Champions League Update (Matchday 5)
Italian side Napoli currently sits at the top of the Group A table. They are undefeated so far in the group stage, with 15 points to their name. On Matchday 3, the Serie A leaders put an astonishing six goals — in the 18th, 33rd, 45th, 47th, 63rd, and 81st minutes — past a lackluster Ajax in a 6-1 away victory. On Matchday 4, Napoli faced Ajax again, this time at home, and came away with another convincing victory, 4-2, scoring in the 4th, 16th, 62nd, and 89th minutes. The table-toppers continued to gain momentum through Matchday 5, putting three past and shutting out Rangers, scoring in the 11th, 16th, and 80th minutes to make the final scoreline 3-0. With a picture-perfect group stage record, Napoli have guaranteed themselves a place in the round of 16, regardless of their result against Liverpool on Matchday 6.
Just under Napoli sits English side Liverpool, who have not dropped points in the group stage save for their 4-1 loss to Napoli back on Matchday 1. Since then, however, the Reds have come back in full force. Matchday 3 saw the English side put up a solid 2-0 victory over Rangers at home, with goals coming in the 7th and 53rd minutes. Liverpool then doubled down on that victory, beating Rangers away on Matchday 4, 7-1, scoring in the 24th, 55th, 66th, 75th, 80th, 81st, and 87th minutes. Like Napoli, the Reds kept their momentum going through Matchday 5, coming out 3-0 on top of Ajax, with three near-consecutive second-half goals coming in the 42nd, 49th, and 52nd minutes. With a near-perfect group stage record, Liverpool have also guaranteed themselves a place in the round of 16, regardless of their result against Napoli on Matchday 6.
Unfortunately for Ajax, their Champions League group stage has gone less than ideal. Having just three points to their name, courtesy of a 4-0 victory over Rangers back on Matchday 1, it has been loss upon loss for the Dutch side — first falling to Napoli at home 6-1 on Matchday 3, then to Napoli again on the road 4-2 on Matchday 4, and finally losing to Liverpool 3-0 on Matchday 5. Unsurprisingly, Ajax is completely out of the European top flight at this point. The silver lining, however, is that unless the Dutch side loses by a five-goal margin to Rangers on Matchday 6, they will at least move on to play in the Europa league.
Rangers sit at rock bottom of the Group A table, without a single point to their name. The Scottish side have been consistently outclassed in their group stage matches, and the last three matchdays have gone no differently than the first two — the Rangers lost 2-0 to Liverpool on Matchday 3 away, then 7-1 to Liverpool on Matchday 4 at home, then 3-0 to Napoli on Matchday 5. It comes as no surprise that the Scottish side have had any hope of continuing to play in this year’s Champions League completely dashed and, unless they are able to pull off a miraculous win against Ajax with a five-goal difference on Matchday 6, Rangers will be out of Europe completely by Nov. 1.
Group B features, arguably, the most unexpected ranking among the groups. Topping the table is Belgian side Club Brugge who, with 10 points, have guaranteed their spot in the knockout stage for the first time in club history. With a 2-0 win at home against Atlético Madrid on Matchday 3, with goals coming in the 36th and 62nd minutes, followed by a 0-0 draw away upon their next meeting on Matchday 4, the Belgian side ensured their presence in the round of 16. Despite dropping points in a 4-0 loss to Porto on Matchday 5 (and an ironic one, at that, considering Porto fell to Club Brugge by the same scoreline back on Matchday 2), Club Brugge have already made history, and will continue their run in the European top flight regardless of their result against Leverkusen.
Just under Club Brugge sits Portuguese side Porto, with nine points to their name. Despite a rocky start to the group stage, losing 2-1 to Atlético Madrid on Matchday 1 then losing 4-0 to Club Brugge on Matchday 2, Porto have rallied nicely, winning on each of the ensuing matchdays to claw their way up from the bottom of the table to second place. Porto initiated their comeback with a 2-0 win against Leverkusen on Matchday 3, in which the Portuguese side scored in the 69th and 86th minutes. On Matchday 4, Porto doubled down, beating Leverkusen again on the road, 3-0, with goals coming in the 6th, 53rd, and 64th minutes. On Matchday 5, a formidable 4-0 victory against Club Brugge — an ironic revenge, perhaps, for their Matchday 2 loss — saw the Portuguese visitors score in the 33rd, 57th, 60th, and 70th minutes to put themselves within a single point of the table-toppers. Although the final standings for Group B are still up in the air, Porto have guaranteed a spot in the round of 16 regardless of their result against Atlético Madrid on Matchday 6.
Atlético Madrid sits in a precarious third position, holding themselves above the bottom of the table by a single point. Despite their Champions League campaign starting smoothly, with a 2-1 win against Porto on Matchday 1, it’s been all downhill from there for the Spanish side. Two losses on Matchdays 2 and 3 to Leverkusen (2-0) and Club Brugge (2-0), followed by two draws to Club Brugge (0-0) and Leverkusen (2-2) on Matchdays 4 and 5, respectively, means that Atlético Madrid have dropped points every matchday since the first. With a total of five points, the Spanish side will have to fight tooth and nail just to stay in Europe. Should Leverkusen outperform Atlético Madrid on Matchday 6, Atleti will find themselves out of Europe until next year.
At the bottom of the Group B table sits Leverkusen, with a total of four points to their name. Their Champions League campaign has been rocky to say the least. Despite one win and one loss in the first two matchdays, the German side has not been able to win since, fielding 2-0 loss to Porto away on Matchday 3, then another loss — this time 3-0 at home — to Porto on Matchday 4, before dropping points in a 2-2 tie with Atlético Madrid on Matchday 5. Like Atlético Madrid, there is no way for Leverkusen to qualify for the knockout stage of this year’s Champions League. However, if Atlético Madrid end up dropping points on Matchday 6 against Porto — a likely scenario — Leverkusen still has a shot at qualifying for the Europa League if they put up a win or a draw (the latter only being enough should Atleti lose).
The only other club aside from Napoli to maintain a perfect group stage score thus far, Bayern Munich currently sit comfortably at the top of the Group C table with 15 points. For the German side, the last three matchdays have been smooth sailing. Having recorded solid victories against Inter Milan and Barcelona on Matchdays 1 and 2, respectively, Bayern continued their momentum, routing Viktoria Plzen in a 5-0 showing at home on Matchday 3, scoring in the 7th, 13th, 21st, 50th, and 59th minutes. Matchday 4 saw the German side facing Viktoria Plzen again — this time on the road — and despite a late effort from the Czech side, the four first-half goals scored in the 10th, 14th, 25th, and 35th minutes were enough to see Bayern through to a 4-2 victory. Bayern then traveled to face Barcelona on Matchday 5 and, in a 3-0 shutout that saw the German side score in the 10th and 31st minutes, as well as the first minute of stoppage time, effectively knocked the hosts out of the European top flight. With a perfect Champions League group stage record, Bayern have guaranteed themselves a spot in the round of 16, regardless of their result against Inter Milan.
Inter Milan sits below Bayern, having garnered 10 total points across the duration of the group stage. Since losing to Bayern on Matchday 1, Inter Milan have done well and have not recorded another loss since then. On Matchday 3, Inter took the lead from Barça after a goal two minutes into the first half’s stoppage time put them ahead. They played well the rest of the match, shutting out Barça to take home all three points and a scoreline of 1-0. On Matchday 4, they faced Barça again, away, and held them two a 3-3 draw. Then, on Matchday 5, Inter bettered their total score by beating Viktoria Plzen 4-0, scoring in the 35th, 42nd, 66th, and 87th minutes, taking home all three points. Inter Milan is in a rather ironic situation, in that with 10 points to their name, they are 5 points away from both the team preceding and succeeding them, means that regardless of the result of their head-to-head with Bayern on Matchday 6, they will remain in second place and qualify for the knockout stage.
In the most unexpected turn of events, Barcelona sits third in the Group C table with four points altogether. Despite starting out the group stage strong and putting up a formidable 5-1 performance against Viktoria Plzen on Matchday 1, it’s been nothing but disappointment for Barça since. After losing 2-0 to Bayern on Matchday 2, Barça proceeded to lose 1-0 to Inter on the road on Matchday 3, before holding the Italian side to a 3-3 draw on Matchday 4. Barça then faced Bayern at home, where they lost 3-0, taking themselves out of knockout contention. The silver lining is that with four points, Barça is at least guaranteed Europa League qualification.
Speaking of being knocked out of Europe in the group stage, there can be little said or done by Viktoria Plzen regarding their performances. Having lost every single one of their matches, most recently experiencing a 5-0 thrashing by Bayern on Matchday 3, then again against Bayern on Matchday 4 in a game that ended 4-2, before losing 4-0 to Inter Milan on Matchday 5. With this completely lackluster performance, Viktoria Plzen will be homebound after the group stage, ousted from Europe.
Group D has the most contentious ranking among all of the groups, with just me with two points separating first and last place in the table. For now, Tottenham sits at the top of the table, with eight points. After a win on Matchday 1 and a loss on Matchday 2, Tottenham’s group stage record has continued to be spotty. A 0-0 tie on Matchday 3 forced the Spurs to share the points, but a 3-2 victory against Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 4 put the Spurs back. On Matchday 5, Tottenham was forced to share the points again putting up a 1-1 tie with a late 80th minute goal keeping the Tartan from dropping all three points. Despite their position now, it is completely possible that Tottenham will lose on Matchday 6 while other teams outperform them to take the qualification spots. To keep their position, Tottenham must beat Marseille on Matchday 6.
Likewise, Sporting, sitting second in the Group D table, has both the chance to climb to the top spot and risk not qualifying for either the Champions League or the Europa League, period. Sporting’s Champions League campaign began phenomenally, with victories on both Matchday 1 and Matchday 2, but they have been winless since. Sporting lost to Marseille twice, once in a 4-1 away head-to-head on Matchday 3, and once in a 2-0 bout at home. However, Sporting has broken their losing streak by putting up a 1-1 draw against Tottenham. Like the other Group D, Sporting will need to fight hard if they want to stay in not only the European top flight, but Europe in general. To qualify for the Champions League round of 16, Sporting will have to win their match against Eintracht Frankfurt on Nov. 1.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s record has been spotty at best, but they currently sit third in the table. After a loss on Matchday 1 and a victory on Matchday 2, Frankfurt proceeded to tie with Tottenham at home 0-0 on Matchday 3, before losing to the Spurs 3-2 away on Matchday 4. However, Frankfurt was undeterred, and put up a 2-1 win against Marseille on Matchday 5. To qualify for the Champions League round of 16, Frankfurt will have to win their match against Sporting on Nov. 1.
Although Marseille’s Champions League campaign started less than ideal, with two losses on Matchdays 1 and 2, the French side returned in force to beat Sporting twice — 4-1 at home on Matchday 3 and 2-0 on the road on Matchday 4. However, with Marseille’s 2-1 loss against Frankfurt on Matchday 5, the French side sits at the bottom of the Group D table with six points. However, all is not lost, and if Marseille beats Tottenham on Matchday 6, they will have a shot at the round of 16.
Group E has, possibly, the least unexpected ranking. Chelsea started out rocky, losing on Matchday 1 and tying on Matchday 2, but has won all three of their matches since — beginning with a 3-0 win against AC Milan at home on Matchday 3, with goals being scored in the 24th, 56th, and 62nd minutes, then doubling down against Milan on Matchday 4 away, scoring in the 21st and 34th minutes to win 2-0. The English side kept their winning streak up through Matchday 5, overcoming Salzburg 2-1 by scoring in the 23rd and 64th minutes. This recent success sees Chelsea topping the Group E table with 10 points, guaranteed a spot in the round of 16.
AC Milan sits under Chelsea with 7 points. Their two losses to Chelsea on Matchdays 3 and 4 — falling 3-0 on the road and 2-0 at home — saw the Italian side slide down the table, but a solid 4-0 win against Dinamo Zagreb on Matchday 5, with goals scored (quite curiously) in the 39th, 49th, 59th, and 69th minutes, saw AC Milan climb back to second in Group E. However, their qualification spot is far from being safe, and Milan will have to win or tie against Salzburg on Matchday 6 to make it to the round of 16.
Despite only having one win to their name, Salzburg is not in a terrible position. Having tied on Matchdays 1 and 2 before winning against Dinamo Zagreb away on Matchday 3 1-0 thanks to a penalty scored in the 71st minute, Salzburg’s Matchday 4 ties against Zagreb at home and subsequent 2-1 loss to Chelsea means that they have six points total, just one shy of AC Milan. There is still a chance for Salzburg to make it to the knockout stage if they manage to beat Milan on Matchday 6, but either a tie or a Zagreb loss would see Salzburg staying in Europe to play in the Europa League.
Dinamo Zagreb started their Champions League group stage well, winning their first game, but it has been all downhill from there. Losses on Matchdays 2 and 3 against Milan and Salzburg away saw the Croatian side slide down the table, but a tie against Salzburg at home on Matchday 4 secured another point for Zagreb. A 4-0 loss to AC Milan on Matchday 5 means that Zagreb now sits at the bottom of the Group E table with 4 points, but if Zagreb manages to beat Chelsea and AC Milan beats Salzburg, the Croatian side will be the one to qualify for the Europa League in Salzburg’s stead.
Group F’s standings are also rather unsurprising. Having won on Matchdays 1 and 2, Real Madrid brought that momentum into Matchday 3, overcoming Shakhtar Donetsk at home 2-1 by scoring in the 13th and 28th minutes. However, their next head-to-head did not go so smoothly for Real, and the Spanish side was forced to a 1-1 draw against their Ukrainian hosts. This, followed by a surprise 3-2 loss to Leipzig on Matchday 5, means that although they are still topping Group F, Real Madrid only has 10 points. While 10 points is not enough to guarantee Real winning the group, it is enough to guarantee them a place in the round of 16, regardless of the result of their match against Celtic on Matchday 6.
Having lost on both Matchdays 1 and 2, Leipzig was at the bottom of the Group F table. However, with a series of wins, the German side now sits in second, just under Real Madrid. Leipzig turned it around on Matchday 3 with a 3-1 win against Celtic at home, scoring in the 27th, 62th, and 77th minutes. This was followed up by a 2-0 win against Celtic away, with goals coming in the 75th and 84th minutes. Leipzig then pulled off a surprise upset against Real Madrid on Matchday 5, winning 3-2 with goals scored in the 13th, 18th, and 81st minutes. With nine points to their name, the German side are now poised to qualify for the round of 16, as long as they do not lose to Shakhtar Donetsk on Matchday 6.
Shakhtar Donetsk’s luck has run similarly to group leaders Real Madrid. Despite winning their first group stage match, Shakhtar has not won since. With their 2-1 loss against Real away on Matchday 3, their 1-1 draw against Real at home on Matchday 4, and yet another 1-1 with Celtic on Matchday 5, Shakhtar Donetsk has slipped to third in the table, with a total of 6 points. Shakhtar Donetsk is guaranteed to continue their European campaign, likely in the Europa League, but if they actually manage to beat Leipzig on Matchday 6, the Ukrainian side will move on to the knockout stage of the Champions League.
Unluckily for Celtic, their Champions League run has been completely lackluster. Without a single win to their name, the Scottish side sits rock bottom in the Group F table with 2 points to their name. Having lost to Leipzig on both Matchday 3 away and Matchday 4 at home before tying with Celtic on Matchday 5, Celtic’s prospects are bleak. Regardless of their result against Real Madrid on Matchday 6, Celtic’s European campaign will end.
Also rather unsurprisingly, Manchester City tops the Group G table with 11 points. While their performance has not been perfect, the English side has not lost in the group stage thus far. Their victories on Matchdays 1 and 2 were followed up by another huge 5-0 win on Matchday 3 against Copenhagen at home, with goals being scored in the 7th, 32nd, 39th, 55th, and 76th minutes. Their subsequent matches have gone less ideal, however, with City tying with Copenhagen 0-0 away, then tying with Dortmund 0-0. Still, City is guaranteed to appear in the round of 16 regardless of their result against Sevilla on Matchday 6.
Dortmund sits just under Man City in Group G. Like City, the German side has won on Matchday 3 against Sevilla 4-1 away, with goals scored in the 6th, 41st, 43rd, and 75th minutes, but has not won since, tying with Sevilla at home 1-1 on Matchday 4, before tying with City 0-0 on Matchday 5. Still, the eight points which Dortmund has garnered will be enough to see them through to the round of 16, regardless of their result against Copenhagen on Matchday 6.
Sevilla is third in the Group G table with five points to their name. Having struggled on Matchdays 1 and 2, Sevilla continued to struggle, losing to Dortmund at home 4-1 on Matchday 3 and tying with Dortmund away 1-1 on Matchday 4. They won their first group stage game on Matchday 5, putting up a score of 3-0 against Copenhagen, but it is all too little, too late for the Spanish side, who will not be advancing to the knockout stage, but will still continue their European campaign in the Europa League.
Like Celtic in Group F, Copenhagen has been unable to hold their own against the other teams in their group. Losing on Matchday 1 and drawing on Matchday 2, Copenhagen continued the pattern, losing on Matchday 3 to City 5-0, tying on Matchday 4 with City 0-0, and losing on Matchday 5 to Sevilla 3-0. Regardless of their result on Matchday 6, Copenhagen are out of Europe.
Ironically enough, the leaders of Group H, PSG and Benfica, are equal in points, wins, and draws, with the last two being equal even in the order that they occurred in. Both teams fielded wins on Matchdays 1 and 2, before facing each other and tying on Matchdays 3 and 4. Matchday 3 saw Benfica host PSG and the teams tie 1-1, while Matchday 4 saw PSG host Benfica and the teams tie 1-1 yet again. Both teams then went on to win their Matchday 5 head-to-heads. PSG beat Maccabi Haifa 7-2, with goals scored in the 19th, 32nd, 35th, 44th, 64th, 67th, and 84th minutes; and Benfica overcame Juventus 4-3, scoring in the 17th, 28th, 35th, and 50th minutes. PSG currently tops the table on goal difference, but both PSG and Benfica, with 11 points, will make it through to the knockout stage regardless of their results against Juventus and Maccabi Haifa, respectively, on Matchday 6.
Juventus and Maccabi Haifa are also equal in points, having three each, and equal in wins and losses. Neither team won either of their Matchday 1 or 2 head-to-heads and, when they faced each other, Juventus beat Maccabi Haifa 3-1 at home, scoring in the 35th, 50th, and 83rd minutes, and Maccabi Haifa subsequently beat Juventus 2-0 at home, scoring in the 7th and 42nd minutes. As it stands, neither team will be continuing onwards to the knockout stage, but Juventus is poised to continue playing in the Europa League. However, if Maccabi Haifa puts on a better performance than Juventus on Matchday 6, they will be able to position themselves in the Europa League qualifying spot and bump Juventus out of Europe.