Champions League – Matchday 6 – Day 1
The final matchday of the Champions League group stage is finally here.
Eight clubs have clinched a spot in the knockout round, with seven of those already clinching their position. Only four clubs have been eliminated from contention completely, and five additional clubs can still go to Europa League as a third place club but cannot reach the top two of their group to reach the Champions League Round of 16.
Like we did for Matchday 5, we’re going to look at the various scenarios within the groups, and how each club involved can reach the next round, whether it is in the Champions League or Europa League. Tuesday’s action features the “bottom” of the bracket, with action from Groups E, F, G, and H starting things off this week.
Here’s a look at how Tuesday’s action shakes out:
Qualified for the next round: Liverpool (10 points), Napoli (9 points), Red Bull Salzburg (7 points)
Eliminated: Genk (1 point)
The top of this group is wide open, and any of the three clubs could find themselves in Europa League with the new year. That would be a disappointment for defending Champions League winner Liverpool, especially considering how they’ve been dominating the English Premier League thus far this season.
The champs travel to Austria for a match against Red Bull Salzburg, and hope that they don’t have the same issues they had on Matchday 2, when they needed Mo Salah’s second goal to win 4-3… after they had led 3-0. At Anfield. Red Bull hopes that having the home pitch advantage will give them the leg up, especially since they pretty much need a win – and some help – to find a spot in the Round of 16. Failing a Napoli loss (at home versus Genk), Red Bull needs to get the three points and overcome Liverpool in multiple tiebreakers to stay in Champions League.
Per FiveThirtyEight, Liverpool is favored to win – as is Napoli – so chances are, the order of the clubs entering action will be what it is at the end of the day. I think both Liverpool and Napoli will win Tuesday, sending Red Bull Salzburg to the Round of 32 in Europa League.
Projected points totals: Liverpool (13 points), Napoli (12 points), Red Bull Salzburg (7 points), Genk (1 point)
Clinched: Barcelona (11 points) – winner of group and seeded in Round of 16 draw
Qualified for the next round: Inter Milan (7 points) and Borussia Dortmund (7 points)
Eliminated: Slavia Prague (2 points)
This group would be a lot more fun if the two clubs tied in the middle of the table were playing each other, but alas, they’ve already played twice. Inter Milan is on top due to their head-to-head goal differential (+1 to -1). Borussia Dortmund has the easier matchup this week, though with Barcelona completely clinched, they may send the B squad to San Siro this week too.
If both Inter and Dortmund win, Inter advances in second place; Dortmund can’t run up the score against the eliminated Czech club to enhance their chances of advancing. Inter are slight favorites (40% vs 37%) over Barcelona, while Dortmund is a huge favorite (80% vs 6%) over Slavia Prague in their home game. Dortmund is a slight favorite (53% to 47%) to finish second, but they don’t control their fate the same way that the Italians do.
I give the slight edge to Dortmund as well, and think Inter Milan will be the one’s taking a trip to Europa League when all is said and done.
Projected points totals: Barcelona (12 points), Borussia Dortmund (10 points), Inter Milan (8 points), Slavia Prague (2 points)
Clinched: RB Leipzig (10 points) – can finish no worse than second
Unlike the previous two groups, this one is still very open, though RB Leipzig is assured of heading to the Group of 16 in Champions League. The only question that remains is if they will be seeded for the draw. They travel to Lyon (7 points) looking to lock up first place with a draw or better, and they are hoping to avenge their Matchday 2 loss (at home) to Lyon. The French club is a slight favorite (38% to 36%), likely owed completely to being the home club, so that match will be super compelling for sure.
In the other match Benfica (4 points) hosts Zenit Saint Petersburg (7 points) with a chance to find their way to the Round of 32 in Europa League (they cannot finish second due to tiebreaker scenarios). Zenit thoroughly dominated in a 3-1 victory on Matchday 2, surrendering a late goal to make it seem a bit closer than it was. They also hold the tiebreaker over Lyon should they end up with the same points due to head-to-head points (4 points to 1 point), so they simply need to match the French club to advance one way or another.
Zenit is the most likely club to finish second (51% per FiveThirtyEight), which is likely due to that tiebreaker advantage. But they are underdogs against Benfica in Portugal, so they will need to work to make that a reality. Benfica is at a disadvantage should they join Lyon and Zenit at 7 points, which is why they only have a 26% chance of finishing third.
Projected points totals: RB Leipzig (11 points), Zenit Saint Petersburg (10 points), Lyon (8 points), Benfica (4 points)
Qualified for the next round: Ajax (10 points), Valencia (8 points), Chelsea (8 points)
Eliminated: Lille (1 point)
Valencia is in second place for the moment thanks to their head-to-head results against Chelsea. But they have to travel to Amsterdam to meet Ajax, likely needing a win to find themselves in the Round of 16. That’s because Chelsea has the pleasure of hosting Lille, and are heavily favored to come away with the three points.
Ajax is favored in that home game, and a win would lock up the group. A draw, combined with a Chelsea win, would give the group to Chelsea thanks to the Blues’ win in Amsterdam on Matchday 3. But should Valencia find a way to win, it would be them and Chelsea on their way to the Round of 16.
Based on the various oddsmakers, the likeliest scenario would see Ajax finishing first with 13 points, Chelsea finishing second with 11 points, and Valencia clinching a spot in Europa League with a third place finish.
Projected points totals: Ajax (13 points), Chelsea (11 points), Valencia (8 points), Lille (1 point)
We’ll be back tomorrow with a look at Wednesday’s games, which feature a lot more clubs with less to play for, at least when it comes to continuing on in Champions League. Hope you’ll be back to follow along!