Another exciting week of UEFA Champions League has action drawn to a close. The theme of the week was big wins. Six teams won by at least two goals (Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, PSG, and Bayern Munich) with the last four happening on Wednesday. Here is a recap of match day 3 and my forecast of how each group will finish.
Manchester United obtained sole possession of the top spot thanks to an own goal from Real Sociedad defender Inigo Martinez. Manchester United won the game 1-0 and has seven points . Bayer Leverkusen blitzed Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0 to move into 2nd place with six points. Shakhtar dropped to 3rd place after their blowout loss, but remain in striking distance with four points. Real Sociedad remains pointless in the group after three losses.
I see Bayer Leverkusen getting through to the Round of 16 along with Manchester United. It sets up well for both teams to make it through. I see Shakhtar finishing 3rd, though I could be wrong if they can an upset of the top two. Real Sociedad will probably finish last as their defensive performances will not be enough to jump any teams.
Real Madrid used two goals from Ronaldo on either side of Juventus’ Llorente to win 2-1 and stay atop the group. The win, combined with other results, means Real Madrid can finish no worse than 3rd place in the group. Galatasaray crushed Copenhagen 3-1 in the other match as they moved into 2nd with four points. Juventus dropped to 3rd place and have two points and Copenhagen are last with one point.
Real Madrid have a hammerlock on this group and I do not see that changing. The battle for 2nd place is intriguing to say the least. I will call for Galatasaray to finish 2nd because Juventus has disappointed in the CL thus far. The Copenhagen-Juventus game from match day 2 spoke volumes to me. In last, we have Copenhagen who have truly have underwhelmed in both the Danish Superliga and Champions League.
PSG continued their obliterating ways, this time it was Anderlecht on the receiving end of a 5-0 loss. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had four goals including one wonder volley that made the Anderlecht fans stand and applaud. As with Real Madrid, PSG cannot finish worse than 3rd in the group and have nine points thus far. Olympiacos and Benfica drew 1-1 in Lisbon that maintained their positions in the table. Both teams have four points but Olympiacos is ahead on goal differential at 0 compared to -1 for Benfica. Anderlecht is bottom of the table with zero points and zero goals.
PSG is on cruise control right now and are headed for the Round of 16. I forecast Olympiacos joining them there due to their next match at home against Benfica. That leaves Benfica as the 3rd team in the table and they will get to play on in the Europa League. Lastly, Anderlecht have a lot of work left to do if they want to obtain a point. They have lost by at least two goals in every match in this group.
Bayern Munich thrashed Viktoria Plzen 5-0 at home to maintain their perfect record, leaving them atop Group D with nine points. Manchester City went into Russia and won 2-1 over CSKA Moscow to take sole possession of 2nd place with six points. CSKA Moscow falls to 3rd place with three points while Viktoria Plzen have failed to record a point thus far.
The Title Holders of Bayern Munich are on their way to the Round of 16. I see Manchester City finally getting over the hump and making the Round of 16. They should win both of their next two games at home against CSKA Moscow and Plzen which will be enough to get them into the Knockout stages. The real question is can they challenge Bayern Munich? I have CSKA Moscow doing enough to hang onto the 3rd spot and moving them into the Europa League. Plzen will finish last unless they fix their defense which has given up at least three goals in each CL match so far.
Chelsea used a brace from Fernando Torres, of all players, to cruise past Schalke 3-0. Due to this result, both Chelsea and Schalke are tied on points at six, but Chelsea holds the better goal differential (+6 compared to +1 for Schalke). Meanwhile, Steaua Bucuresti and Basel drew 1-1 thanks to a late goal from Leandro Tatu of Steaua. Basel is 3rd in the group with four points while Steaua Bucuresti is the low team with only one point.
At this point, I would give the nod to Chelsea to make it through to the Round of 16. I am going to go with Basel to take the 2nd spot in this group. I think they go on the road to Schalke on Match day 6 and beat Schalke. That means Schalke as the 3rd team in the group and go into Europa League while Steaua will finish last.
The Group of Death has lived up to the excitement as Match day 3 proved. Borussia Dortmund went to London, England and used an 82nd minute goal from Robert Lewandowski to win 2-1 and put them in a tie for 1st place with Arsenal. In the other game, Napoli won by the same score of 2-1 and make it a three way tie atop the group. Marseille are languishing in last with zero points.
Due to the three way tie between Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, and Napoli, total points and goal differential between the teams in the matches they have played come into effect. All teams have three points while Arsenal has a +1 goal differential, Dortmund with 0, and Napoli has -1.
This group is tough to call but I will go with Borussia Dortmund to win it at this point. They have the experience in tough groups (see 2012-13 season) and their remaining home games are against Arsenal and Napoli. For 2nd place I see Napoli finishing in that spot. They too have two games remaining at home (Marseille and Arsenal). It’s hard to put Arsenal in the 3rd spot especially considering the way the have started both the Premier League and the Champions League, but I am going to take a chance and say it will happen. They could just as easily finish 1st, but that is why they call it the Group of Death. Marseille appear destined for the bottom spot in this tough group, but I have a feeling they will be the reason one of the other three teams will be in the Europa League. I see Marseille winning at least one game, but it won’t be enough to get them out of the basement.
Atletico Madrid’s 3-0 win at Austria Wien has put them in a dominant position heading into the last three CL games. Atletico have obtained all nine of the maximum points possible. Zenit Saint Petersburg went on the road against Porto, got a late goal to win the match 1-0, and took 2nd place with four points. Porto sit in 3rd with three points and Austria Wien are last with one point.
It is difficult to see a scenario in which Atletico Madrid do not make the Round of 16 and they could have that berth sealed by the end of Match day 4. I will call for Zenit to hold on for 2nd due to them having Porto and Atletico Madrid in Russia the next two games. Porto are capable of finishing 2nd, but I see them landing in the 3rd spot and thus into the Europa League. Finally, we come to Austria Wien who are not mathematically eliminated from contetion, but need to show more if they want to contend for even 3rd place and the Europa League slot.
Milan and Barcelona played to a 1-1 draw after goals from Robinho and Messi. The result left Barcelona top of the table with seven points and Milan stayed 2nd with five points. The group’s other match between Celtic and Ajax ended 2-1 in favor of Celtic. That win gives Celtic three points and they sit 3rd. Ajax are bottom of the group with one point.
This group looked like it would be Barcelona and Milan before the games were played and it still looks that way now. It would take a lot of upsets to see either Celtic or Ajax finish in 2nd place. As for 3rd place, I see Celtic going to the Europa League. If Celtic can win or draw in Amsterdam or pull an upset or draw against Milan, I think they will be all but guaranteed 3rd.
The next match day takes place on Tuesday, November 5 (Groups A through D) and Wednesday, November 6 (Groups E through F). Be sure to enjoy the action!