Champions League Rounds Up Group Stage


The Champions League races are heating up. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Over the past few weeks, the final two match days of the Champions League occurred with teams fighting for the final spots to progress to the round of 16. As a reminder, the top two in each group qualify to the round of 16, with the third placed teams being sent down to the Europa League playoffs and the final place being eliminated from European football altogether.

In Group A, Napoli and Liverpool were the teams that secured qualification to the knockout stages. Napoli beat Rangers 3-0 on matchday five with Liverpool also beating Ajax 3-0 to book their place in the next round. On the final matchday, Ajax secured European football, albeit in the Europa league by beating Rangers 3-1. Meanwhile, Napoli’s invincible season stopped as Liverpool beat them 2-0. Despite the loss, Napoli still emerged as group winners with Liverpool as runners up.

As for Group B on matchday five, Porto thrashed Club Brugge 4-0. With Atletico Madrid drawing 2-2 to Bayer Leverkusen, both Porto and Club Brugge were confirmed as the teams that would advance to the round of 16. On the final matchday, Porto beat Atletico 2-1. With Leverkusen drawing Brugge 0-0, Porto were confirmed as group winners with Brugge as the runners up. Leverkusen finished third, sending them to the Europa League, and Atletico Madrid finished last, kicking them out of European competition for the season.

In the “group of death,” Barcelona’s fate was sealed before they played on matchday five. With Inter beating Viktoria Plzen 4-0, they confirmed their qualification as the runners up, forcing the Spanish side to be eliminated from the group stages for the second season in a row. Barcelona then lost to Bayern Munich 3-0 to confirm Bayern as the group winners. On matchday six, Barcelona beat Plzen 4-2, with Bayern winning their final group stage game against Inter 2-0 to remain perfect through the competition. With Bayern topping the group, Inter were the runners up with Barcelona going to the Europa League play offs again and Plzen in dead last.

In Group D, all of the teams could still qualify. On matchday five, Tottenham drew to Sporting Lisbon 1-1 with Tottenham having a late winner chalked off after VAR took a look at it. Eintracht Frankfurt beat Marseille 2-1 to set up an exciting matchday six which could see any team either top the group or be eliminated from the competition. Tottenham secured both qualification and the top spot of the group by beating Marseille 2-1 with Frankfurt securing the runners up position by beating Sporting 2-1, relegating the Portuguese side to the Europa League play offs with Marseille in last.

In Group E, Chelsea secured the top spot on matchday five by beating RB Salzburg 2-1. In the other match, AC Milan beat Dinamo Zagreb 4-0 to put themselves in a good position to qualify as the runners up. On matchday six, Milan beat Salzburg 4-0 to confirm themselves as the group runners up with Chelsea beating Zagreb 2-1. Salzburg finished third with Zagreb finishing bottom of the group.

In Group F, the reigning title holders Real Madrid suffered their first defeat of the season as they lost 3-2 to RB Leipzig. In the other match, Celtic drew 1-1 with Shakhtar Donetsk to eliminate Celtic from the competition. On the final matchday, Madrid confirmed their status as the group winners by thrashing Celtic 5-1. With Leipzig beating Donetsk 4-0, the German side confirmed themselves as the runners up with Donetsk being sent down to the Europa League play offs.

In Group G, Manchester City drew 0-0 to Borussia Dortmund to confirm City as the group winners and Dortmund as the runners up. In the other matchday five match, Sevilla beat Copenhagen 3-0 to confirm themselves in third place, sending them to the Europa League playoffs. As for matchday six, City beat Sevilla 3-1 with all the sports already confirmed and Dortmund drew Copenhagen 1-1 to round out the group.

Last but certainly not least we have Group H. On matchday five, both qualifying spots for the round of 16 were confirmed with Paris Saint Germain (PSG) beating Maccabi Haifa 7-2 and Benfica beating Juventus 4-3. Juve’s defeat eliminated them from the knockout stages, the first time that they have been eliminated from the competition at this stage since the 2013-14 edition of the competition.

Both PSG and Benfica were equal on points, bringing it to the final matchday to determine the group winner. On the final day, PSG beat Juve 2-1. With such a heavy goal differential compared to Benfica, it seemed like PSG would be the group winners. However, Benfica beat Maccabi Haifa 6-1 with their final goal scored in the 92nd minute. Because of that final goal, it meant that PSG and Benfica had an equal amount of goal difference. UEFA tiebreakers go in this order: points accumulated head-to-head, head-to-head goal difference, goals scored in the head-to-head games, overall goal difference in the competition and goals scored in all group matches. Both PSG and Benfica were tied on all six of these tiebreakers. It went to the seventh tiebreaker, which was the most away goals in the group, which Benfica had, confirming them as the group winners with PSG as runners up. Juve were sent to the Europa League playoffs with Maccabi Haifa outright eliminated.

In the round of 16, the winner is determined by the aggregate score across two legs. There is a huge difference between group winners and runners up. If you are a group winner, it may give you an “easier” opponent with the runners up having the task of facing a more difficult opponent. The group winner also gets home field advantage with the second leg being at home. The draw was yesterday and these are the matchups:

Eintracht Frankfurt v Napoli

Inter Milan v Porto

PSG v Bayern Munich

AC Milan v Tottenham

Borussia Dortmund v Chelsea

Liverpool v Real Madrid

RB Leipzig v Manchester City

Club Brugge v Benfica

The first legs of the round of 16 are during the weeks of Feb. 12 and 19 with the return legs being played on the weeks of March 5 and 12. The Bayern and Tottenham ties are on Feb. 14 with the Benfica and Chelsea ties on Feb. 15. The Real Madrid and Napoli ties are on the 21st with the Manchester City and Porto ties on the 22nd. The return legs for the Chelsea and Benfica ties are on March 7 with Bayern and Tottenham ties on the 8th. The Porto and Manchester City return legs are played on the 14th with the Napoli and Real Madrid ties played on the 15th. With star-studded ties such as the PSG v Bayern and Real Madrid v Liverpool, expect the Champions League to be filled with excitement as the teams play for the chance to lift one of the most prestigious trophies in the world.