Champions League – Matchday 4 Recap

After four matches in the Group Stage of the Champions League, there has Witbeen some separation. That said, only one club – Barcelona – has officially clinched a spot in the Round of 16. There are an additional six clubs that have been eliminated from reaching the Round of 16, though they can still technically finish third in their groups and qualify for the next round of Europa League.

As mentioned in our last matchday recap, Lokomotiv Moscow and AEK Athens were the only two clubs in the tournament without a point. They remain that way after Matchday 4 after both failing to win. While both are still technically in the mix for Europa qualification, chances are they won’t even make it there, most likely because of their large goal differentials (-9 for Lokomotiv and -8 for AEK Athens) and poor results against the other clubs in their group.

Here are some of the more shocking results of the fourth day of matches from around Europe (based on UEFA rankings heading into the match or location). Home teams are listed first:

Red Star Belgrade 2-0 Liverpool
I talked about this match in our weekly Small Club of the Week piece, because Red Star is one of our favorite “smaller” clubs and it was nice to see them achieve victory in a tournament where the odds were stacked against them. I wanted to mention it here because of the impact that it had on Group C. Napoli and Liverpool remain tied at the top with six points, but Paris Saint-Germain has five points and Red Star has four (they tied Napoli on Matchday 1). Red Star has an outside chance at qualifying for the Round of 16, with matches remaining at Napoli and at home against PSG, but they would need some help to do so. I’m pulling for the club obviously,, if only because it might mean that PSG fails to advance after their financial malfeasance (and subsequent coverup) was revealed this week.

Juventus 1-2 Manchester United
After traveling to Old Trafford and beating Man U on Matchday 3, Juventus seemed like the team to beat in Group H. They were up by two points and had two home games remaining in the final three. Unfortunately, Man U got their revenge in Turin in this one, leaving the group fairly open to either team. While Valencia still has a chance at claiming one of the top two spots, it will most likely come down to one of these two clubs at the end of the day. Juventus appears to have the easier path: hosting the third place team and traveling to the fourth (Young Boys), while Man U has the opposite. Can Valencia or Young Boys play spoiler, or will these two clubs continue on to the Round of 16? We’ll have a better idea how the group is going to shake out after Matchday 5 on 27 November.

CSKA Moscow 1-2 Roma
Viktoria Plzen 0-5 Real Madrid
Both of these results were expected, but I am highlighting them because it sets up the next match in this group for 27 November, when Roma will host Real Madrid in a match that will most likely determine the winner of the group. When the clubs met on Matchday 1, Real Madrid came out on top 3-0, and appeared to be on their way to the finals yet again. However, a stumble in Moscow on Matchday 2 allowed Roma to pull even, and the clubs remain locked in a tie – though Real Madrid has the tiebreaker due to that Matchday 1 win. If Roma can defend their home pitch and secure the victory, they would pull ahead in advance of the all important final match. If Real Madrid can earn the victory – or force the draw, it would most likely clinch Group G. Either way, both clubs are almost assured to play in the Round of 16 – CSKA Moscow would have to win both of their remaining matches, including the final match against Real Madrid in Spain – so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Matchday 5 of 6 kicks off on November 27th, and with those matches, we may finally see some other clubs join Barcelona in the Round of 16. Chances are, however, that at least half the groups will need to play through to the end of the group stage to determine their winners, which will make the first week of December even more exciting. Will we see a new face in the Round of 16? Or will it be mostly the same clubs from last year? I guess we’ll start to find out for sure in a couple of weeks.

Until next time…

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