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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