Champions League Report Card – Matchday 5

Matchday 5 of the 2016/17 Champions League is in the books and there was plenty of drama as some teams qualified for the last 16 while a few others saw their hopes dashed. The following are grades for all 32 teams as we get nearer to the conclusion of the group stage.

A

Leicester

Confirmation of their qualification to the next round with a game to spare and group winners to boot. Even when Brugge pulled a goal back in the second half, Leicester looked comfortable and calm. It’s now time to revert to that template on the domestic front.

Monaco

The dominant team in both their meetings against Spurs, Monaco looked assured and would have dished a thrashing to their English visitors but for the brilliance of Hugo Lloris in goal. Always known for their defensive prowess, Leonardo Jardim’s men have evolved into an intelligent attacking team. With the group won, Monaco will at the very least, want to replicate their run to the quarterfinals in 2015.

Juventus

A win that exemplified all of Juventus’ best traits. For the first half an hour in Seville, Juve were rattled by their hosts’ pressing and a lesser team would have capitulated. Hanging in is what Juve do best though, and with their advantage in experience, they capitalized on the mistakes that the hosts eventually made. To top the group, all the Bianconeri now need, is a win against a Dinamo Zagreb side that are yet to get off the mark. A complete contrast from their visit to the Sánchez Pizjuán last season, where defeat cost them top spot and an easy draw in the last 16.

Borussia Dortmund

The great entertainers of the matchday with their manic 8-4 win over Legia Warsaw. Of course, the defending was atrocious and BVB could easily have conceded more. Thomas Tuchel will analyze the mistakes and chaos at the back, but for now all that mattered were the three points to stay ahead of Real. Dortmund now go to Madrid needing only a point to top the group.

FC Rostov

A sensational win against one of Europe’s heavyweights. Rostov-on-Don witnessed a special night as their team beat Bayern 3-2 in a thriller. As this column has reflected previously, Rostov have put in the effort that embarrasses more seasoned clubs who have just rolled over in the competition. The underdogs just need a point in Eindhoven to qualify for the Europa League, but even if that doesn’t eventuate, they have given their fans the memory of a lifetime. 

Barcelona

Glasgow hasn’t always been the most comfortable of venues for Barcelona, but they never looked like leaving with anything other than the three points at Celtic. In to the round of 16 as group winners, Luis Enrique will be happy with a job done. Now to sort out affairs in La Liga.

Lyon

They still face a difficult task to qualify for the round of 16, but Lyon would happily have taken being alive going into the last matchday. Beating Sevilla by a two-goal margin is going to be difficult, but Bruno Genesio’s men will at least be playing at home, on the back of much-improved form in the last month. Can the likes of Lacazette and Fekir deliver a magical night for the fans in Lyon?

Atletico Madrid

Bayern’s loss in Russia already reduced the pressure before kickoff, but Diego Simeone’s teams don’t believe in complacency. In control from the first whistle to the last, Atletico have deservedly won the group. Considering their domestic travails, it would be no surprise to see Los Colchoneros approach the Champions League with even greater motivation. There is a long way to go, but they are clearly the opponent that all other contenders want to avoid once the knockouts get underway.

Paris Saint-Germain

For a team supposedly struggling, the French champions put in a dominating display at the Emirates. Edinson Cavani’s missed chances denied PSG all three points against Arsenal, but they have taken control of first place in the group at just the right time. There is something about London that brings out the best in PSG, and as was the case in their games against Chelsea in the last three seasons, their midfield put in a masterclass. If Thiago Motta and Marco Veratti can stay fit during the business end of the competition, PSG may just enter unchartered territory.

Real Madrid

The ideal response after the dropped points in Warsaw last time out. Zinedine Zidane’s men were not particularly fluent, but their determination and hunger saw them getting the three points, just when it looked like they would have to settle for second in the group. They now welcome Dortmund in the last game, still with a chance to top the group with a win.

B

Bayer Leverkusen

Their draw in Moscow looked better after Spurs’ defeat saw Roger Schmidt’s men go through to the next round. Leverkusen also deserve some credit for staying strong in the face of CSKA’s best performance in the competition this season. However, amidst the euphoria of qualification, Leverkusen will regret the nine points dropped from winning positions. It could end up costing them in the round of 16.

Porto

Being dominated by Copenhagen in both fixtures does not reflect well on Porto’s stature in this competition, but crucially they didn’t lose and got two points in their head-to-head. The Portuguese now need a win in their last game at home to a Leicester side with nothing to play for. Progression to the last 16 should be ensured.

Besiktas

At halftime in Istanbul, Besiktas were reeling on the brink of an exit, flattered by being just 3-0 down to a rampaging Benfica side. What happened in the next 45 minutes is scarcely believable, but somehow the Turkish champions rallied, scored three goals and got a remarkable point. Winning in Kiev is no guarantee, but Besiktas’ destiny is in their own hands as they face an opponent with nothing to play for, while Benfica and Napoli play each other in a high-pressure game.

C

Arsenal

In typical Arsenal fashion, Arsene Wenger’s men failed to show up just when a great opportunity presented itself. A win would have secured first place in the group for Arsenal in front of their own fans. In stead, Arsenal ended up lucky to get a point as they were dominated in midfield, grateful to Edinson Cavani for missing chances again. Second place and a tough draw in the round of 16 now awaits. So disappointing, yet so expected.

Sevilla

For half an hour, everything was going perfectly for Jorge Sampaoli against Juventus. Leading 1-0, Sevilla were set to qualify for the round of 16 as group winners. Then Franco Vazquez happened. The hosts still plugged away with 10 men, but eventually it caught up to them against a Juve side that just know how to win. A draw in Lyon will still be enough for Sevilla, even a single-goal defeat will do. So the permutations just about favour the Europa League champions, but there will be nervousness about the possibility of entering their favourite competition once again.

CSKA Moscow

Finally, a display befitting of their reputation as a tough place to visit. CSKA missed some great chances to win against Leverkusen, but the draw means they have a chance to qualify for the Europa League if they beat a demoralized Spurs at Wembley. After all, the Russian champions are likely to take that tournament seriously compared to Spurs.

Manchester City

A stuttering performance by Pep Guardiola’s men. Except for a brief period either side of half time, City didn’t really hit the high notes in Germany. Qualifying in second behind Barcelona is no disgrace, but City should have at least taken the race for top spot down to the last matchday.

Ludogorets Razgrad

The draw against Basel means the Bulgarian champions have the head-to-head advantage over Basel for the Europa League spot, which is no mean feat for a club of their size. However, after their spirited and adventurous display against Arsenal last time around, the stalemate against the Swiss champions was quite underwhelming.

Borussia Mönchengladbach

The story of their season. When they are on top, Gladbach look so good. However, it very rarely lasts, the opposition always likely to get a foothold in the game once the intensity drops. Thus was the case against City in the 1-1 draw. Nevertheless, Gladbach could never realistically aim to qualify for the round of 16 ahead of Barca and City and the consolidation of a Europa League place, means André Schubert’s men have a crack at a competition that is a right fit for their current stage of development.

Dynamo Kyiv

A lucky barely-deserved point in Naples as the hosts threw the kitchen sink at them. While the round of 16 appearance of last season won’t be repeated, Kyiv are entertaining neutrals as the spoilers in the group. Napoli and Benfica will hope that Serhiy Rebrov’s men have one last trick in them when they host Besiktas on the last matchday.

D

Benfica

3-0 up at half time against Besiktas, Benfica had one foot in the round of 16. They then contrived to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory. Last season’s defensive prowess has deserted the Portuguese champions and as a result, they face a nervous last game at home to Napoli, in which they will most likely need a win to qualify. Nervous times for Rui Vitória’s men.

Legia Warsaw

The defending against Dortmund lurched between comedic and tragic as Legia could have conceded even more than eight. While the experts will not be impressed, one can’t begrudge the fans. A campaign that was going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons has now seen seven goals scored in two games against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. It’s not quite the stuff of dreams, but great memories nevertheless for the group’s whipping boys. At least they have gone down swinging!

FC Copenhagen

Ostensibly having outplayed their opponents in every match, Copenhagen simply haven’t taken advantage of their dominance. Even if they win their last match away at Brugge, they’ll have to rely on Porto dropping the ball. Some may say it’s an undeserved fate, but getting the ball in the net, is after all, the most crucial part of the game.

Napoli

At one stage Napoli looked on course to be the first team to qualify for the last 16 as early as matchday three. Since then, Maurizio Sarri’s men have dropped the ball spectacularly. Two opportunities to seal qualification at home have been squandered and the Azzurri now face a difficult game at Benfica with their hopes of progression in the balance.

E

Sporting Lisbon

Across their two games against Real, Sporting could justifiably argue that they weren’t outplayed. They were never favourites in a tough group, but no points in their four games against Real and Dortmund is a massive disappointment and they are yet to even cement a Europa League spot. Unlike their storied rivals in Portugal, Sporting are yet to make an impression in the Champions League.

Club Brugge

Deers in the headlights in the first half, Brugge played with greater spunk in the second half and even scored a memorable goal. While they have yet to get a point, the Belgian champions have shown incremental improvement after conceding seven goals in their first two games. Can they end their campaign on a high at home to Copenhagen?

Basel

Previous vintages of Basel would have rightly believed they could upset PSG and Arsenal to make a genuine bid for the last 16. This version has lost the head-to-head to Ludogorets. Can their famous home form against English teams salvage something against Arsenal?

F

Tottenham

After waiting so long to make it to the holy grail, you get a group that you expect to qualify from, if not outright win. You’re built up as one of the most exciting teams that are ready to enter the big stage. Then you lose your first home game. And your second. Next up your schooled by a team with more nous and are thankful to your goalkeeper for keeping it respectable. Now, you are trying to figure out how to get out of the Europa League. That is the story of Tottenham’s Champions League campaign.

Bayern Munich

It’s no secret that Bayern have been below their best for quite some time. Nevertheless, a defeat against Champions League debutants is unacceptable. To compound matters, Bayern have now relinquished top spot of the group to Atletico, rendering the last match against their rivals at the Allianz Arena meaningless. A tricky draw in the round of 16 now lies in store and Bayern will have to buck up their ideas if they are to make the semis for a sixth consecutive year.

Dinamo Zagreb

No wins, no points and no goals in five matches. Enough said.

PSV Eindhoven

Last season, PSV left the Vicente Calderon after a heartbreaking penalty shootout. It has been the most uninspiring of follow-up campaigns for the Dutch champions. They never looked like getting anything against Atletico. The fact that Rostov ended up performing better in matches against Atletico and Bayern adds salt to the wounds.

Celtic

The Scottish champions were always likely to finish bottom of the group, but that they are out of Europe completely with a game to spare is a hammer blow to Brendan Rodgers. Without Europe, what benchmark can club, manager and players measures themselves against? Parkhead, home to so many memorable European nights saw only one point gained. Just not good enough by any standard.

This Champions League Midweek

Champions League Matchday 5 is often the most defining day of the group stages. There’s a good chance we’ll know most of the qualifiers for the round of 16 after these matches, as well as the group winners. Keeping various permutations in mind, these six games are likely to be the most decisive in this round.

Tuesday, November 22

Monaco vs Tottenham 
Group E

Monaco lead the group, four points clear of Tottenham and hence, can even afford to lose this game and still control their destiny. Leonardo Jardim is unlikely to tolerate that outcome as Monaco will want to avoid needing anything from their last game away at Bayer Leverkusen.

Anything other than a win and Spurs could exit the competition if Leverkusen win in Moscow. After waiting so long to make here, an early exit would be quite underwhelming for Spurs. Mauricio Pochettino can take solace in the fact that Tottenham haven’t lost away from home in this Champions League campaign, but his men will need to be switched on from the first whistle if they want to stay alive in the competition.

Sporting Lisbon vs Real Madrid
Group F

Sporting need to win this match to keep their hopes of progression alive, but even that may not suffice as Real have a cushion of five points. The Portuguese were so close to winning at the Bernabéu on Matchday 1. They will need to rely on the those same levels and then some to get their desired result this time around.

Real have inexplicably dropped away points, so it isn’t a foregone conclusion that they will get the three points in Lisbon. While a draw or loss won’t be terminal for Real’s hopes, it will almost certainly result in a runner-up finish considering Dortmund are hosts to Legia Warsaw. 

FC Copenhagen vs Porto
Group G

On the balance of play, an argument could be made that Copenhagen have been the best team in the group, yet they find themselves in third place. Copenhagen dominated the reverse fixture and if they could finish the chances they create, they can leapfrog their opponents with their last game against an eliminated Club Brugge. A draw would suffice for Porto as it would keep them second with their last game at home against a Leicester side that is likely to have already qualified for the round of 16.

Sevilla vs Juventus
Group H

The group leaders face off in what should be a cracking encounter at the Sánchez Pizjuán. Sevilla have the advantage, leading by two points after Juve conceded a late equalizer at home against Lyon. The Bianconeri will have to take the game to the hosts as they will want to avoid finishing second and drawing a big team in the round of 16 like last season. If Juve win, Sevilla could yet find themselves in trouble with a visit to a Lyon team that could still be in contention come the final matchday.

Wednesday, November 23

Arsenal vs Paris Saint-Germain
Group A

Two teams that have made a habit of finishing second in the group stages now play each other with a golden chance of finally winning a group and getting better odds in the round of 16. A better opportunity might not present itself, so will Arsenal or PSG rise to the challenge or will nerves get the better of them? We’ll find out at the Emirates.

Besiktas vs Benfica
Group B

Were it not for the concession of two late equalizers at home, Besiktas would already have a place assured in the last 16. As it happens, they are a point behind Napoli and Benfica and need to get maximum points in their last home fixture against the Portuguese champions. If they lose, the Turkish champions could be knocked out if Napoli beat Dynamo Kiev. Benfica on the other hand, will be alive even if they lose, but a win would guarantee qualification and keep them in the hunt to win the group.

This Football Weekend

With no international football until March, the domestic season now enters its most crucial stage. The resumption of club football sees plenty of great fixtures. Here are ten enticing games in Europe this weekend.

Friday, November 18

Bayer Leverkusen vs RB Leipzig

The underachieving hosts welcome the surprise joint leaders of the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen must look at RB Leipzig and wonder why they can’t be at the summit with all the talent in their squad. Roger Schmidt’s men seem to be getting some momentum however, with two wins and a Champions League victory against Spurs before the international break. Despite Leipzig being unbeaten, Leverkusen will always look to dictate the tempo when playing at home. The problem is that Leverkusen have already conceded 15 goals and their attacking system will always give the visitors a chance on the counter. Ralph Hasenhüttl has shown that there aren’t many better exponents of the counter than his team. Expect goals in this one!

Saturday, November 19

Manchester United vs Arsenal

For so long the defining clash of the Premier League era, Manchester United vs Arsenal brings it with new antagonism this time around as Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger lock horns in the Premier League’s early kick off. There is a lot of pressure on Mourinho as United are yet to win against another big team in the league this season. Arsenal have started better, just two points off the top, but have dropped points in their last two home fixtures. Mourinho has never lost to Wenger in the league and despite United’s lack of fluency in the league, Arsenal’s mental demons at Old Trafford present a tough obstacle to overcome. Will the hosts finally kickstart their league campaign or will the visitors lay a marker in the title race? We wait with bated breath for the action to start at Old Trafford.

Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich

The top dogs of the Bundesliga face off in what has become German football’s biggest clash this decade. Thomas Tuchel would ideally have liked to be closer to Bayern in the standings, but a six-point margin is not insurmountable at this point of the campaign. In fact, the hosts have actually scored more goals than the champions so far, but defence has once again been the achilles heel for Dortmund. Injuries have denied Tuchel consistency of selection, but their home record means they always start as favourites. In the other dugout, Carlo Ancelotti has faced difficult questions despite being unbeaten at the top of the league. Bayern have dropped points uncharacteristically and have yet to display the intensity of the Pep Guardiola era. Despite their problems, both Dortmund and Bayern have enough high quality players to make this a memorable match. Both teams need to answer questions. Will Dortmund join the title race or will Bayern pull further away? Tune in to the Signal Iduna Park to find out.

Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid

Another top of the table clash this weekend in which both teams come in to the game facing questions. A month ago the Madrid derby would have featured two teams in full flow playing great football. However, Atleti have lost their last two away fixtures and come in to this game six points behind their rivals. Meanwhile Real have had to deal with a raft of injury problems. First Casemiro, then Luka Modric. Just as Modric returned, Toni Kroos got injured. That’s just the midfield. At the back, both Sergio Ramos and Pepe are currently out. That Real are still leading the league is down to the talismanic form of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. Can Real’s attacking talent breach Atleti’s stingy defence away from home? It’s a tough ask. At the other end of the pitch, will Diego Simeone encourage his players to take more risks against a Real defence missing key players? History would suggest the answer is no. The team that manages to play above itself will likely find the right answers in what is bound to be a cracking atmosphere for the last Madrid derby at the Vicente Calderon.

Sunday, November 20

Zulte Waregem vs Anderlecht

The top two face off in Belgium as surprise leaders Zulte Waregem host Anderlecht. Both teams have scored an equal amount of goals but it is the upstarts tighter defence that has led to a five-point gap at the top. Essevee have played excellent football in this campaign so far, but Anderlecht are Belgium’s most storied club and will come in to town wanting to make a statement and cut the deficit to the top. The hosts will remain in first place even if they lose, but a win against Anderlecht would lay down a marker and put Zulte Waregem in a great position to win their first ever league title. The stakes are high in this crucial table-topping clash.

Atalanta vs Roma

Fifth welcomes second in this match between two teams who have both won five of their last six matches, drawing the other. Seeing AS Roma in such a scenario is no surprise, but Atalanta’s name so high in the table has caught many in the punditocracy off guard. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men are in their lofty place on merit as their good run has included excellent wins over Napoli and Inter. They face their toughest test against Luciano Spalletti’s in-form Roma team. The Giallorossi have been irrepressible going forward, with Mohamed Salah and Edin Dzeko in scintillating form. The league’s highest scorers will need to take their chances if they are to maintain the pressure on Juve. Any complacency on Roma’s part will surely be punished by an Atalanta team looking to add another big scalp to their list of impressive wins this season. Plenty of intrigue in this one.

Guingamp vs Bordeaux

A match of significance for Jocelyn Gourvennec. The astute manager played a vital role in taking Guingamp from provincial anonymity to winning the Coupe de France and a great campaign in the Europa League. He got his just rewards by becoming manager of a historic club like Bordeaux. Bordeaux have shown greater steel than last season, but have still not played particularly fluent football. Meanwhile, Gourvennec’s old club seem to have got better under the intelligent stewardship of Antoine Kombouaré. The former PSG manager has instilled a winning mentality at Guingamp, toughening up the defence while retaining the flair that Gourvennec cultivated. As a result the hosts sit in fourth, four places above their more storied visitors. Will Guingamp pull further clear and put some pressure on their former manager, or will Gourvennec mastermind a win that will put Bordeaux back in the hunt for European football? It should be a fascinating tactical battle between Kombouaré and Gourvennec.

Fenerbahce vs Galatasaray

The biggest Istanbul derby of them all, as Fenerbahce welcome Galatasary for the first Intercontinental Derby of the season. It feels surreal that this match is not at the top of the table, as the two giants of Turkish football are struggling in comparison to the capital’s other sides, Istanbul Basaksehir and Besiktas. After a shaky start to the season, Fener have picked up their form, winning their last three matches in the league and getting a Europa League triumph over Manchester United. Galatasary though, are going in the opposite direction, losing their last two home matches to fall six points off the summit. If Fener win, they’ll have the added bonus of going above their hated rivals and putting Galatasary under greater pressure. This is always one of the most heated fixtures in European football and though neither team is currently in the title race, the stakes remain high in what is bound to be a charged-up atmosphere.

Athletic Bilbao vs Villarreal

Seventh hosts third in this battle between two La Liga teams that always perform above their means. The Basques haven’t won in three games, but are just four points off a Champions League place. They have been banging in the goals at home, but welcome the best defence in the league this weekend. The visitors are flying high in their usual understated fashion. Villarreal will harbour hopes of qualifying for the Champions League again. Coming away unscathed from San Mamés will be crucial in that respect. For Athletic, they’ll be looking to get back to winning ways in front of a crowd that always gets louder when a leading team visits. Should be a gripping game featuring plenty of good players on both sides.

AC Milan vs Inter

The first Derby della Madonnina of the season as both Milan sides go through cultural and playing transitions. As things have turned out so far, the red side of Milan have done better this season thanks to the freshness of youth and the attacking philosophy of manager Vincenzo Montella. The Rossoneri sit pretty in third, in large part down to the contribution of youngsters Gianluigi Donnaruma, Manuel Locatelli, Suso and M’Baye Niang. The defence however remains vulnerable. It is that defensive weakness that Inter’s new manager Stefano Pioli will look to exploit. Inter have had a terrible start to the season, leading to the sacking of Frank de Boer as manager. Even amongst the craziness however, the Nerazzurri have enough quality in their squad to suggest an upturn in fortunes if they are led well. Whether that happens will be down to Pioli and while the pressure of the derby is not ideal, it also presents Inter with an opportunity to kickstart their season. Inter have the better players, but Milan have the form. Who will prevail between two of Italy’s unpredictable teams is anybody’s guess. Expect a lot of drama at the San Siro!

This Football Weekend

After some great European action, it’s time to get back in to the thick of things on the last weekend of domestic action before the international break. Here are 10 games to watch this weekend.

Friday, November 4th

Galatasaray vs Istanbul Basaksehir

Not one of the traditional Istanbul derbies, but high stakes as third place Galatasaray welcome surprise league leaders Istanbul Basaksehir. Will the upstarts maintain their lead or will the giants pull level at the top by handing Istanbul Basaksehir their first defeat of the season?

Saturday, November 5th

Bayern Munich vs Hoffenheim

Another battle between first and third sees unbeaten league leaders Bayern Munich welcoming an undefeated Hoffenheim at the Allianz Arena. Amongst the many intriguing battles is the one in the dugout between experienced campaigner Carlo Ancelotti and 29-year old Julian Nagelsmann. Wisdom and experience against dynamic inspiration. Who will come out on top?

Real Sociedad vs Atletico Madrid

A visit to San Sebastian is never easy, especially as the locals ratchet up the atmosphere when one of the big teams come to play against Real Sociedad. Two teams in form and two of the best exponents of wide play in La Liga. Should be entertaining and feisty!

Chelsea vs Everton

Two teams that have already shown plenty of improvement from last season’s dismal campaigns. Managers Antonio Conte and Ronald Koeman have already put their stamps on their new teams. Will Everton join the crowd at the top of the table or will Chelsea pull further away?

Napoli vs Lazio

This has become one of Serie A’s grudge matches over the last two seasons. Once again Napoli and Lazio find themselves close to each other in the table, with the visitors in fourth, one point above Maurizio Sarri’s men. The two teams have combined for 42 goals already this season. How many more will we see in this match?

Sunday, November 6th

Arsenal vs Tottenham

North London derby. Arsenal vs Tottenham. Wenger vs Pochettino. Second vs fifth. A difference of just three points between the sides. One attack that is fluid and is getting goals from a variety of sources. The other can’t buy a goal at the moment. The hype is incessant. Rarely, if ever, does this fixture follow the form book. How can we predict a game between two of England’s most unpredictable clubs? It’s best to just wait for kickoff!

Anderlecht vs Oostende

Second against third in the Pro League. While seeing Anderlecht in such a fixture is no surprise, not many punters would have imagined seeing Oostende that high up in the table. Level on points and separated by goal difference, will Anderlecht’s big match experience prevail or will Oostende keep the fairytale going?

Porto vs Benfica

After reviving their respective Champions League campaigns, storied rivals Porto and Benfica face off in the first O Clássico of the season at the Dragao. Porto need the win to reduce the gap at the top to the visitors. If Benfica win, they’ll establish an eight-point lead that would be almost insurmountable in the Primeira Liga. Who will come out on top?

Sevilla vs Barcelona

A Sevilla team on a high take on a Barcelona team facing some questions. After getting a huge win over Atletico Madrid at the Pizjuán last time out, Jorge Sampaoli will be keen to add Barcelona to Sevilla’s list of victims. If the hosts manage to win, they’ll jump above the champions. Can Sevilla lay down another marker as contenders or will Barcelona dig deep and prevail despite their injuries? Should be a feast of a football!

Paris Saint-Germain vs Rennes

Normally this would be a routine win for the French champions, but recent victories have been far from easy for Unai Emery’s men. A statement win is needed in the capital, but with Rennes only three points behind and unbeaten in four, Christian Gourcuff will be confident of getting a result. Will the champions finally break through the shackles or will Rennes make it another war of attrition? Tune in to the Parc des Princes to find out.

Champions League Report Card Matchday 4

Matchday 4 of the Champions League provided lots of drama leaving the fate of many groups in the balance. Five teams have made it to the round of 16, but there is still plenty to be decided. Here are the grades for all 32 teams involved in an engrossing matchday.

A

Manchester City

Pressing from the front, playing out from the back, City had Barcelona’s number at the Etihad. Aside from a 20-minute spell in the first half, Pep Guardiola’s men played the match on the front foot. Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling pulled Barca’s defenders away at will while Ilkay Gundogan made smart runs from midfield. Guardiola also showed tactical versatility by switching De Bruyne to a nominal forward position close to Aguero, a move which wreaked havoc on the visitors backline. Special brownie points to City for showing parking the bus is not the only way to beat Barcelona.

Atletico Madrid

The Rojiblancos hammered Rostov at home with 31 shots, but needed an injury-time winner from Antoine Griezmann. Diego Simeone may be miffed at how his men didn’t score more, but Atletico are now the only team to have maximum points from the first four games in the Champions League. While that record is special, the most significant result of Griezmann’s winner was that it leaves topping the group in Atletico’s hands.

Borussia Dortmund

Adding to the significant injury issues at Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang suspended for internal reasons. Considering all the off-field issues, it was natural that BVB would not have the most fluent of performances. However, they got the win and the result that secures their qualification to the next round. With Real’s slip in Poland, Tuchel’s men now have a golden opportunity to win the group.

Sevilla

Still to concede a goal in the group stages, Jorge Sampaoli’s men put in another consummate performance as they dismantled Dinamo Zagreb 4-0 at home. After exiting at the group stage last season, Sevilla need just one point from their remaining two games to make it to the round of 16. With Juve unexpectedly conceding a late equalizer, Sevilla actually have the opportunity to win the group when the Bianconeri visit Andalucia. It is now a matter of managing the nerves for the triple Europa League champions.

Monaco

An efficient win bearing the trademarks of a fine Leonardo Jardim performance. In a group characterized by close matches and slim margins, Monaco’s 3-0 romp of CSKA Moscow was effectively worth an extra point. The principality side rarely look like conceding. However, if Radamel Falcao can stay fit and finish like he did in this match, maybe Monaco can dream of making a run to the quarterfinals again.

Benfica

After a terrible start to the campaign, Benfica needed to get maximum points off their double-header against Dynamo Kiev and they duly delivered. Next up is a tricky trip to Turkey before welcoming Napoli to the Stadium of Light. Their defence, which looked at its unbreachable best against Kiev will be key if they are to progress out of the group stage.

Bayern Munich

A dominant performance away at the Dutch champions. 2-1 simply didn’t do justice to Bayern’s control in Eindhoven, but they showed the necessary spirit to keep going and finding a deserved winner. All Carlo Ancelotti would have wanted was a chance to top the group when Bayern welcome Atletico for the last game of the group and his men duly delivered.

Bayer Leverkusen

Finally, a result that did justice to their performances in the group. Roger Schmidt could justifiably argue that Leverkusen should be on 12 points, but six points with no defeats is not a bad place to be. They were the dominant team at Wembley and for a while it looked like they would throw away a win again with a series of missed chances. Kevin Kampl ensured the three points they deserved with a calm finish. Another three points should see Leverkusen through to the next round.

B

Arsenal

Mesut Ozil’s delightful winner will be the lasting memory of Arsenal’s comeback win in Sofia. Crucially, it ensures Arsenal welcome PSG to the Emirates in control of Group A. It wasn’t a performance to shout about and were it not for David Ospina making some crucial saves, Arsenal could have left Bulgaria embarrassed. It is now imperative that they take advantage of their escape against the French champions.

Leicester

It wasn’t a vintage performance, but one wasn’t needed. Kasper Schmeichel’s late save ensured a fourth successive clean sheet in the competition for Claudio Ranieri’s men. Next up is a home game against the group’s basement boys and Leicester should be confident about qualifying for the round of 16 before a daunting trip to Porto.

Napoli

A crucial late equalizer scored by Marek Hamsik might just end up being the most crucial point for Maurizio Sarri’s men. Lose to Besiktas and Napoli would have been out of the top two despite winning their first two matches. Such negative momentum would have been hard to overturn. In stead, Hamsik’s equalizer sees Napoli hold on to first place with a winnable home game against Dynamo Kiev up next.

PSG

Like Arsenal, PSG’s performance in Switzerland left a lot to be desired, but by hook or crook they won against Basel. Thomas Meunier’s sensational late volley brought Unai Emery the three points, but a significant improvement will be needed for PSG to get the win against Arsenal in London. Nevertheless, the fact that they are still in with a chance to win the group without being close to their best, speaks to the winning mentality that has been cultivated at the club in the last few seasons.

Porto

Over the course of their double-header against Club Brugge, Nuno’s men did what was barely needed and got the necessary six points. With Copenhagen unable to break Leicester, Porto can now visit Denmark with the luxury of sitting back and picking their opponents on the counter. The Portuguese giants have been nowhere close to their best, but look set to right the wrongs of last season’s group stage exit.

Legia Warsaw

A performance that nobody could have predicted given their results so far, Legia thrilled in their remarkable 3-3 draw against Real Madrid. Showed great fortitude to overturn a 2-0 deficit and it was a pity that they couldn’t hold on after taking the lead late on. The greater pity was that they had to play behind close doors due to the idiocy of some of their fans.

Ludogorets

Made up for their humiliation at the Emirates last time around with a superb performance. Ludogorets attacked and exposed Arsenal’s back up full backs and could rightly consider themselves unlucky to not get at least a point against the Gunners. If they play with the same vim and vigour against Basel an unlikely Europa League spot can still be salvaged.

C

Lyon

A fantastic away result in Turin, that could have been even better if Alexandre Lacazette had capitalized on a great opportunity to score in stoppage time. If only Lyon had taken advantage of the opportunities in the home leg of this match, they could have seriously shaken things up in Group H. In stead, it all feels like a case of too little, too late.

Besiktas

After the great win away at Napoli last time out, Besiktas were eight minutes away from the double over their Italian rivals with one foot in the next round. In stead, the concession of a late equalizer means Besiktas will need to win at home against Benfica and probably still need a point in Kiev. A massive opportunity missed for the Turkish champions.

FC Copenhagen

After putting in two excellent away performances at Leicester and Porto, Copenhagen failed to take the initiative at home to the English champions. The Danish champions will be aggrieved to be on just five points after the way they have played so far and will now most likely need to win both their remaining fixtures to go through. A tall task at hand.

Celtic

Outplayed for vast swathes of their match against Gladbach, Celtic somehow hung in and got a penalty that resulted in a valuable point. If they can muster a great performance in Glasgow against a travel-weary Barcelona, Brendan Rodgers’ men might just sneak a Europa League place.

D

Barcelona

Its not that Barcelona were abysmal in Manchester. For a brief period they were in total command, but once City stepped up, Barcelona didn’t look like they had a response in them. The group is still in their control, but it is evident that without Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Andres Iniesta, there is a vulnerability that can be exposed. Luis Enrique will hope that he doesn’t have to rely on his bench during the business end of the competition.

Juventus

It had been coming for Juve. Max Allegri’s men have stuttered through October, following one unconvincing performance after the other. It hasn’t cost them in Serie A because of the huge gap between Juventus and their domestic rivals. However, the continent is a different matter. Juve were extremely lucky to get the three points in Lyon last time out, and many would say justice was served when they were denied a win at home after Corentin Tolisso’s late equalizer. Carelessness cost the Bianconeri a group top spot last season. They’ll need to pull off an away miracle in Sevilla to avoid the same fate this time around.

Borussia Mönchengladbach

Gladbach were in a position to make Group C really interesting after their away win at Celtic. Unfortunately for André Schubert, his men failed to follow up with a win at home. The Foals dominated for large periods but defensive carelessness cost them. Even if they were to win against City at home next time out, a Europa League spot is now their best hope.

FC Rostov

Rostov can be proud of their efforts against Atletico over the two legs. Losing by a single goal in each game against last year’s finalists is no disgrace. There was a huge disparity in quality, but unlike most other teams in their position, they played with valour and true effort to leave with their heads held high.

Sporting Lisbon

Two disappointing defeats against a Dortmund side that were not at their effervescent best. After the great away performance at the Bernabéu, Jorge Jesus’ side have subsided into their shell just when opportunity presented itself. A small chance remains, but performance levels will have to increase substantially to beat Madrid at home.

E

Real Madrid

A terrible performance by everyone involved with the Merengues. Complacency was the name of the game as Real threw away a two-goal lead at the group whipping boys. Zinedine Zidane was also guilty as he selected a front four of Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Alvaro Morata. For a side already struggling with balance in the absence of Casemiro and Luka Modric, it was a reckless selection. Real now need to win in Lisbon to ensure they still have a chance of topping the group in the last game against Dortmund. The road to Cardiff has just become harder.

Tottenham

After an extremely lucky night in Leverkusen last time out, Spurs simply had no answer to their German visitors at Wembley. The most damning indictment of Mauricio Pochettino’s men was that they didn’t look like they belonged on the biggest stage. After waiting so long to re-enter the competition, Tottenham are lurching towards the most anti-climactic of campaigns. The return of Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld from injury should provide Spurs with a boost, but can they catch up to the savvy of the more experienced European teams in the group? 

Basel

Over the past decade, Basel have prided themselves on being tricky opponents, qualifying for the last 16 or at least running the more fancied teams really close. This season has seen none of that as they sit on a solitary point from four games. A tricky tie against Ludogorets awaits to determine a Europa League spot.

PSV Eindhoven

It’s easy to forget that PSV were a penalty shootout away from the quarterfinals last season after their campaign this time around. The Dutch champions were never going to be favourites in a group with Atletico and Bayern, but that their fate was decided after just four matches is a considerable source of embarrassment for a proud club. 

F

CSKA Moscow

An inexplicable first half performance against a team they led for almost 90 minutes in the last matchday. CSKA have always prided themselves on making things uncomfortable for the higher seeds in the Champions League. This season they have been the complete opposite and it hasn’t been pretty to watch.

Dynamo Kiev

A pale shadow of the team that made the second round last season. As the other three teams play out a close race for qualification, they’ll look to Kiev for bonus points. A sad regression for the Ukrainian champions.

Club Brugge

Another performance of heart and endeavour, but simply don’t possess the quality to make any sort of impact in this competition. They never looked like getting a point in Portugal, much like all their other matches in the Champions League this season.

Dinamo Zagreb

They were always going to struggle at Sevilla, but it became infinitely harder when they were down to ten men. Dinamo made a Champions League game look like a training exercise for Sevilla. Simply unacceptable.

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