Thursday, May 24, 2018

The USANMT is out of the World Cup, Man City is undefeated in the league, and (different football) the Redskins managed to beat Seattle while missing their offensive line. All the while the UEFA Champions League has been chugging along, let’s check in and see how things are looking.

Group A

As expected Manchester United sit atop of group A. They have done so impressively, winning all 4 of their group stage games so far and only conceding one time, in their first matchup against CSKA Moscow. They would need to lose both of their next games, and both F.C. Basel and CSKA Moscow would have to win both of their remaining games for there to be even a chance of Man U not advancing. F.C. Basel and CSKA Moscow both still have a chance to go through, currently tied at 6 points apiece. F.C Basel has the advantage on goal differential, but any slip-ups in their remaining games, which includes their next one against Man U, could be catastrophic. CSKA Moscow will also play Man U of course but in the last fixture of the group stage. While this may mean nothing, if Man U secures a point in their next game, guaranteeing their spot in the round of 16, they may use the game against CSKA Moscow to try out some new players/formations. Giving Moscow a chance to steal a win and ruin Basel’s chances.

Group B

Not too many surprises in group B, with the French force PSG already through to the round of 16, with Germans Bayern Munich looking to be right behind them. If you thought Man U was tearing it up, and they are, then this is surely a year for champions as PSG has also advanced without losing, or even conceding a goal. Bayern’s next game is against Anderlicht, who have yet to score a goal, forget about getting a win. If Bayern wins or draws against them they are through and the scrappy Celtic side can bid their EUFA dreams goodbye.

Group C

Now we have something interesting. One of the “groups of death” it is still technically anybody’s game in group C. Qarabag FK is certainly all but done, with only 2 points so far, but Roma lead the group with 8. So anybody could advance. As Atletico Madrid, with 3 points, have already played Qarabag twice. They must find some results against Chelsea and Roma, neither of which they have been able to beat so far. While nothing is gifted to you in the Champions League, Chelsea (7 points) and Roma (8 points) will be happy to play their game against Qarabag. Whom they have both already defeated, to secure their spots. Basically, Atletico’s hopes in the Champions League depend on Qarabag stepping up against Chelsea and Roma. If they lose to either team, then it will be impossible for Atletico to catch up to the leaders.

Group D

Olympiacos is already too low in points to qualify for the next stage, but they could still have an impact. Barcelona (10 points) Juventus (7 points) and Sporting CP (4 points) all still have a chance. Barcelona need only secure 1 point over their next 2 games, so they are most likely in. Juventus’s fate is in their own hands, playing Barca and then Olympiacos. Juve currently has a goal differential of 0, while Sporting’s is -1. Sporting’s best bet at going through resides on Barcelona crushing Juventus. Allowing Sporting to get a W against the lower Olympiacos and then against A, hopefully, weekend and content with already being through Barca. While making sure to rack up some goals in case Juve brings it down to goal differential.

Group E

Another close group, except for poor Maribor, who are all but out with a whopping 1 point in the competition so far. Liverpool currently leads the group with 8 points, and a far superior goal differential should it come to that. Sevilla is right behind them with 7 points and Spartak Moskva behind them with 5. Liverpool will be tested by playing the 2 tougher opponents, but ultimately it is up to them to decide if they will go through or not. A victory in either game would see them advance. Putting them up to 11 points and leaving Sevilla and Spartak to fight for a total of 10 or 8, respectively. Fairly straightforward in this group, Sevilla and Spartak will both be desperate to win both games in order to advance themselves, and if Liverpool loses their next matchup against Sevilla… This will definitely be an interesting group finale.

Group F

Man City’s dominant form has carried over from England into the European tournament. With 4 wins and 12 points, the English side has already qualified for the round of 16. Feyenoord, who have accumulated a total of zero points, is not so surprisingly out of contention. Shaktar Donesk is sitting pretty with 9 points, and the Italian side Napoli struggling to survive with their 3. While Napoli plays Shaktar in the next game, which they will need to win to have any chance to advance. No matter what they will also need Shaktar to lose their following game against Man City. Oh, and if all that happens, they would be tied in points with Shaktar, who are currently beating them on goal differential. So it’s a long road ahead. On the other hand, all Shaktar has to do is draw one of their remaining games and they will be through to the knockout stage.

Group G

This has surely shaped up to be an interesting group, with all teams still in contention. Besiktas lead the group with 10, Porto with 6, Leipzig with 4 and Monaco with 2. For Besiktas, a draw in either of their games would guarantee their spot in the next round. Monaco would have to win both of their games to go through, and even then it wouldn’t be enough if Leizpig wins 1 of theirs. Both Leizpig and Porto have a decent chance, and they both play against Besiktas and Monaco. I like this because, while Porto has the advantage, you get to see which team really performs better. There is 2 games left, your Champions League run is on the line, and they both play the same opponent. So you will be able to see how both of the teams stack up against the group leader and loser.

Group H

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tottenham and Real Madrid are the 2 atop this group. Tottenham is already through to the knockout stage with 10 points and Real with 7. Apoel and Dortmund are both still in the contest with 2 points apiece. However, they both still have a game against Real Madrid. If Real wins against either of them they are through and the hopes of those in group H are shattered. However, it is possible, if both Dortmund and Apoel beat both Tottenham and Real, I know but it could happen. Then Real would be out of the competition and Dortmund and Apoel, tied at 8, would be decided by goal differential. While this is not very likely, things will get very interesting if Apoel manages to pull out a win against Real in their next fixture. In summary, everybody is cheering against Real Madrid. Including Tottenham, as they would surely rather Dortmund or Apoel advance instead of Real.

Well, that about does it, be sure to tune in on November 21st/22nd and December 5th/6th to see how it all ends. That is until the real fun begins in the round of 16.

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