Matchday 5 in Champions League managed to set up a ho-hum Matchday 6 in a couple of weeks, with only one Group without a qualifier through to the next round and all four clubs still eligible to make it through to at least Europa League.
Three groups have the next round participants settled, with only the finishing positions of the top two clubs left to be determined:
- Group A: Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund advance to the knockout phase, with Club Brugge off to Europa League.
- Group E: Bayern Munich and Ajax on to knockout, with Benfica heading to Europa League.
- Group H: Juventus and Manchester United on to knockout, with Valencia heading off to Europa League (farewell Young Boys)
Below are some of the results from the past two days that helped to settle things in certain groups or set up a couple of key matches in a couple of weeks on Matchday 6. As always, home teams are listed first:
We previewed this match on its own due to the implications on Group B, and the Spurs victory assures that Matchday 6 will determine the second participant – along with Barcelona – in the knockout stage from the group. Inter Milan has the easiest path, and will look to dominate PSV Eindhoven in the event that the Spurs can upset Barca in Spain. The Spurs own the head-to-head tiebreaker, so if both clubs finish with 10 points, the Spurs would advance to the knockout phase, while Inter would head off to Europa League.
This was another match we previewed, and the result in this match (and the next one) didn’t really help to settle Group C, although both victors from yesterday have clinched at least a move to Europa. In this one, PSG held on to their halftime lead despite a second half onslaught from Liverpool, and will need a victory against Red Star Belgrade in the next one to assure that they advance. Even a draw in Serbia might allow them to advance, but they would need Napoli to go into Anfield and defeat Liverpool. As it is with most things in tournament sports, the easiest way to ensure success is to win outright and not have to rely on tiebreakers.
Despite the loss, Red Star still has an outside chance of qualifying for a trip to Europa League, continuing their fairy tale run in European competitions this season. Getting to a draw in this one would have helped their cause a bit more, but they need a win and a loss from Liverpool to secure third place. Napoli, on the other hand, will advance to the knockout phase with a draw in Liverpool, while also locking Liverpool into third place, so I’m sure that’s what they’ll be playing for if victory looks unattainable on the road.
When Ajax defeated AEK Athens in an early game on Tuesday, they temporarily moved into first place in Group E, and Benfica kicked off against Bayern Munich with a chance of picking up three points and making the outcome of Matchday 6 matter. And then the German onslaught began. Munich went into halftime up 3-0 and didn’t look back, locking themselves and Ajax into the knockout round and relegating Benfica to Europa League. Ajax will look to defend their home pitch two weeks to win the group, but I see two otherwise boring matches coming in Group E on 12 December.
Matchday 6 begins on 11 December, and we’ll be back before then to highlight the scenarios in the groups that have yet to be decided. Group C is definitely shaping up to have the most important matches, but there are a few other results that could lead to clubs thinking they are at least on their way to Europa League and end up going home from European competition for the year.
Until next time…