The Champions League group stage is now complete, with 16 clubs through to the knockout phase that will begin in February. We’ll know the matchups after the draw takes place on Monday, but before we get there, we should finally get around to recapping what happened on Matchday 6.
We entered Matchday six with most of the spots decided, with only seeding needing to be determined in a couple of groups. We covered six matches from four groups in advance of the matches this week that were going to have the most impact on the final results, and those will be the same matches we cover here.
Note: If you missed our scenarios for Matchday 6 – which has also been updated to reflect the results from Tuesday and Wednesday, you can read it here.
The Spurs entered Tuesday needing some help. They needed to at least match the result of Inter Milan to advance, since the clubs entered the day tied with 7 points with the Spurs holding the tiebreaker. PSV hadn’t looked all that solid in the tournament up to that point – they entered Matchday 6 with only one point and eliminated from further advancement – and Inter was hosting the final match.
Meanwhile, Tottenham had to travel to face a Barcelona team that, while they had already clinched first and had nothing to play for, were still Barca and undefeated in the tournament. And for much of the match, it looked like the Spurs would have to be pleased with a trip to the Europa League knockout phase instead, with Barca taking an early 1-0 lead.
However, the Spurs most likely found out at the half that PSV was actually leading against Inter, making their path a bit easier should the result hold. But they pressed forward after the half, trying to force a draw or even a win so that Inter didn’t control their fate. Inter drew even with PSV in the 73rd minute of the match, and whether or not the players knew down on the pitch (I’m sure they did), the Spurs fans at Camp Nou sure let them know.
After drive after drive towards their goal, the Spurs finally equalized on a goal from Lucas Moura in the 85th that was set up beautifully on a low cross from Harry Kane. The Spurs held on for that draw, and were through to the Champions League knockout phase, while Inter had to settle for a trip to Europa League.
Liverpool’s path to the knockout phase was a little more straightforward: defeat Napoli to advance. No other result would have let them through, save a loss by Paris Saint-Germain in the other match…which didn’t happen. So it was up to Liverpool to defend their home turf at Anfield.
Mo Salah put the Reds ahead with a goal in the 34th minute, and the club held on for the victory. It tied both clubs with nine points, so it needed to go to the seventh tiebreaker to determine who would advance. Liverpool had scored nine goals in the group, while Napoli had scored only seven, giving the advantage to the English club.
With their advance, and that of Tottenham Hotspur out of Group B and the two Manchester clubs that entered Matchday 6 already through, England was the only country to have four clubs reach the knockout phase, though only Manchester City will be seeded in the draw. Will this increase England’s chances of bringing the Champions League trophy back to England? That remains to be seen.
We’ve followed Red Star Belgrade throughout the entire tournament, hoping that they could overcome long odds and finish third in the group to at least continue on to Europa League. It was not to be, unfortunately, with PSG defeating them 10-2 combined in their two matches. Still, despite the blowout loss at home, the Red Star supporters spent the final moments of the match singing in support of their club, and that’s what it’s ultimately about.
This match didn’t matter nearly as much as the others. It was a battle for first place and the seeding from the group, as both clubs entered the day already through. An Ajax victory at home would have given them the group, while any other result resulted in Bayern being the seeded club.
It ended in a 3-3 draw, with two goals on penalties late in regulation (82nd minute for Ajax and 87th minute for Bayern) then two goals at the very end: Bayern scored in the 90th minute to take the lead, only to see Ajax equalize five minutes into extra time. It was exactly the match we expected from two top clubs, and leaves us hoping for a rematch.
A “home” victory in this one for the Ukrainian club would have seen them through to the knockout phase for the second consecutive year, while any other result would salvage an otherwise lackluster showing from France in both European competitions.
Shakhtar opened the scoring on a Júnior Moraes goal in the 22nd minute, and took that 1-0 lead into halftime in Kiev. For 20 minutes of the second half, it looked like the improbable would happen… until Nabil Fekir scored the equalizer in the 65th minute. Shakhtar’s hopes for Champions League glory ended in a 1-1 draw, though they will get to play on in Europa, where they might find the competition a little more to their liking. They will find out on Monday who they will be playing when play resumes in Europa League in February.
Sixteen clubs remain in Champions League from seven countries (seeded clubs in bold):
- Spain: Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid
- Germany: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04
- England: Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur
- Italy: Juventus, Roma
- France: Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain
- Netherlands: Ajax
- Portugal: Porto
With the draw on Monday, we’ll have a better grasp on who will be favored going forward. Will current favorite Manchester City see their odds decrease based on an unfavorable draw? (We know which three teams they won’t be playing). Will a seeded club be able to ride a great draw to the semifinals?
We can’t wait to find out when Champions League returns in February!
Until next time…