For the past three weeks I have talked a lot of football, but barely watched any, as I have been participating in the Budapest-Bamako rally. This has of course been a challenging but awesome experience, but in the meantime many things have happened in the football world, as we approach the coming World Cup.
The most important action happened in the Champions League, where the group stages finalised with some surprising, and some less surprising results. Spanish teams did particularly badly: former finalists of Atletico Madrid ended dead last in Group B, while FC Barcelona and Sevilla made it to third place in groups C and G respectively, and in particular Barcelona was a disappointment, losing 0-3 to Bayern Munich at home. Real Madrid are the only Spanish team through, as winners of group F, ahead of RB Leipzig.
Portuguese teams on the other hand have looked strong: Porto and Benfica are through as group winners, the latter ahead of mighty Paris St. Germain, through goal difference after defeating Maccabi Haifa 1-6 in the last match.
The German Bundesliga and the English Premier League are well represented in the knock-out phases. In the former case, Bayern Munich went through as winners of group C, while Eintracht Frankfurt, RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund are all through as runners-up. In the case of the four English teams, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City, all went through as group winners, while Liverpool went through as runners-up in group A, despite defeating the group winners of Napoli in the final match.
Italian teams have been strong, in particular Napoli, winning their group A ahead of Liverpool, but also Inter Milan and AC Milan going through as runners-up of groups C and E respectively. The disappointment was Juventus in group H, who were no match for Benfica and Paris St. Germain.
Finally, one Belgian team went through: Club Brugge as runners up in Group B, behind Porto, after heaviliy losing the final match 0-4 to the Portuguese, but at the same time ahead of Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid.
The knock-out matches, scheduled for February next year, looks as follows:
- RB Leipzig-Manchester City
- Club Brugge-Benfica
- Liverpool-Real Madrid
- Tottenham-AC Milan
- Eintracht Frankfurt-Napoli
- Chelsea-Borussia Dortmund
- Inter Milan-Porto
- Bayern Munich-Paris St. Germain
I need not say (but will anyway), that the matches most fans will be watching for are Liverpool-Real Madrid and Bayern Munich-PSG; although all matches will be fantastic!
Most leagues are shutting down this week, as players either go on leave or to joing their national teams for the World Cup. Some exciting weeks are ahead!