English clubs continue to struggle in Champions League


Top Spanish sides dazzle, German powerhouses flex their muscles but the English Premier League sides fail to impress as the 2014 UEFA Champions League Group Stage comes down to the final matchday.

by Madi Williamson, European Football Correspondent

Matchday Five Results Set the Stage for a Grand Finale to the 2014 Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League

Mourinho's Chelsea are faring better than the other EPL sides

Mourinho’s Chelsea are faring better than the other EPL sides

With a very narrow win over an FC Basel side notorious for stopping European giants dead in their tracks, defending champs Real Madrid were the 6th side to earn a guaranteed spot in the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti had a full squad to choose from for their visit to Switzerland to play the side that they soundly defeated 5-1 at home on the first matchday of the group stage.

Real Madrid will be joined by fellow Madrid side Atletico, who are mathematically through and will top the group if they win in Turin by two goals or more when they play Juventus on December 9th.

However, if the Italians win by two goals or more, they will be the ones to take first place and will move on to the next round. Failure to earn the full three points will put them at risk to be overcome by Olympiacos but if the Greeks can’t muster a win, the Italians will move on automatically. Malmo can still have a spot in European football if they pull off a win and move on to the Europa League.

It wouldn’t be a Champions League knockout stage without the elegant football of FC Barcelona and the Catalans were sure to move on to the next round and put themselves in a good position to win Group F.

With a victory against Paris Saint-Germain in their football fortress the Nou Camp on December 10th, record-setting Lionel Messi and company will take the top spot and cruise on through. PSG only needs to draw with the Spaniards to take the top spot.

Record-breaking Lionel Messi set yet another one to beat by making his UEFA Champions League goal tally a whopping 74 with nothing less than a hattrick against APOEL on matchday five and the controversial Luis Suarez netted his first goal for his new club.

The fourth Spanish club to participate in the UCL group stage is Athletic Club Bilbao and they could still represent Spanish League football on the European stage if they defeat BATE at home and take third in Group H.

Arjen Robben's Bayern are safely throughPhoto: Bundesliga

Arjen Robben’s Bayern are safely through
Photo: Bundesliga

Three of the four Bundesliga clubs to qualify for the group stage have moved on to the knockout stage already.

In spite of an embarrassing 5-0 defeat to manager Roberto Di Matteo’s former club, Chelsea on matchday five, Schalke 04 is still in the running to participate in the round of 16.

They must produce on the final day of group play against Maribor and hope that Chelsea can deliver a similar blow to Sporting Lisbon that they received on Tuesday night. Schalke will continue to represent Germany in Europe if they draw or defeat their hosts, Maribor, in Slovenia.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen escaped from Group C following a series of impressive consistency in their group matches. They only stumbled against AS Monaco, the team threatening to knock them from the top spot of the group but with a win, the Germans will take first and if Monaco can’t defeat their Russian guests Zenit St. Petersburg on December 9th then a draw will be enough for Leverkusen to take top.

Monaco must win or draw to move on but a loss would see Zenit take second or even first if Bayer 04 lose to Portuguese side Benfica, who are unfortunately destined to take the fourth and final place in the group.

With Bayern Munich comfortably taking the top spot with twelve points and only a few hiccups, Group E will be the one to watch on the final matchday as English Champions Manchester City, Italian giants AS Roma and the often underrated side from Russia, CSKA Moscow will vie for the second qualification spot to the knockout round of the UCL and for the chance to still participate in European football in the UEFA Europa League.

To go through, Roma simply must secure three points at home against Manchester City, who they drew 1-1 with in Manchester back in September, or draw 0-0 and hope that CSKA do not defeat Bayern Munich in Germany. If Roma fail to beat Manchester City and CSKA Moscow can grab all three points against the German champions, the Russian side will move through to the knockout stage after missing out last season.

In Group D, Borussia Dortmund, although they are struggling domestically, have looked solid on the European stage and could even take the top spot of the group with a draw if Arsenal can’t boost their goal difference against Galatasaray.

A defeat to the English side on matchday five was the only blemish on BVB’s campaign and the Gunners also had a convincing group stage in spite of their opening day loss to the Germans. Anderlecht proved to be a thorn in the side of the traditionally dominant sides from England and Germany, earning a dramatic 3-3 draw in London, and have the opportunity to upset the notorious yellow wall in Dortmund on December 9th. Regardless of the result, the Dutch team will roll on through to the Europa League while Galatasaray was outclassed in Group D and are going to finish in fourth.

Marco Reus' Dortmund are faring better in Europe than domestically

Marco Reus’ Dortmund are faring better in Europe than they are domestically / Photo: Bundesliga

Chelsea FC were the first English side to secure passage through to the knockouts and to top heir group, although they could be joined by Arsenal on matchday 6. It wasn’t a thrilling campaign for any of the English teams who participated in the UEFA Champions League this year but with his experience in the competition and his infamous amounts of sass, it would be an anomaly for a side managed by Jose Mourinho to fail to move on to the round of 16.

The Blues had a slow start when they came up against Schalke on matchday one. They only managed a point at home to the German side but they certainly made up for that when they faced them again in Gelsenkirchen on matchday five.

Second spot in Group E will be up for grabs for the struggling English side Liverpool after Real Madrid breezed through. With a win at home, Liverpool FC could move on to the next stage which would likely give a much-needed boost to Brendan Rodgers’ struggling side. They must be wary of the threat that Swiss Champions Basel pose after they lost at St. Jakob-Park on matchday two thanks to a goal from Basel’s hero captain Marco Streller and an all-around poor performance from the Reds. Failure to beat the Swiss side on December 9th will not only result in a missed opportunity to advance to the round of 16 but it could also result in a disastrous fourth place finish if the young club Ludogorets can pull off a miracle win against the defending European Champions.

Basel only need a draw to advance to the round of 16 for the second time since the 2008/2009 season and a loss to Liverpool would see them relegated to the Europa League round of 32.

Once again, the group stage has provided world football fans with fantastically entertaining football that has left us shocked, elated, awed and has certainly pulled at a heartstring or two. Lionel Messi made history and could further stretch the record while his rival Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t far behind. Giants have been felled, and on more than one occasion David prevailed over Goliath. The only thing that we can predict on matchday six is a series of nail-biters!


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