they avoid the trickiest last-16 opponent. So far so good.
Key man in Europe so far: Pep's head boy, Philipp Lahm.
Manager: Pep Guardiola.
Domestic form: Leading from the front, still unbeaten in the Bundesliga.
Guardian prediction (rather than Amy's) Bayern to go through
Manchester City v Barcelona
Manchester City Considering the unusually large chasm between the band of group winners and runners-up going into the last 16, nobody can consider themselves as unlucky as City to be a second seed. Safe to say they are the team all first seeds wanted to avoid. This has been a breakthrough European campaign, with a first qualification, an excellent record garnering 15 points, and a mission statement made in defeating Bayern Munich. The Agüero-Negredo partnership, prompted by creators of the calibre of Silva, Nasri and Navas, can frighten anyone. They could do with being sure of the goalkeeping position by the time the competition restarts.
Key man in Europe so far: Álvaro Negredo, a beast capable of giving City extra presence.
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini.
Domestic form: Staggering at home, erratic away but perhaps not for long.
Barcelona It has been fascinating to see how Barcelona fare without Leo Messi, who has blazed Champions League trails few would bother even to dream about emulating. Luckily, they have Neymar, whose start at the Camp Nou has been pretty spectacular in most dimensions. He may not have been scoring with Messi-esque regularity to start with, but realistically not many do. After his wonderful hat-trick against Celtic, they may well begin to flow. Messi should be back for new year, and an attack with these two South Americans coming at full pelt will be a test-and-a-half for anyone, startin with City.
Key man in Europe so far: Neymar, looks the part with such invention.
Manager: Gerardo "Tata" Martino.
Domestic form: Leading the charge.
Guardian prediction Barcelona to go through (just)
Olympiakos v Manchester United
Olympiakos A home thrashing meted out by Paris Saint-Germain on matchday one did not augur well but the Greek champions settled down to earn a positive string of results against their other Group C opponents, Benfica and Anderlecht. The rapport between their goal machine, Mitroglou and playmaker, Saviola, is the big plus point. The enigmatic Argentinian, formerly of Barcelona and Real Madrid, has brought style and imagination, but it is Mitroglou, a striker in fine form who models himself on Zidane, who has been most eye catching.
Key man in Europe so far: Kostas Mitroglou, prolific this season.
Domestic form: Comfortably top with huge goal difference advantage.
Manchester United Considering there was more doubt about how David Moyes would handle European competition than the domestic scene, the Champions League has turned out to be his saving grace during the opening act of his Manchester United story. Group winners, undefeated, with a healthy goal difference – no argument there. Even if the quality of some of the performances was sketchy, the end result was perfect. But it has to be a platform. United will have to hope that the side that goes into the knockouts will be improved and more settled. Any high calibre reinforcements that could be imported in January who are eligible and ready, particularly in midfield, would be welcomed with open arms.
Key man in Europe so far: Phil Jones, here, there and everywhere.
Manager: David Moyes.
Domestic form: Endured some mid-table pains.
Guardian prediction Manchester United to go through
Galatasaray v Chelsea
Galatasaray Emerging into the knockout stage with a goal difference of minus 6 gives a clear enough indication that the Turkish team are wobbly defensively. Real Madrid scored 10 against them in two games (and only managed a mere six against FC Copenhagen to give that some perspective). Offensively a bit of novelty has worn off for Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder but they are still capable of big moments, and last season's high scorer, Burak Yilmaz, has gone off the boil. There was a managerial change during the group phase, with Roberto Mancini replacing club legend Fatih Terim. Overseeing a controversial qualification ahead of Juventus went down well.
Key man in Europe so far Didier Drogba, still the man for the big occasion
Manager Roberto Mancini
Domestic form Not massively inspired, third in the Super Lig
Chelsea Stodgy and sticky at times (against Basel, in particular) it was not the most enjoyable group phase Chelsea have ever encountered. As José Mourinho succintly put it, his team were "not fantastic but comfortable" in the end. There is obvious room for improvement to give Chelsea more scope. It would not be a massive surprise to see them strengthen in January, particularly in the striking department. Each of their forwards – Torres, Eto'o and Ba – scored a couple of goals in qualifying. It is still unclear who is the most dependable choice.
Key man in Europe so far: Oscar, the boss's undisputed playmaker.
Manager: José Mourinho.
Domestic form: Chasing, gaining ground, but prone to lapses away.
Guardian prediction Chelsea to go through
Milan v Atlético Madrid
Milan There was much Italian head scratching about the fact that of all the Serie A clubs left in the competition, Milan were the last ones standing. Juventus and Napoli are miles ahead domestically as the Rossoneri stutter and stumble. They have the gift for getting through – still rooted in the old Milan DNA as they might say – and fortune was with them as Group H turned into a Milan v Ajax duel to join Barcelona. A spurious Mario Balotelli penalty swung it. The maverick Italian, and the returning hero Kaká, call most of the shots.
Key man in Europe so far: Ricky Kaká, local superhero.
Manager: Massimiliano Allegri.
Domestic form: Flaky, shaky, inconsistent, but apart from that …
Atlético Madrid It's a mistake to presume that Atlético Madrid are less of a threat than Spain's traditional big two. A scorching start to the season both on the domestic front and in Europe gives more fuel to fire the idea that there are three major players now in La Liga. With the experience of Europa League triumph behind them, from the first minute of this Champions League they have played with a high-tempo fearlessness. They will present a formidable obstacle for anyone in the knockouts. From Diego Costa at the front to Thibault Courtois at the back, and everything in between, they have abundant quality.
Key man in Europe so far Diego Costa, good enough for Spain and Brazil to chase.
Manager Diego Simeone.
Domestic form Hot. Second. They have elbowed in to ensure Barça and Real have company.
Guardian prediction Atlético Madrid to go through
Schalke v Real Madrid
Schalke Qualification was a close-run thing. The Germans took on Basel in their final group game and were able to overtake the Swiss team in the table with a win. Schalke were economical with their goals in Europe (an average of one per game) and miss the input of the injured Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but they do possess some charismatic creative players. The prodigy Julian Draxler has talent to burn, Peruvian winger Jefferson Farfan is capable of unpicking defences, and although Kevin-Prince Boateng hasn't sparked as much as he can, he does possess a knack for virtuoso moments. Huntelaar's return will give a welcome sharper edge.
Key man in Europe so far Jefferson Farfan, a wide man central to Schalke's threat.
Manager Jens Keller.
Domestic form Patchy – 6th in the Bundesliga.
Real Madrid What a difference a year made for the man who dominates life at the Bernabéu. In the autumn of 2012, Cristiano Ronaldo said he was "sad". He appeared strangely unfulfilled by his lot at Real Madrid. A year later, he is in sizzling form, for club and country, and has broken yet more records with his scoring exploits in the Champions League. The connection that has developed with Gareth Bale, backed up by creators of the quality of Angel Di Maria and Isco, ensures their refreshed attack can be lethal. They have not yet been hugely tested defensively, however.
Key man in Europe so far Who else? Cristiano Ronaldo.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Domestic form 3rd in La Liga, 5 precious points off the only place that matters.
Guardian prediction Real Madrid to go through
Bayer Leverkusen v Paris Saint-Germain
Bayer Leverkusen It was a bizarre group experience for Sami Hyypia's team. They were slightly shellshocked by their meetings with Manchester United (head to head they were defeated by a sobering aggregate score of 9-2). But against the rest Leverkusen were determined and at times quite polished. An away win over Real Sociedad ensured they progressed ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk. Stefan Kiessling and Sidney Sam can be eye-catching, and Simon Rolfes is influential in midfield. It's debatable they possess the power to journey too far in the knockouts, though.
Key man in Europe so far: Sidney Sam, a winger in demand.
Manager: Sami Hyypia.
Domestic form: Healthy, second spot.
Paris St-Germain France's superpower were always going to be too much for a gift of a group. As predicted, Zlatan Ibrahimovic ran the show, and PSG were so comfortable they could afford to merely shrug as they lost on matchday six at Benfica (they were already guaranteed group winners) and ultimately brush off the ignominy of a draw at home to Anderlecht. The swagger they can draw upon makes them contenders although it's interesting how few of the squad chipped in with group stage goals. Ibrahimovic scored eight, Cavani four and Motta and Marquinhos two each.
Key man in Europe so far Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Manager Laurent Blanc.
Domestic form First, but with Monaco breathing down their necks.
Guardian prediction PSG to go through
Zenit St Petersburg v Borussia Dortmund
Zenit St Petersburg Luckier than a black cat who prowled around a ladder munching four leaved clovers, Zenit went down in Champions League history for qualifying for the knockout stage with the most meagre number of points ever. Just the six points, with only one win, was enough to see them through. They suffered a quite embarrassing 4-1 defeat at Austria Vienna, too. It's reasonable to say that, apart from the fact one of the matches will be cold, Dortmund will be whooping inside, however diplomatic they are on the outside.
Key man in Europe so far Axel Witsel, midfield commander
Manager Luciano Spalletti
Domestic form Top on goal difference going into the winter break
Borussia Dortmund A team disrupted by injuries has strained to echo the big noise they made last season in so stylishly reaching the final. They were a handful of minutes away from slipping into the Europa League, and with one late and emotionally charged scramble leapfrogged both Napoli and Arsenal to not only qualify but win a fiendishly tight group on goals scored. Jürgen Klopp admitted his team had felt the pressure during the group stage. Borussia hope to have key players of the quality of Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gündogan back in the new year.
Key man in Europe so far: Kevin Grosskreutz, whose goal changed everything
Manager: Jürgen Klopp
Domestic form: Hit a slump, in third
Guardian prediction Borussia Dortmund to go through