The tables are turned upside down this season and the qualifications to the knockout stages point to a shift in sporting powers. While England will be represented by Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool, plus Tottenham’s expected top table finish on MD-6, Spain will be represented only by Real Madrid.
Barcelona, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid all officially bowed out of the competition on MD-5. The Italians also produced positive results to see Napoli and Inter Milan cement spots in the knockout stages, plus AC Milan depending on Milan’s final 90 minutes. From the Italian contingent, only Juventus cold be left behind. The irony is that over the past decade Juventus has traditionally been the most likely Italian club to advance to the R16.
Germany continues its consistency booking two spots under Bayern Munich and Dortmund. Two more spots are up for grabs as Frankfurt and Leipzig still have strong chances to qualify, while Leverkusen are fighting for a Europa League spot. France will be represented by PSG (as usual) and Marseille is battling for the second French spot in the round of 16. Portugal is putting on a strong display with Benfica and Porto ensured qualification to the knockout stages and Sporting is also likely to reach the R16.
MD-6 is always the tricky one from a fantasy point of view; eight clubs are playing for four knockout stage tickets and a different set of eight clubs are playing to win their respective groups. On the flip side, other clubs have already topped their groups or crashed out, and therefore have nothing tangible to play for this week.
MD-6’s fixtures are all mirrors of MD-1. Considering the effects of the fixtures on the final table standings, MD-6 features these marquee match-ups:
- Liverpool vs Napoli
- Sporting CP vs Frankfurt
- Marseille vs Tottenham
- Shakhtar Donetsk vs RB Leipzig
- AC Milan vs Salzburg
- Juventus vs PSG
Tuesday’s early matches are Porto vs Atletico Madrid and Leverkusen vs Club Brugge, so we’ll see confirmed lineups for those four teams ahead of the transfer deadline.
On Wednesday, the two early matches are Real Madrid vs Celtic and Shakhtar Donetsk vs RB Leipzig, so we will see those four lineups confirmed before the substitution deadline.
Napoli 15 pts - Liverpool 12 pts - Ajax 3 pts - Rangers 0 pts
Both Napoli and Liverpool extended their leads by defeating Rangers 3-0 and Ajax 3-0 respectively in MD-5. Napoli and Liverpool are set to play for first place in the group on MD-6. If the Italian and English outfits both win, Liverpool will have to overcome Napoli’s goal-differential advantage in order to take top spot.
Liverpool know well that if they do not win this group and all the other groups rankings do not change then they will be forced to face either Club Brugge, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid in the knockout round, so expect Liverpool to go in with all their might to destroy Napoli at Anfield. Ajax on the other hand must settle for securing a Europa League knockout stage spot by winning, drawing or losing with more than 5 goals against Rangers.
- Napoli vs Sassuolo - Serie A - Saturday
- Liverpool vs Leeds - EPL - Saturday
- Ajax do not have a scheduled match this weekend.
- Rangers vs Aberdeen - Scottish Premiership - Saturday
Club Brugge 10 pts - Porto 9 pts - Atletico Madrid 5 pts - Leverkusen 4 pts
Porto continued their strong showings on MD-5 by defeating group leaders Club Brugge 4-0 in Belgium. The victory halted Brugge’s chance to make history by winning a Champions League group. The Portuguese club also booked a spot in the round of 16. For both clubs, winning the group will make all the difference; otherwise second place will have Bayern Munich, Manchester City or Real Madrid in the pot of teams they must go against.
Lady Luck toyed with Atletico Madrid throughout the group stage but finally decided to put an end to the Spanish outfit’s misery on MD-5. After the Atletico vs Leverkusen referee sounded the end of match whistle and I turned off the TV, but unbeknownst to me VAR had awarded Atletico Madrid a penalty for a handball conceded by Leverkusen. From there the chaos only continued as Carrasco’s penalty shot was saved and the follow-up was denied by the crossbar before a third attempt was blocked and deflected out of play to finally end the match. Both Atletico Madrid and Leverkusen play for the Europa League qualifying third place and will have a say in who wins the group when they face Porto and Club Brugge respectively.
- Club Brugge vsKV Oostende - Pro League - Saturday
- Santa Clara vs Porto - Primeira Liga - Saturday
- Cadiz vs Atletico Madrid - La Liga - Saturday
- RB Leipzig vs Leverkusen - Bundesliga - Saturday
Bayern Munich ended all speculation of a Blaugrana comeback when Sadio Mane started a 3-0 victory romp over the Catalan club in Barcelona. In the process, Bayern won the group, which will allow them the luxury of resting all first team players when they play against Inter Milan on MD-6. The Italian giants took second place from the group of death by defeating Viktoria Plzen 4-0 in Milano. The fans were additionally satisfied with the return of Lukaku, who scored a goal minutes after he was substituted in.
Barcelona secured the Europa League third spot within group C and will not be bothered by Viktoria Plzen’s MD-6 match. This will be a good opportunity for Xavi to test squad players and new tactics. It has been a few days since their Champions League exit but Xavi remains at the helm of Barcelona with belief that he can win a trophy this season (as long as Bayern is not in the same competition?).
- Bayern Munich vs Mainz 05 - Bundesliga - Saturday
- Inter Milan vs Sampdoria - Serie A - Saturday
- Valencia vs Barcelona - La Liga - Saturday
- FC Trinity Zlin vs Viktoria Plzen - Czech First Division - Saturday
Tottenham 8 pts - Sporting CP 7 pts - Frankfurt 7 pts - Marseille 6 pts
Just moments before the Atletico Madrid penalty shot blunder, Harry Kane scored what would have been the winning goal for Tottenham against Sporting CP, but was denied by VAR for offside. The result ended as a 1-1 draw which meant Marseille could have topped the group with a win over Frankfurt, but the German side tripped them up. With only two points now separating first from fourth, explaining all the qualifying scenarios could take pages.
In simple terms, the following statement applies to all clubs: Win to qualify. Tottenham and Sporting can advance by merely drawing against Marseille and Frankfurt respectively, but any other combination of results gets complicated. Following the live table for this group while the matches are in play is going to be exciting!
- Bournemouth vs Tottenham - EPL - Saturday
- Strasbourg vs Marseille - Ligue 1 - Saturday
- Arouca vs Sporting CP - Primeira Liga - Saturday
- Frankfurt vs Dortmund - Bundesliga - Saturday
Chelsea 10 pts - AC Milan 7 pts - Salzburg 6 pts - Dinamo Zaghreb 4 pts
Chelsea finished the job on MD-5, qualifying and winning the group by defeating Salzburg 2-1. Chelsea will now be one of the clubs with the luxury of resting players on MD-6. AC Milan jumped from fourth place to second as they cruised past Dinamo Zaghreb 4-0 on MD-5.
The Italian club will host Salzburg in one of the few matches that will directly decide qualification. Milan must at least draw since a loss will allow Salzburg to overtake second place and leave Milan to join the Europa League contingent. Croatian champions Dinamo Zaghreb will be in gung-ho mode against Chelsea, hoping also for a gift from Milan that could send them into Europa League while crashing Salzburg out of European football.
- Brighton vs Chelsea - EPL - Saturday
- Salzburg vs TSV Hartberg - Austrian Bundesliga - Saturday
- Torino vs AC Milan - Serie A - Saturday
- NK Osijek vs Dinamo Zaghreb - 1. HNL - Saturday
Real Madrid 10 pts - RB Leipzig 9 pts - Shakhtar Donetsk 6 pts - Celtic 2 pts
Shakhtar Donetsk saved their UCL season by salvaging a draw with Celtic on MD-5. Shakhtar will be hosting RB Leipzig in a direct battle for the second qualification spot. A win for the Ukrainian champions means second place behind Real Madrid considering head to head results, as they otherwise tie on 9 points. A draw or a win means qualification is awarded to the German outfit.
Celtic will play to participate as they visit the Santiago Bernabeu to face Real Madrid. The Spanish giants fell on MD-5 against RB Leipzig 1-3 and must now end their group stage campaign with a win to avoid a repeat of last season’s round of 16 draw.
- Real Madrid vs Girona - La Liga - Sunday
- RB Leipzig vs Leverkusen - Bundesliga - Saturday
- Shakhtar Donetsk vs Oleksandria - Premier League - Saturday
- Livingston vs Celtic - Scottish Premiership - Sunday
Man City 11 pts - Dortmund 8 pts - Sevilla 5 pts - Copenhagen 2 pts
The Dortmund vs Manchester City reverse fixture ended 0-0 but this time fans are sweating over the health of Erling Haaland, who failed to make City’s EPL squad on Saturday and who has now been ruled out of MD-6.
The difference between first, second, third and fourth in the group is 3 points as you go down the rankings. Manchester City hosts Sevilla while Copenhagen host Dortmund. All results in MD-6 will have no effect on the final ranking of the group since any club that can catch up in points will still remain at the lower rank due to head to head results. Considering we all probably have 2-3 Man City players in our squads, it could be time to go for the Limitless chip, as Pep is likely to give his roulette wheel a furious spin.
- Leicester vs Man City - EPL - Saturday
- Frankfurt vs Dortmund - Bundesliga - Saturday
- Seville vs Rayo Vallecano - La Liga - Saturday
- Randers vs Copenhagen - Danish Superliga - Saturday
PSG 11 pts - Benfica 11 pts - Juventus 3 pts - Maccabi Haifa 3 pts
Benfica defeating Juventus did not come as a surprise to most Serie A fans. It was probably anticipated and welcomed by Juventus fans as well, thinking that the club’s UCL exit would mean Max Allegri’s sacking. Surprisingly, Juventus decided to retain Allegri’s services until the end of the season.
PSG scored 7 goals in MD-7 and conceded 2 playing against Maccabi Haifa. Benfica will be looking to do the same in their bid to win the group and force PSG to play against a seeded club in the round of 16. Considering both legs ended in 1-1 draw between PSG and Benfica, the latter must finish with 4 more goals on MD-6 than PSG to win the group. For example, if PSG wins 1-0 over Juventus then Benfica must win 5-0. This will favour Benfica in the away goals scored in all group matches after drawing with PSG on all other tie breakers.
At the bottom of the table, the goal difference in all group matches is in favour of Juventus considering both teams are tied in head to head matches at an aggregate of 3-3. Chances for Haifa to qualify to Europa League are somewhere under 1%.
- PSG vs Troyes - Ligue 1 - Saturday
- Benfica vs Chaves - Primeira Liga - Saturday
- Lecce vs Juventus - Serie A - Saturday
- Maccabi Haifa vs Ashdod - Ligat Ha’al - Saturday
Reminder: Groups A, B, C and D play on the same day while groups E, F, G and H play on the other day of each UCL match-day, so make sure to choose one goalkeeper from each set.
DTuron’s fantasy UCL strategy is a must read for all fantasy managers. And of course, please join me, DTuron, and hundreds of others in NMA’s UCL mini-league, and be sure to follow www.nevermanagealone.com for comprehensive fantasy coverage of the Champions League (and EPL and World Cup too!).
Hold your breath for Dhivakhar’s Player Picks article that publishes on Sunday, and take all the hints and tips from Chris’ Rate My Team article on Monday. I will be back with the Pre-Deadline article on Tuesday with all the latest team news and injury reports.
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