Thursday, December 07, 2017

Champions League 2017-18: group stages

Living in El Salvador time difference has made it challenging for me to follow the Champions League live. But I have watched matches after the fact, trying not to hear results beforehand (which is why I have been off Twitter during matches). Today I saw Liverpool’s trashing of Spartak Moscow, to give them a slightly surprising first place in the group. All in all, English teams have been doing better in previous years, even leading to some slight surprises.
  • Group A: Manchester United under Mourinho has been excellent albeit in a relatively easy group, where Swiss Basel took second place (and were the only team that managed to defeat United). CSKA Moscow took third place, while the Portuguese giants of Benfica were a huge disappointment with 0 points.
  • Group B: The least surprising group with Paris St. Germain and Bayern Munich cruising through, only taking points from one another, but PSG winning the group on goal difference. Everything the minnows of Celtic and Anderlecht did will quickly be forgotten.
  • Group C: Roma were slightly surprising as they won a group for the first time since 2008. Back then, it was also ahead of Chelsea. Both teams were better than the disappointment of Atletico Madrid, who were basically eliminated by the Azerbaijani debutantes from Qarabag, who got their only two points by two draws with the Spanish giants!
  • Group D: Another group without surprises with Barcelona cruising to first place and Juventus taking the second spot. Sporting took third place, completely unthreatened by a disappointing Olympiakos. 
  • Group E: One of the four undefeated teams in the CL is Liverpool. With their trashing today, they are the second most scoring team after PSG (who is nevertheless not undefeated). They won the group in style ahead of a Sevilla side who in the 2016 Europa League final had been one level above Liverpool. All credit to Klopp, who has a long term plan for Liverpool. Spartak Moscow still took third place, while Maribor managed to finish with a draw against Sevilla.
  • Group F: Manchester City only lost the last match, when they were already group winners, and should be a team to look out for this season. In the meantime Shakhtar Donetsk were a slightly surprising runner up, ahead of Napoli, who had probably expected to make it. Feyenoord took all hopes from the Italians by winning their last match with nothing to play for.
  • Group G: The big surprise was in this group by Besiktas, winning as one of the four undefeated sides.   Many will not expect much from them, but one must watch out for a team with such experienced players as Pepe, Gary Medel, Ricardo Quaresma or Alvaro Negredo. This may not be the last surprise they make. FC Porto took second place just ahead of German Leipzig. In the meantime last years’ semifinalists from Monaco were a shadow of themselves having lost so many of last season’s stars.
  • Group H: The other big surprise winners were Tottenham. Not because they are bad, but more because everyone was expecting Real Madrid to win the group. Instead Tottenham took first place undefeated, including a memorable win against the Spaniards. Tottenham are unstable though, and cannot be considered favourites. But Real Madrid of course still are. In the meantime Borussia Dortmund are in the Europa League where they will be considered favourites. Apoel trailed them all.

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