The 2021-22 UEFA Champions League season has reached its last round of group stage fixtures with 11 out of 16 spots in the knockout rounds confirmed. The final round of matches will be held on December 7th and 8th with five knockout berths and six Europa League berths still up for grabs among the rest of the teams.
The only major team that is yet to secure its berth is Barcelona, who have to defeat Bayern Munich during their last game if they want to advance to the knockout rounds independent of Benfica’s performance.
As the UEFA Champions League inches closer to the Round of 16 draw on December 13, we take a look at the 11 qualified teams.
Group A has been touted as the most exciting group to watch in the tournament as it contains two of the title favourites Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.
Both European giants have secured their spot in the knockouts with a comfortable margin. But Mauricio Pochettino will have to tweak his strategies ahead of the next round of fixtures as the Parisians are having trouble finding their rhythm at the continental stage.
Lionel Messi’s side succumbed to a 2-1 victory at the hands of Manchester City on Wednesday, in a performance marked by lack of energy on the field. Pep Guardiola’s men, on the other hand, are having a phenomenal season both at home and abroad with their sights firmly set on reaching the final once again after falling short last year.
Liverpool’s stunning display of aggressive football has secured them a knockout berth early in the tournament, but it has left the remaining berth wide open between the remaining three teams.
In stark contrast to the defensive football they are becoming comfortable with at home, Jurgen Klopp’s men have shown their attacking instinct on the continental stage – scoring 15 goals in five matches and winning them all.
Mohamed Salah is in top form by scoring six goals in the tournament so far and remains the key to Liverpool’s hunt for a second Champions League title in three years.
Atletico Madrid were dealt a stunning blow on Wednesday after a 1-0 loss. They will have to defeat second-placed Porto in the next match and hope that the Reds defeat Milan by a comfortable margin to advance to the knockout rounds.
Ajax and Sporting CP secured their berths in the knockout rounds after outplaying Borussia Dortmund, which has left the German team to settle for a Europa League spot.
Sebastian Haller has scored nine goals out of five appearances for Ajax so far to give the Dutch club a perfect record in the group stages. Erik ten Hag’s men have crushed Borussia Dortmund by a 7-1 aggregate margin, showing their potential to throw up surprises in the knockout rounds.
Sporting CP on the other hand have been out of the limelight throughout the group stages, slowly adding up victories to secure their berth. An 8-1 aggregate victory over minnows Besiktas has enabled them to stay in the hunt before they surprised Borussia Dortmund by a 3-1 victory.
Ruben Amorim’s men are level on points with Porto in the tightly-contested Primeira Liga and would look to advance at least to the quarterfinals.
Real Madrid and Inter Milan have qualified comfortably in Group D. Real Madrid had to contend with a shock defeat against Sheriff Tiraspol in their second fixture, but Carlo Ancelotti’s men have been efficient since then to rally ahead of the competition.
Karim Benzema has scored the bulk of the goals for the Spanish side, but his future is in doubt following recent revelations. Toni Kroos and David Alaba have scored goals for the side on Wednesday. And with the presence of Vinicius Junior, Real Madrid are a side to reckon with in the title race.
Inter Milan might be having troubles back home. But in the Champions League, they have made a swift recovery to secure their berth. After losing 1-0 to Real Madrid and settling for a draw against Shakhtar Donetsk, Inter have won three back-to-back matches to advance to the knockout rounds.
With Inter and Real Madrid once again clashing on December 7, the outcome is set to decide the final seedings of both sides.
Robert Lewandowski’s phenomenal form and Barcelona’s continuing troubles mean that Group E’s second berth is yet to be filled. The German giants have scored a whopping 19 goals in five fixtures to boast a GD of 16, the highest in the league.
Nine of those goals came from Robert Lewandowski alone with Leroy Sane contributing a further four. Julian Nagelsman has set his sights firmly on the Champions League since he took charge earlier this season.
Bayern Munich have also been dominant in the Bundesliga to lead the table. As it stands, they are the favourites to win the tournament.
Barcelona’s problems have gone from bad to worse as the season progressed, but the club has hopes of a quick turnaround under their new coach Xavi Hernandez.
As it stands, Barca have to defeat Bayern Munich if they want to advance to the round of 16 and the clash between the titans is likely to be the most anticipated group stage encounter in December.
Manchester United’s problems in the Premier League have finally led the team to fire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But the Red Devils secured a comfortable spot in the Round of 16, partly thanks to the experience of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The star striker has scored six of United’s 10 goals, including the crucial late goals against Atalanta and Villarreal that delivered them victories. With the club management still on the hunt for an interim manager, there is a lot of uncertainty going ahead at Old Trafford.
Villarreal and Atalanta will clash on December 8th to determine the other qualifying team, with just one point separating both sides. A surprise victory by Young Boys against the Red Devils can also push out one of the teams from the Europa League spot.
No team has yet qualified to the knockout rounds from the group with the final fixtures on December 8 leading to a host of possibilities. As it stands, Lille and Sevilla have the best chances of qualifying to the round of 16.
Chelsea and Juventus have secured their berths in the Round of 16 with a comfortable margin. The only defeat for either side came in the fixtures between them when Juventus defeated Chelsea 1-0 in Turin while Chelsea returned the favour at Stamford Bridge with a 4-0 margin.
Thomas Tuchel’s side are the defending champions and would like to repeat the feat once again to dislodge Manchester City as the giants of English football.
For Juventus, the Champions League berth will give them time to focus on Serie A. The once unbeatable giants have lost four out of their 13 fixtures, falling to eighth in the table. Massimiliano Allegri has to execute a swift turnaround to boost his side’s confidence ahead of the round of 16.
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