Champions League group stage is mostly decided. Only in three groups out of eight qualified teams for next phase have to be decided.
And there have been little surprises. Not in terms of game results but in terms of clubs progressing to knock-out stage.
In my first posts I gave my prediction and till now beside Ajax beating Benfica to second place in group E everything else is as expected. True, majority of them were no-brainer and many expected the same.
Atletico Madrid 2 – 0 Monaco
Borussia Dortmund 0 – 0 Club Brugge
Atletico Madrid 12
Borussia Dortmund 10
Club Brugge 5
No surprises here regarding progression. Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund have secured knock-out stage with a game to spare however Monaco’s last place and overall season performances could hardly be predicted.
The French side are going thru hell also in domestic league and might even take advantage from lack of European games in the remainder of the season, beside the one left in group stages. If additional proof that this is one of those seasons was needed they got it in Madrid.
Atletico took immediate lead thanks to a deflected shot. Towards the end of the game Monaco got a chance to get back in it but Falcao missed a penalty. Probably still wouldn’t be enough to get anything from this match but at least it wouldn’t be another blow to already low team morale.
Club Brugge took advantage of Principality club crisis and secured Europa League competition. Given the opposition they couldn’t hope for more and should be happy with their achievement.
Last match will serve only to decide group winner. Dortmund needs a win in France combined with Atletico not winning in Belgium to climb in first place. But the Spanish side won’t let it happen.
PSV 1 – 2 Barcelona
Tottenham 1 – 0 Inter
PSV Eindhoven 1
No surprises in this group either. Tottenham complicated their qualification with severe lapses in Milan and Eindhoven. Therefore is obliged to match in Barcelona Inter’s result against PSV having an advantage on Italians in direct confrontation.
Hotspurs showed at Wembley that they can play it out against the Catalan club. But needs to be concrete.
Barcelona is blowing hot and cold and with no result imperative could be up for a surprise. PSV demonstrated that blaugrana offers you a lot of chances. However if you don’t take them they’ll punish you.
At the start I expected Spurs to secure promotion before their visit to Spain. They still have everything in their hands just that they chose the tougher path.
Internazionale collected the points more due to sheer persistence then quality football or anything else.
However at this point Inter’s chances of progression look better.
PSG 2 – 1 Liverpool
Napoli 3 – 1 Crvena Zvezda
FK Crvena Zvezda 4
The only group where everything is still open! Three clubs have a chance of progression to Champions League’s second phase, all of them could end up in Europa League and two of them can finish this seasons’ international run.
Every goal scored will have a massive impact and turn the standings on its head.
Interestingly till now nobody won on the road! However Liverpool’s away malaise is nothing short of incredible.
Having already visited all opponents the Reds accumulated a total of 0 points! Same as Crvena Zvezda!
But even more worrying are the performances out-up during the visits. Except for a discrete showing in Belgrade where they had their fair share of chances to score, the only goal scored was a penalty in Paris.
Even that was a generous gift from Di Maria who brought down Mane on the edge oof the box when he wasn’t a direct threat to Buffon.
And even more interesting fact is that Liverpool suffered the greatest deficit while visiting the Serbian champions! In Neaples and Paris they lost by a single goal. In Belgrade they lost by 2 goals.
Anyhow the English side still has everything to play for! At Anfield they need to beat Napoli by 2 goals and will surely progress. Not the easiest task but Klopp’s men already proved they can come up with any result.
Napoli on the other hand, if fail to qualify will rue missed chances in Belgrade and in Paris! If Liverpool was hard to recognize on their travels Napoli played some decent football and should already be sure of progression. But they didn’t and now have to fight it till the last second of the last game in one of the hottest stadiums in Europe.
It’ll be a maturity test for a side lack in international pedigree that might cost them dearly.
Paris SG is still a step behind the best! Despite all economical power and investments made the last few years they still can’t establish themselves as a European force.
They managed somehow to secure 2 points against Napoli but performances have been average at best. Not to mention the one in Liverpool. There’s enough individual talent to hurt all kinds of opposition but still lacking authority to command the play when facing top continental clubs, particularly away.
Crvena Zvezda exceeded all expectation with 4 points up to now and still in with a chance to qualify for Europa League! To achieve that they’d have to win against PSG at home and Napoli to win against Liverpool.
Difficult scenario but in this group everything is possible judging what we saw till now!
Originally I predicted Napoli and Liverpool to advance but with the current situation that’s hardly an option.
PSG most likely won’t allow additional surprises at the Marakana and I’m hoping for Napoli to progress. Just because of Ancelotti.
Porto 3 – 1 Schalke 04
Lokomotiv Moscow 2 – 0 Galatasaray
Schalke 04 8
Lokomotiv Moscow 3
Europa League spot is still possible for Galatasaray and Lokomotiv while Porto and Schalke already secured their places in Champions League’s second round.
The Turks are favorites to qualify not only for point advantage available but also because they play the decider at home. Beside that a better head-to-head record with Lokomotiv should be enough to earn third spot. In case point parity should occur.
AEK 0 – 2 Ajax
Bayern 5 – 1 Benfica
Bayern Munich 13
AEK Athens 0
Ajax took advantage of Bayern’s troubles to snatch a draw in Munich on match-day 2 and is still in with a chance to win the group. All they need to do is win against serial German champions in Amsterdam in group’s final match.
Two weeks ago it would seem fairly possible. However Bavarians dismantling of Benfica could be a sign of resurrection after a series of under-par performances and reported dressing room disharmony.
And even if the Dutch don’t succeed next round is already guaranteed thanks to Benfica’s lack of challenge.
Portuguese club earned Europa League qualification but they need to take a good look in the mirror. Last year’s disastrous international campaign ended with 0 points. This year they can only thank that AEK’s drawn with them. Otherwise it would be another win-less European participation.
I expected much more from them and in fact predicted them finishing behind Bayern. But performances shown indicate that they belong to European second tier at the moment.
Lyon 2 – 2 Manchester City
Hoffenheim 2 – 3 Shakhtar Doneck
Manchester City 10
Shakhtar Donetsk 5
In the 90th minute in Hoffenheim everything was decided. Lyon and Manchester City progress to second round and Shakhtar and Hoffe will fight it for the third place.
But then Taison scored the winner and earned Ukrainian side the chance to qualify! And to make it even more interesting, last game will be against direct promotion competitor.
Shakhtar will host Lyon in the final match and if they win second place is theirs! All other results will make the French side happy. Win imperative for Ukrainian champions but at least they’ll have home advantage in the deciding game.
Nevertheless Lyon should some on top in this one.
Manchester City respected the odds and topped the group. In some scenarios the they could finish second which would potentially complicate the proceedings. However all group winners are hoping Citizens will not let it happen.
Despite domestic dominance City have found it very difficult to display similar authority in Europe. Even if not faced with any of the favorites or historical giants. Are Premier League clubs doing something very wrong? Or is Guardiola taking Champions League group stage very lightly?
It surely would be an interesting subject to examine.
Similarly to City also Hoffenfeim respected the expectations. Played some good football and proved a stern opposition but ultimately stumbled and gave away cheap points. It’ll serve as invaluable experience for the future but remain a huge regret!
They can still catch Europa League train but if the main condition to do that is winning at Etihad don’t bet your money on them.
Roma 0 – 2 Real Madrid
CSKA Moscow 1 – 2 Victoria Plzen
Real Madrid 12
Viktoria Plzen 4
CSKA Moscow 4
Real Madrid somehow won in Rome and secured top spot no matter what happens on final match-day.
Watching first half in the Eternal city it’s unbelievable that defending champion managed to do so!
Roma was on the front foot, dictated the tempo, controlled the proceedings and missed a number of opportunities to take the lead. And even double it!
Under’s miss has became viral but beside that Roma had other possibilities which went unrealized.
Football doesn’t forgive and neither does Real in Champions League. Immediately after the break Italians made a mess of a simple situation and duly conceded.
Home side was in shock and visitors took advantage to extend the lead soon after and the Roman first place dreams were crushed.
Roma continue with giving away points in games they deserved better and Real continues with mediocre displays after embarassing weekend defeat. Solari can’t be please despite the win.
It could been a great story; after Barcelona also Real suffers humiliation in Rome. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Third place fight is wide open after Victoria came from behind and won in Moscow. On level points with CSKA and with a more favorable last match the Czech’s have a real possibility to grab EL spot.
Juventus 1 – 0 Valencia
Manchester United 1 – 0 Young Boys
Manchester United 10
Young Boys 1
Routine victory for Juventus but first place not sealed yet due to black-out against Manchester United last time out.
And another United’s last gasp victory, this time against Swiss minnows, re-opened, theoretically, top spot question.
Mourinho seems to have more lives then a cat but I’m sure he’s slowly running out of them. His United doesn’t pose particular threat to Europe’s giants.
But second spot could be a very intriguing verdict because United would play against a group winner in the next phase.
And the opposition could be Porto!
It would be one of life’s ironies if the club that lunched him at the top level would also “finish” his career…
Stories only Champions League can write!
Majority of spots have been assigned. Those which are still up for grabs will bring exciting games.