The penultimate matchday of the 2016/2017 group stage served up plenty of mouthwatering action, incredible saves and a lot of goals. 12 of the 16 teams for the first knockout round have been confirmed, with only three groups yet to be decided.
What did we learn from the Champions League Week 5?
This version of Bayern Munich is inferior
The German champions went down to FC Rostov on Wednesday, their second defeat in the group to consign them to a 2nd placed finish.
Pep Guardiola finished top of his group in each of his three seasons in charge, and this defeat means Bayern have an excellent chance of drawing a super power like PSG, Barcelona, or Real Madrid in the Round of 16.
Marco Reus is one of the best wingers in the world
Marco Reus returned straight into the limelight from his six-month injury, scoring a delightful hat-trick as Borussia Dortmund mauled Legia Warsaw 8-4, a new UEFA Champions League record.
The German forward, reminded everyone while he is so highly regarded despite his terrible injury record. BVB are a different beast when Reus is fit and firing.
The French League is Stronger
The Ligue 1 has three representatives in the UCL this year; Monaco, Lyon and PSG. In recent seasons, only PSG has consistently made it out of the Group stages, while Monaco has been hit and miss.
This season Monaco have finished top of their group, and PSG is almost sure to do the same barring a bizarre result in their final group game. Lyon will join the French duo in the next round if they beat Sevilla by at least a two-goal margin in the final group game.
Arsenal like the challenging route
When Marco Verratti unwittingly put the ball in his own net to put Arsenal in the lead against PSG, it put the Gunners ahead in the group, a feat they’ve struggled to attain in recent seasons.
However, in typical Arsenal fashion, the Gunners allowed Lucas, to head in a corner to draw PSG level and put them ahead in the group.
The North Londoners have had some tough luck in recent seasons in the Round of 16, regularly drawing Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid and Juventus are Arsenal’s likely opponents in the next round, and Arsenal might find themselves out of the tournament in the Round of 16 for the 7th consecutive season.
Juventus are dark horses to win this year
The Champions League favourites this season are, as usual, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
But in Group H, Juventus are going about their business in a professional manner, leading the group with three wins and two draws.
The impressive thing about their campaign this season is that all three of their victories so far have come away from home. Should this continue, it will serve them well in the knockout stages.
Leicester City is having a party
Last season’s fairytale English Premier League Champions Leicester City are having a tough time in the domestic league, sitting in 14th place, 2 points outside the relegation zone.
The reverse is the case in Europe, as four wins and one draw has them confirmed as group winners. If the Premier League champions can get favourable draws in the Round of 16 and Quarter Finals, the town of Leicester might have another reason to celebrate next year.
Tottenham need a bigger squad
Tottenham Hotspur, the only unbeaten team in the English Premier League this season, have had a dismal Champions League campaign, losing 3 and winning only 1 of their 5 group games.
The aggressive style of play Spurs utilise in the Premier League serves them very well, but takes its toll physically. The situation is so dire that loss to CSKA Moscow on Matchday 6 will see them miss out of the Europa League.
Going forward, for the North London outfit to compete properly in the League and the Champions League, they will need a bigger squad to ensure they can rotate the squad to keep them fresh without an apparent drop in quality.
There will be plenty of tasty round of 16 ties
With teams like Arsenal, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Sevilla and Porto currently in second place, there are bound to be some high calibre Round of 16 games against the current group leaders Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona, Juventus, Atletico Madrid and PSG.
The idea of seeding the multiple league winners has reduced the occurrence of the famed group of death and ensured the groups are more balanced, leading to more engaging knockout ties.
Barcelona is yet to find a successor for Iniesta
Andre Gomes, signed for €35 million in the summer is still struggling to convince his doubters that he can cut it in Barcelona.
The Portuguese international was the least impressive player in the win over Celtic, and the situation isn’t a one-off.
Andreas Iniesta usually provides much of the ammunition for MSN to thrive, and the dip in quality is really apparent in his absence.
Messi and Neymar are helping to paper over the cracks, but should the Portuguese International continue his lacklustre form; the Catalans might suffer in the latter stages of the tournament.
Kevin De Bruyne is the creative King of Manchester City
Kevin de Bruyne’s pinpoint pass to pick out David Silva for Manchester City’s goal once again highlights the quality and effectiveness of the baby-faced midfielder.
He now has one goal and four assists in his last five games for Manchester City and is the cornerstone of the Citizens creative spark.
If the Manchester team are to go far in this tournament, Pep Guardiola will need to find a way to keep his Belgian star fit and in form.