The UEFA Champions League has been defined by how predictable it has become. The last seven tournament finals have played between teams from a group of just eight, all world powers that are expected to go deep in tournaments. Not since Porto defeated Monaco in 2004 the has a club from outside the world's super elite qualified for a final and even upsets in the tournament's earlier stages have been rare. This year's tournament looks set to break the trend though.
The tournament has already had its fair share of the unexpected as Manchester United and Manchester City crashed out in the group stage, but it could be in for some more. A look at the group runners up that will be matched against the group winners and you have three teams that are a real threat to do away with a big club and add some more unexpected to this year's tournament (note: Milan don't count because they only finished second due to being in Barcelona's group).
Napoli: As far as dangerous teams go, the list could be comprised of Napoli and Napoli alone and it would still be imposing. Few, if any teams can match their front three of Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik. Gokhan Inler has added some steel to the midfield too, while Morgan De Sanctis has been sensational in goal. They're vulnerable at the back, but their unique style and unquestionable attacking power make them a threat to any team in the world. Seeing a Barcelona or Bayern Munich go down would be a surprise, but if it comes at the hands of Napoli, it won't be a shocker. You can bet all of the group winners will be praying to avoid these Italians at all costs.
CSKA Moscow: Remember Keisuke Honda? He was one of the breakout stars of the 2010 World Cup and quickly became a target of several big clubs, especially of Arsenal. Right now, he can't even crack the starting XI at CSKA Moscow even when he's fit and in form. CSKA look that good right now. Vagner Love and Seydou Doumbia make up a deadly strike partnership and the Russians have a great security blanket at the back with the sensational Igor Akinfeev. Add in the experience Sergei Ignashevich marshaling the back line and a healthy Mark Gonzalez and opponents have their hands full with CSKA. Oh, and if they need it they can always bring the newly healthy Honda off the bench for that extra spark. Not too shabby.
Bayer Leverkusen: When Sidney Sam is clicking, Bayer become awfully scary. The way he can dart and dash his way through defenses to create and open up space for the likes of Andre Schurrle, Stefan Kiebling, Eren Derdiyok or whoever else happens to be on the field at the time makes Leverkusen a tough out. Michael Ballack is having a bit of a renaissance as well and they already proved what they're capable of in taking down Chelsea during the group stages. If given a choice, this is not a team the powers want to see.