The Champions League group stage has come and gone, and we are finally left with the last 16 for European glory. England got all 4 teams through by the skin of their teeth and much at the expense of Serie A. Napoli and Inter put up good fights but in the end picked the wrong ally yet again. Lyon picked up the Swiss mindset and drew 5 games in the group stage to sneak into the knockout rounds. Barcelona drew inspiration from the Catalans and broke away from the group competition. Bayern and Dortmund blitzkreiged their way to the top of their respective groups and you know what, good for Porto for dominating the worst group I’ve ever seen. Joe-Say would be proud of those boys and that match up in the knockouts would be the games to bet the under. Inspired by Thomas Muller lets kick the tires on this group stage recap.
Runner Up: Atletico
Dortmund looked very impressive in the group stage, letting up only 2 goals. For a team that has long been known for its offense that is a stat that will make Dortmund fans very happy. I know Atletico hasn’t been lighting it up offensively and the rest of the group wasn’t special but still 2 goals is 2 goals. Little concerning about the lack of experience for Dortmund,but they can match up with anyone left in this competition. Sancho continues to be a star and with Marco Reus healthy again, they could be a hard out. Atletico might be the most boring good team in the world. I mean you have the attacking prowess of Griezmann, Lemar, Diego Costa, and you win every game 1-0? Yeah defense is great but open it up a bit for the sake of entertainment. I think they are a team that not many people want to go against in the knockouts. A solid defensive team like that always runs the risk of a bullshit set piece goal to win matches. They’re a lot like Chelsea when they won the whole thing, defensively minded,disciplined, and compact. I don’t think they’re as talented as Chelsea was, but they do have a good “playoff” play style that can cause teams problems.
Runner Up: Spurs
Barcelona dominated this group from start to finish. They are a very good team and it showed in a tough group. Ousmane Dembele is a stud it’s crazy he doesn’t play as much as he does. I know he’s got issues off the field and plays more video games then Mesut Ozil but this dude is a baller. Messi healthy again bolsters their chances and coming in 5th in the Ballon d’or will probably force him to go scorched Earth on everyone. Defensively they are a little suspect especially with Umtiti out and the midfield isn’t what it used to be. It’s just hard to bet against Messi, Suarez and Coutinho. One of the favorites to win it all. Clutch in the dictionary is now spelledT-O-T-T-E-N-H-A-M. The Spurs were dead with 2 games left facing a tough task against Inter and then at the legendary Nou Camp. A gritty win against Inter kept them alive and then Lucas Moura took a cue from Greg Jennings and put the damn team on his back. I know Barcelona took some guys from the street and put them in the starting XI but a result with that much pressure at Camp Nou is wildly impressive. Bottom line is Spurs did what they needed to do and they are advancing because of it. Here’s to hoping if they make the semis in May their stadium might be 50% done.
Runner Up: Liverpool
Probably the best group if were all being honest with each other. Some highly entertaining games and the skill level was unmatched. PSG had a huge result against Liverpool to put themselves in the driver’s seat and they took care of business against Red Star. It is something special seeing Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani full speed ahead on a counter attack. Mbappe and Neymar are two players that even people that aren’t soccer fans can appreciate. The creativity between the two and the goals that come are sublime. Master Splinter would be so proud of Mbappe. The real drama was at Anfield though as Liverpool somehow, someway got the exact score line they needed to move on. I feel bad for Napoli, they played great in most of the games and were just unlucky. If Di Maria didn’t tie it up in the 94th minute Napoli would’ve been moving on. But ultimately it was Alisson who shut the door on their knockout stage hopes. It was a good save, but I feel weird even saying it was a save. The dude hit it right at Alisson he didn’t even have to move. The timing and situation made it great, but it would’ve been harder for him to let it in then keep it out. I also think Van Dick should’ve got a straight red for his ankle breaking tackle on Mertens in the first half. I hear the “he got the ball narrative” but he went complete studs up and squared up Mertens’ ankle. Salah looks to be regaining some of last season’s magical form. Him in space on the wing is nightmares for defenders, if he can relearn how to put the ball in the net, Liverpool are going to go far. Gotta be the second-place team that none of the group winners want to play.
Runner Up: FC Schalke
Listen I would be lying to you if I said I watched any of these games. The one game I watched was Weston McKennie scoring the winner at the end so that shows you how much I was invested in this. Porto are probably looking to draw Ajax or Lyon otherwise they’re fucked. FC Schalke has a relegation battle domestically to worry about, so I think they’ll also be one and done. No fault for taking advantage of a weak group but don’t let these teams fool you,they’re not doing anything.
Runner Up: Ajax
Bayern and Ajax played a weird game to close out the group stage. Bayern went ahead then Ajax did, then Bayern tied and went ahead, then Ajax tied it. Great description by me I know I have a way with the English language. Thomas Muller was tired of the Netherlands and decided to karate kick one of Ajax’s player in the back of the skull. Dude ended up needing staples to close the wound Muller inflicted upon him. It didn’t even seem necessary, not that it ever would, but what are you doing putting your leg that high anyway. The last time a German got an appendage that high, a soccer game was the least of the Chancellor’s worries if you catch my drift. They won the group, but the Bavarian Giants haven’t looked all that impressive. Manuel Neuer looks broken and the defense is failing to stop goals. Boateng being slower than Phil Rivers isn’t helping but it’s hard to count them out. The experience and the talent are hard to match they just have a lot of work to do domestically to focus directly on Champions League.
Runner Up: Lyon
This group had the most goals scored, and you can see why with the defenses in play. Hoffenheim let City on a 3 on the goalie from midfield yesterday in the 55th minute…I mean it worked because Sane and Sterling got happy feet but sheesh there’s ultra-attacking and this weird 1-1-9 formation. City are dealing with a lot of injuries that should be rectified by February. Getting Aguero, KDB, Mendy, and Dave Silva back will probably put them as the odds-on favorite. If this group did show us anything it’s that Lyon know how to make City uncomfortable. Beating and drawing them is no small feat and they have some play makers that could give teams trouble. It’s hard for me to say they’ll advance but in Nabil Fekir we trust. Their game against Shaktar was hilarious, solely because every time they took a shot, they’d be their back cursing the gods as the ball flew into the upper deck. I don’t know guys maybe have a little balance while shooting and it’ll get closer to the net, I’m not a coach though.
Winner: Real Madrid
Runner Up: Roma
Real Madrid suck and that is that. Now having said that they’ll probably win again this year. They are lacking a lot of quality in many areas.I mean I don’t care who you start, losing 3-0 to CSKA Moscow is like catastrophic.Moscow have a psychopath running around the flanks with a helmet, you’re gunna get shit on at home because of him?! FOH Real, go back to sucking in La Liga. Roma also not that good. Losing Alisson and Nainggolan is proving to be detrimental,who would’ve thought? I can’t see them getting past anyone besides maybe Porto.No offense Porto. If you get anything out of this article it should be to bet the under any time Karim Benzema is playing.
Runner Up: Man United
Ahh the last and final group. United took a shit at Valencia with Phil Jones scoring finally, just on the wrong net. If you looked closely at his face after the goal, he knew the under was fucked. Part of me thinks United could make an impact. They play the park the bus style which could prove difficult to some teams. It’s just the talent level at the back is worse than many JV teams across the country. They can sit back all the want and try to absorb pressure but if you have Phil Jones back there, the dam will break eventually. You can’t come back every game down 2-0 but it seems like every time you look that’s the exact score. Quarterfinals seems like the ceiling for this team but who knows, if they completely give up on the Premier League they could be well rested for the bigger games. Juventus took an even bigger shit at Young Boys. They’ll be fine moving forward and are set at every position but let’s talk a little about Ronaldo quickly. Dybala scored a screamer and then another. Except the second time Ronaldo being the great teammate, he is, decides to try and flick on the piss missile Dybala had sent into the top corner. Offsides is called as Ronaldo claims the goal made for a funny exchange between him and Paulo. Cristiano only had 1 goal in the group stage and could be something to monitor going forward. But man Dybala is so fucking good, the guy can hit a soccer ball with the best of them. They should be in the top 3 of teams remaining and have the pieces to win it all this year.
Alright folks, the draw is on Monday. I’ll have more for you when the matchups are set in stone but as always, thanks to the 15 people that read this and hope we can get to 16 next time. Cheers.