With three rounds of UEFA Champions League behind us it’s time for the elite 32 European football clubs to venture off into the second half of UCL group stage, where it will be now or never for some of the teams, while others look to win one last match that would guarantee them a spot in the playoffs.
Now let’s take a look at how the groups look like, which teams have performed the best so far and what does the future hold in store for us and the teams as we head into round four.
Heading into round four, PSG are one game away from earning themselves a spot in the playoffs and considering they are facing Club Brugge, it’s fair to say PSG are guaranteed promotion. Real Madrid, while five points behind PSG have an excellent chance to join the French champions in the playoffs. Their next fixture will be against Galatasaray who they have defeated in round three already and should they claim all three points here, Los Blancos would be set to enter the playoffs.
Despite the poor form of Tottenham so far this season, it’s hard to imagine they will drop the ball and finish third. Following their 5:0 win against Crvena Zvezda in round three, they have left a strong statement and if they can keep up the momentum, Tottenham should be joining Bayern Munich in the playoffs. The German champions on the other side need only one more win to be handed a ticket to the playoffs and considering their next opponents are Olympiacos they are more or less set to get into the final 16.
Much like PSG and Bayern, Man City are guaranteed a spot in the final 16, whereas gates for the second ticket are still wide open. Dinamo Zagreb and Shakthar are both strong contesters for that spot seeing how they are tied with four points apiece. That said the tie will most likely break in round 4 when the two sides meet. The upcoming bout promises to be a thrilling fixture, which will decide which of the two teams will advance into the playoffs and which will be sent packing.
Group D is more or less decided, with Juventus and Atletico Madrid two points away from securing a spot in the final 16. Both squads own seven points, while the third-placed Lokomotiv Moscow hold onto only three. Suffice to say the Russian roster won’t be able to catch up, meaning we can rest assured Atletico Madrid and Juventus will both appear in the playoffs.
Much like Group D, Group E is more or less decided. The reigning UCL champions Liverpool are set for another playoffs appearance with six points, while Napoli sit first in the group with seven points. That said, if Salzburg upset Napoli and produce a solid result against Liverpool, they could make it into the top two. Will the Austrian squad manage that feat is anyone’s guess, however, we should get a clearer answer by the end of round four, where we will see Napoli host Salzburg for a rematch. The first match ended 2:3 in favour of Napoli, which suggests this one could be close as well.
Barcelona lead the race in group F with seven points, closely followed by Inter and Borussia Dortmund, who both hold onto four points. With that in mind, the race for the second seed is still far from over, seeing how both inter and Borussia Dortmund could make it out of the groups.
The decisive fixture of the said race will happen this round, when Dortmund and Inter meet in Germany for their second fixture of the season. The first one ended in favour of Inter (2:0), and they will look for nothing less than another victory here, which would basically guarantee them a spot in the top two.
Group G is still wide open in terms of the top two spots. As it stands now, RB Leipzig sit at the top with six points, Zenit and Lyon are second with four and Benfica are fourth with three points. If all goes to plans, Leipzig should be the one exiting the group as the first seed, but with unpredictable matches ahead, it’s hard to say exactly who and how will make it out of the groups here. Benfica will meet with Lyon, while Zenit will host Leipzig in round four, both of which promise to be exciting fixtures, carrying a lot of importance for all four teams to perform up to par and win.
Chelsea and Ajax remain tied at the top of the group with six points apiece, closely followed by Valencia with four points. Lille remain at the bottom with only one point and it’s safe to say they should remain there even after the next round. With only two points separating the top three teams, group H is still wide open, with all three with a very solid chance to advance here. Chelsea and Ajax will clash in round four in what will be a match that will guarantee one of the teams a ticket for the playoffs, meanwhile, it will push the other into an unenviable position, where they will play a catch-up game with Valencia. That is if Valencia can avoid another disappointment and defeat Lille this round, which they failed to do in round three (1:1).