It’s the penultimate round of matches in the group stages of the Champions and Europa Leagues with a lot of action taking place. Luckily, Eion Smith is here to recap and make sense of it all (bold denotes already qualified teams)…
Group leaders Manchester United strolled through to the knockout stages with a game to spare after their thumping 5-0 win in Leverkusen. An Emir Spahic own goal and strikes from Antonio Valencia, Johnny Evans, Chris Smalling and Nani gave David Moyes his biggest win since taking over in the summer. It was a huge blow for Leverkusen though and now Sami Hyypia’s side have it all to do as they dropped to third heading into the final game. Shakhtar Donetsk took a big step towards the knockout stages with a convincing 4-0 win at home to bottom side Real Sociedad. Two from Douglas Costa and one apiece from Luiz Adriano and Alex Teixeira gave the Ukrainians the win and puts them a point ahead of Leverkusen with a game to play. Real Sociedad are out of Europe altogether as they are mathematically rooted to the bottom of the table.
1. Manchester United
2. Shakhtar Donetsk
3. Bayer Leverkusen
4. Real Sociedad
Real Madrid were pretty much through before their home tie against Galatasaray but put in a strong showing with a 4-1 win securing top spot for the Spanish giants. Goals from Gareth Bale, Alvaro Arbeloa, Angel Di Maria and Isco secured the points despite an early red card for defender Sergio Ramos and an almost instant equaliser from Umut Bulut after Bale’s opener. It was a big blow for the Turkish champions as well as they were in second before the game began but slipped back to third at the end of the night thanks to Juventus’ first win in the group stage this season. The Italian champions beat FC Copenhagen 3-1 at home and leapfrogged Galatasaray and their visitors into second. They have Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal to thank as his first career hat trick (two of the goals from the penalty spot) secured the points while Olof Mellberg scored for the visitors. The results leave every team in with a chance of progressing to the knockout stages in the final round of games.
1. Real Madrid
4. FC Copenhagen
Group leaders PSG secured their passage through to the knockout stages with a game to spare with a dramatic late win over second placed Olympiacos in Paris. Zlatan Ibrahomvic’s early opener was cancelled out by Kostas Manolas for the visitors before Edinson Cavani’s late winner gave the Parisians a 2-1 win. PSG are through and will finish top no matter what while Olympiacos are now in a tense battle to get through thanks to third placed Benfica’s win at Anderlecht. Chancel Mbemba opened the scoring for the home side before Nemanja Matic and an own goal from Mbemba put Benfica 2-1 ahead. Massimo Bruno’s equaliser looked to have dented sent Olympiacos through at Benfica’s expese but substitute Rodrigo scored in the last minute and that couple with Cavani’s goal moved Benfica level on points with Olympiacos. The Portuguese side remain third due to their inferior head-to-head record while Anderlecht will finish bottom regardless of results.
The already qualified holders Bayern Munich did not slow down in Moscow as they beat third placed CSKA 3-1 in the early kick off and set a new Champions League record in the process. A Thomas Müller penalty and goals from Arjen Robben and Mario Götze secured a tenth consecutive win in the competition which is a new record. Keisuke Honda grabbed a consolation from the spot for the home side. That result sent second placed Manchester City before they had even kicked off but it made no difference to them as they beat bottom side Viktoria Plzen 4-2 at home. A penalty from Sergio Aguero plus goals from Edin Dzeko, Samir Nasri and Alvaro Negredo absolutely secured City’s passage through. Tomas Horava and Stanislav Tecl scored for the plucky visitors who remain bottom and without a point in the group.
1. Bayern Munich
2. Manchester City
3. CSKA Moscow
4. Viktoria Plzen
Group leaders Chelsea are through as well with a game to spare despite their 1-0 loss at Basel. A late goal from Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah gave the Swiss champions the win and moved them into second after Schalke drew 0-0 at bottom side Steaua Bucharest. With Schalke a point behind Basel in third and the those two side facing each other to see who goes through, Chelsea cannot miss out on the group stage although they do still have to secure top spot in the group.
2. FC Basel
4. Steaua Bucharest
Arsenal took a big step to securing their passage through the group stage and ensuring top spot in the group with a 2-0 win over bottom side Marseille. Jack Wilshere scored both of Arsenal’s goals at the Emirates to leave the Gunners needing just a point at Napoli to go through. Marseille are now out of Europe completely with no points on the board. The other group game saw Borussia Dortmund leapfrog Napoli into second with a 3-1 win in Dortmund. A Marco Reus penalty, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang secured the points for Dortmund with Lorenzo Insigne getting on the scoresheet for the visitors. Dortmund and Napoli are level on points in second and third, three points behind Arsenal at the top.
2. Borussia Dortmund
Atletico Madrid lost their 100% record in Group G in the early kick off as they drew 1-1 at Zenit. Adrian Lopez opened the scoring for the visitors before a Toby Alderweireld own goal saw the points shared. That result gave Porto the chance to leapfrog Zenit into second but they were held to a surprise 1-1 draw at home against bottom side Austria Vienna. Roman Kienast opened the scoring for the visitors and only a Jackson Martinez equaliser stopped further embarrassment for Porto. There is still a point between Zenit and Porto as they battle it out to see who goes through and who drops into the Europa League.
1. Atletico Madrid
2. Zenit St. Petersburg
3. FC Porto
4. Austria Vienna
Second place Milan took a step in the right direction towards the knockout stages with a comfortable 3-0 win at Celtic. Kaka, Cristian Zapata and Mario Balotelli got the goals as Milan ran out comfortable winners in Glasgow. They aren’t full home and dry yet as third place Ajax stay a point behind them heading into the final game thanks to their surprising 2-1 home win over the already qualified Barcelona. Thulani Serero and Danny Hoesen got the crucial goals while a Xavi penalty wasn’t enough for the visitors. That result also knocked Celtic out of Europe altogether and set up a big showdown in Milan between second and third.
2. AC Milan
It was a big night at the top of Group A as the top two clashed in South Wales. Valencia secured their passage into the knockout stage and top spot in the group with a 1-0 at Swansea. Daniel Parejo got the only goal of the game leaving Swansea needing a point to secure their own progression. Kuban Krasnodar kept alive any hope they had of progressing with a thumping 4-0 win over St Gallen in Russia. Lorenzo Melgarejo scored twice and was joined by Vladislav Ignatyev and Charles Kaboré which puts them three points behind Swansea with a game to go. The result sees that St Gallen are out of the Europa League early.
4. St Gallen
Ludogorets’ incredible debut in the Europa League will continue past Christmas as they completed the double over PSV at home. Two goals from Roman Bezjak secured a 2-0 win and top spot for Bulgarians who will be a very dark horse in the knockout stages. PSV still need a point to qualify as Chornomorets defeated Dinamo Zagreb in Odessa to move level on points with a game to go. Fatos Beciraj opened the scoring for the visitors before Olexiy Antonov and then a very late Anatoliy Didenko goal secured a 2-1 win and last day showdown in Eindhoven. However, Dinamo Zagreb are out of the Europa League.
4. Dinamo Zagreb
With qualification already sorted in Group C, all that’s left to play for is top spot. Current occupants Red Bull Salzburg kept their 100% record going with a 1-0 at Elfsborg. Marco Meilinger scored the goal for the Austrians who look very dangerous but aren’t secure at the top yet as second placed Esbjerg remain three points behind with a game to go. They beat Standard Liege 2-1 at home to stay in touch with Mick van Buren scoring both. Igor de Camargo scored for the visitors. Salzburg and Esbjerg will meet on the final day to see who finishes top.
1. Red Bull Salzburg
4. Standard Liege
Already qualified group winners Rubin Kazan were held to a 1-1 draw at home by bottom side Maribor to keep the Slovenian side’s chances of progressing there but they are very slim. Bebras Natcho opened the scoring for Rubin but Dejan Mezga’s late goal got Maribor the crucial point. Second placed Wigan could have secured their own passage through with a win at home to Zulte Waregem but succumbed to a late 2-1 defeat. Leon Barnett opened the scoring for the hosts but goals from Thorgen Hazard and Junior Malanda saw the Belgian side leapfrog their hosts into second with a game to go.
1. Rubin Kazan
2. Zulte Waregem
3. Wigan Athletic
This group is all about the race for top spot with Dnipro and Fiorentina already qualified. The Italians hold top spot and could have all but secured it with a win but were held to a 0-0 draw by bottom side Pacos de Ferreira in Portugal. Dnipro took the opportunity to close the gap at the top to just a point as the beat Pandurii 4-1 in Ukraine. Nikola Kalinic, Roman Zozulya, Yevhen Shakov and Serhiy Kravchenko all scored for the hosts with Eric Pereira’s penalty being a mere consolation for the visitors. Fiorentina and Dnipro will meet on the final day to see who finishes top.
3. Pacos de Ferreira
Top of the table Eintracht Frankfurt secured top spot and their safe passage through the group stage with a 1-0 at bottom side Bordeaux. Martin Lanig scored late on to secure the points for the German side and, in doing so, ended Bordeaux’s slim hopes of progression. Eintracht could be joined by Maccabi Tel-Aviv as they only need a point on the final day. They could have went through a game early but could only draw 0-0 in Nicosia against APOEL. The result kept APOEL’s slim chance of progression alive.
1. Eintracht Frankfurt
2. Maccabi Tel-Aviv
The top two in Group G squared off in Belgium as top of the table Genk beat Dynamo Kiev 3-1 and secured top spot and their progression to the knockout stages. Andriy Yarmolenko opened the scoring for the visitors but a Jelle Vossen penalty, Bennard Kumordzi and Benjamin de Ceulaer secured the points for the hosts. Dynamo will now have to endure a nervy final day clash with Rapid Vienna after the Austrians moved within a point of Dynamo thanks to their 2-1 win over Thun. Goals from Terrence Boyd and Branko Boskovic either side of Berat Sadik’s gave the hosts the win and left them in with a shout of progression from the group. The result knocked out Thun however.
2. Dynamo Kiev
3. Rapid Vienna
4. FC Thun
Group leaders Sevilla secured their progression to the knockout stages but haven’t secured top spot yet thanks to their 1-1 draw at home with bottom side Estoril. Kevin Gameiro had put the Spaniards ahead early on but a very late equaliser from Ruben Fernandes saw Estoril leave with a point. However, the Portuguese side are out of the competition. Freiburg and Liberec will fight for the other spot through to the next round on the final day after the Germans won 2-1 in Liberec to move into second and level on points with their hosts. Matthias Ginter and Francis Coquelin got the Freiburg goals and despite Serhiy Rybalka’s goal, Freiburg held on for the win.
3. Slovan Liberec
The top two clashed in Lyon as the hosts got a crucial 1-0 win over Real Betis. Bafetimbi Gomis scored the only goal of a tight game to give Lyon the points and take them above Betis by a point with a game to go. The night wasn’t all bad for Betis though as Guimaraes’ 0-0 draw at bottom side Rijeka sent both Betis and Lyon through to the knockout stages. The only thing left to decide is who finishes top on the final day.
1. Olympique Lyon
2. Real Betis
3. Vitoria Guimaraes
The top two secured their progression to the next round with relatively comfortable victories in their games. Top of the table Trabzonspor had to see off a spirited fightback from Apollon Limassol but eventually won out 4-2 at home. Two from Olcan Adin and one from Soner Aydogdu had Trabzonspor 3-0 up by the hour mark before Guie Gneki Abraham and a Gaston Sangoy penalty got Apollon back into it. Adin completed his hat trick late on to secure the Turkish side’s win and progression. Lazio got a relatively comfortable 2-0 win over bottom side Legia Warsaw with Brayan Perea and Felipe Anderson getting on the scoresheet. The result was enough to send Lazio through while Legia will finish bottom but have the chance to get a point and goal on the board at Apollon on the last day.
3. Apollon Limassol
4. Legia Warsaw
Tottenham kept their 100% record in the Europa League and secured top spot in the group with their 2-0 win at bottom side Tromso. Adnan Causevic’s own goal and Moussa Dembele were the difference for the table toppers as they comfortably continue on in the competition. They will be joined in the next round by Anzhi Makhachkala after their 1-1 home draw with Sheriff was enough to send them through. Ismail Isa’s opener for the visitors was cancelled out by former Sheriff player Alexandru Epureanu’s equaliser.
1. Tottenham Hotspur
2. Anzhi Makhachkala
The top two in Group L have been pretty even throughout the group and are level on points as they mirrored each other to secure their progression. Top of the table AZ Alkmaar defeated their Israeli visitors Maccabi Haifa 2-0 in Alkmaar. Nemanja Gudelj and Johann Gudmundsson scored the goals as AZ retained their place atop Group L. PAOK also won 2-0 and ended the long European run of Shakhter Karagandy in Kazakhstan. An Aldin Dzidic own goal and late strike from Stelios Kitsiou saw the Greek side progress and set up a final day showdown with AZ to see who finishes top.
1. AZ Alkmaar
3. Maccabi Haifa
4. Shakhter Karagandy
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