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Surprise packages or dark horses?

Wednesday 30 January 2013 9.00 CET
Neil Lennon (Celtic FC)

There has been no shortage of surprises already in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League, but which of the dark horses is best equipped to go the distance?

Such was the unpredictable nature of this season's group stage that three teams from Pot 4 of last August's draw negotiated their way to the round of 16. Borussia Dortmund did so most emphatically, finishing at the summit of Group D ahead of heavyweights Real Madrid CF, AFC Ajax and Manchester City FC. Wiser for last term's early exit, can Jürgen Klopp's side see off FC Shakhtar Donetsk and live up to their growing reputation as a good outside tip to lift the trophy at Wembley in May?

Málaga CF have been no less impressive, going undefeated en route to topping Group C on their maiden appearance in the competition. Will their inexperience prove telling, though? First up for Manuel Pellegrini's charges in the knockout stage are FC Porto. Celtic FC's progress to the last 16 also raised eyebrows, though Neil Lennon's team – now up against Juventus – will not be taken lightly having pipped SL Benfica to second spot in Group G.

Three clubs from Pot 3 are in the last 16 too. While Paris Saint-Germain FC and Juventus were widely fancied to get this far at least, Galatasaray AŞ did well to end up as runners-up in Group H. Buoyed by the January arrivals of Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba, can the Turkish title holders keep on upsetting the odds or will it be left to the likes of Málaga and Celtic to maintain the challenge of the underdog?

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