Monday, 10 December, 2018

Stiff competition for A-League sides in Asian Champions League group stage

FBL-EUR-C1-BASEL-MAN UTD United qualified thanks to their Europa League triumph
Kristopher Love | 07 December, 2017, 03:53

United beat CSKA Moscow 2-1 and finish top of Group A, while Swiss champions Basel won 2-0 away at Benfica to join them in going through.

Atletico de Madrid confirmed their exit from the UEFA Champions League with a 1-1draw at Chelsea, allowing Roma to advance to the round of 16 as group winners along with Paris St-Germain, despite their 1-3 defeat in Munich.

The Champions League group stage, which reaches its conclusion this week, has once again largely served to emphasise the gulf between Europe's haves and have-nots. "I want to play every game", Azpilicueta said with a smile after Chelsea's 1-1 Champions League draw with Atletico Madrid.

Liverpool finished atop Group E with 12 points (and a stunning plus-17 goal differential), but they ran up the score on lightweights Maribor (10-0 over two matches) and Spartak Moscow (8-1).

But when the group stage draw came out, we noted the great opportunity Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool were given thanks to delectably easy groups.

Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring and Corentin Tolisso struck twice as Bayern Munich fell just short of topping Group B with a 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain at the Allianz Arena.

CSKA drop into the Europa League, while FC Basel reached the last 16 after beating Benfica 2-0 in Lisbon courtesy of goals from Mohamed Elyounoussi and Dimitri Oberlin.

While this is only the second time ever that a nation has had five teams in the Champions League group stages, the Premier League nearly made history back in 2005-06 by having five clubs in the competition.

Italian champions Juventus struck early in Greece through Juan Cuadrado and late with Federico Bernardeschi to secure the runners-up place in Group D behind Barca.

These restrictions are removed ahead of the quarter-finals. The last 16 games will be played on the 13th, 14th, 20th and 21st of February and the second legs will be played on the 6th, 7th, 13th and 14th of March.

Elsewhere Manchester City have already won Group F. However, Napoli and Shakhtar Donetsk are still fighting it out for the other place in the knockout stages of the competition.