Bayern Munich ruthless, team phase MVP, plus dark horse groups
The 2022-23 Champions League team stage is all wrapped up, and there was no shortage of drama, objectives and chaos. Bayern Munich achieved a perfect file, Tottenham Hotspur narrowly clinched qualification into the knockouts and Club Brugge produced it out of the group phase for the initial time in their heritage.
In the meantime, Atletico Madrid have been humiliated after finishing previous in their group, Rangers ended with the worst record in a team phase, and Barcelona are back in the Europa League for the second consecutive year.
Our writers James Olley, Julien Laurens and Alex Kirkland reply some of the massive concerns arising from this week’s game titles.
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What caught your notice from matchday six?
Olley: Bayern Munich’s remorseless group phase record. The Bundesliga giants this week became the first workforce to get all six team matches on a few separate instances. They’ve done it in the past four seasons, as well, with an aggregate rating of 64-10 — and not in opposition to minnows possibly: Bayern have confronted Barcelona (two times), Inter Milan, Tottenham and Benfica among the some others in that time. By contrast, a exclusive point out for Rangers making a strong case as the worst crew in Champions League team phase background, racking up the worst-at any time objective big difference (-20) of any team to reduce all six matches.
Laurens: Benfica’s incredible earn away at Maccabi Haifa to pip Paris Saint-Germain to top rated spot in the group. The Portuguese club have been one particular of the best teams of this spherical, but they started off the evening in second location with the exact total of factors as PSG but +4 of objective variance towards Paris’ +8. At 1-1 at 50 %-time in Israel, it failed to seem like they could do it but they experienced an awesome 2nd 50 percent to earn 6-1, bridging the intention-big difference gap and beating PSG on away goals scored. Benfica coach Roger Schmidt and his gamers celebrated in design and style on the pitch when it was confirmed that they experienced concluded best, meaning they will stay away from experiencing any of the other group winners in the attract for the spherical of 16.
Kirkland: Celtic experienced very little to play for at the Bernabeu on Wednesday — they have been by now particular to finish base of Team F — but that didn’t end 8,000 followers from touring to Serious Madrid to delight in the situation. Formally, just more than 2,000 experienced tickets, but there were several a lot more dotted all around the stadium. Their noisy enthusiasm was only a bit dampened by heading driving early to Luka Modric’s sixth-moment penalty, as a ruthless Madrid scored 5 situations — the outstanding Fede Valverde contributing a extensive-array objective and an help that was reminiscent of the one he delivered in very last season’s Champions League last — just before Jota rewarded the absent followers with a late free of charge kick to see the video game conclusion 5-1.
Janusz Michallik reacts to Serious Madrid’s snug earn above Celtic to prime Group F in the Champions League.
Which team is the dim horse in this year’s knockout levels?
Laurens: Eintracht Frankfurt are the shock entrants in the round of 16, and it is an wonderful story. They are the proper dark horses with almost nothing to get rid of. Everything is a bonus now for the 2022 Europa League winners. They have a excellent device, wonderful staff spirit, are tactically tough to beat and have wonderful abilities like Randal Kolo Muani, Evan N’Dicka or Jesper Lindstrom, skilled players like Mario Gotze or Kevin Trapp. They perform with depth and could bring about issues for many clubs with their quick attacking transitions.
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Kirkland: Does a team which is prime of Serie A — and topped Team A forward of very last season’s crushed finalists Liverpool — rely as a dim horse? Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli have gained so lots of admirers currently this time, and gamers these kinds of as Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Giacomo Raspadori and Stanislav Lobotka are among the most fun to enjoy in Europe. No person will want to fulfill them in the spherical of 16. Usually, Porto seemed superior pulling off a impressive turnaround in Group B, recovering from back-to-back losses in their initial two game titles to get four in a row, scoring 11 goals and conceding just one particular.
Olley: It may perhaps seem odd to describe AC Milan as “dark horses” presented they have received the opposition on 7 events, but this is their initially visual appeal in the knockout phases given that 2014. They managed to end 2nd in a group that contains Chelsea — winners in 2021 — despite battling a significant personal injury record for significantly of the team stage. Winger Rafael Leao is understandably attracting key curiosity from some of Europe’s powerhouses, but they possess talent in abundance and Stefano Pioli’s youthful team have room for even more advancement as the event progresses.
Craig Burley slams Atletico Madrid’s ‘archaic’ brand of football following they crashed out of the Champions League and also skipped out on a Europa League place.
Atletico completed bottom of their group for the very first time in their background. Is the Diego Simeone period coming to an stop?
Kirkland: Isn’t it always? Midseason crises have develop into a regular celebration at Atletico. The staff slump, Simeone comes less than pressure, they bounce back again to complete in the best four in LaLiga and qualify for the Champions League, and on it goes. But when they have had European disappointments ahead of — dropping out at the group stage in 2017 — it is in no way been this lousy. That calendar year they received the Europa League. Now there is certainly no European football at all. The rock-good, supremely cynical Atletico that played two Champions League finals feels like historical history. This newest model is fragile in defence and lacks clarity in attack. Setting up a successful team again may be Simeone’s biggest exam however.
Olley: Atletico are in the midst of an identification crisis, now exacerbated by exiting Europe in this humiliating vogue. A staff started on dogged, tireless defensive willpower transported nine targets in the group phase and 12 so much in as quite a few LaLiga games. Simeone has beforehand spoken about hoping to make Atletico a additional expansive team but they appear to be caught among what they were and what they want to be, a problem not aided by Joao Felix mainly failing to dwell up to his price tag. It won’t have to be the finish of an era but Simeone possibly has to generate legitimate evolution or return this Atletico staff to the ideas that enabled them to punch earlier mentioned their weight for so very long.
Laurens: The cycle has been over for a though. The league title two a long time back was only thanks to the magic of Luis Suarez from the initially 50 percent of the season and that of Jan Oblak in the next 50 % of that campaign. Simeone’s ways are of an additional time and with the current squad he has at his disposal, it is a shame that they only won a person sport in a team that includes Brugge, Bayer Leverkusen and Porto. To end bottom of the table and skip out on the Europa League location is humiliating, as well. The conclusion of the time would be the excellent time to start off a new chapter and for the club to portion ways with Simeone who is underneath deal until June 2024. But in its place, they are conversing about extending his offer.
Who is your team phase MVP?
Olley: Napoli have exceeded all expectations at property and abroad this year, and Kvaratskhelia is fast starting to be one of Europe’s best attributes. The Serie A facet reportedly compensated just €10m to acquire the 21-yr-aged from Dinamo Batuni this summer time but he has excelled on the Champions League stage, registering two targets and 3 assists from five appearances in a collection of dynamic and exhilarating performances. Actual Madrid, Liverpool and Chelsea are just three of the golf equipment tracking the Georgian winger in advance of a possible major-income transfer subsequent summer months.
Laurens: Even if PSG finished next driving Benfica, Kylian Mbappe has been outstanding. He scored 7 objectives (his very best record in a group stage) which include some beauties like the first 1 from Juventus in Paris and he gave a few helps as nicely. At 23 and 317 times, he turned the youngest participant ever to attain 40 ambitions in the competition, beating Lionel Messi’s file. And even with all the agitation all around him and his future in the very last couple of months, he has been taking part in at a prime amount in the course of this group phases.
Kirkland: Forgive the deficiency of originality, but: Messi. 4 objectives, 4 helps and a blossoming, lethal partnership with Mbappe. Messi is back again to enjoying some of the very best football of his vocation, and now appears to be settled and solely at ease at Paris Saint-Germain. This could lastly be their calendar year.