With only one matchday left before the UEFA Champions League enters the knockout stage, only one team has won all of its matches to date after Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund both lost. Defending champions Real Madrid knocked off FC Basel thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s lone goal of the match to stay a perfect five for five in this year’s competition. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi stayed ahead of his doppelganger in career goals, breaking the Champions League record with a hat trick. 11 of the 16 spots have been locked down after this week’s fixtures, and only a dozen teams still harbor hopes of being one of the last five in when the final matchday takes place on December 9-10. Let’s review this week’s matches and break down the state of each group prior to the last round of the group stage.
- ALREADY QUALIFIED: Atletico Madrid (12)
- STILL IN THE HUNT: Juventus (9), Olympiakos (6)
- ALREADY ELIMINATED: Malmo FF (3)
Atletico Madrid routed Olympiakos 4-0 on Wednesday to become the first team from Group A to secure a position in the next round. Last year’s finalists scored early and often, with Raul Garcia beating Olympiakos goalkeeper Roberto Gago nine minutes into the match with a left-footed blast into the top corner and Mario Mandzukic netting a hat trick against the Greeks. Atletico needs just one more point to secure top position in the table.
The Spaniards will face Juventus on December 9, with the Italians also needing just a draw to advance. Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez put second-half goals past Malmo keeper Robin Olsen for a 2-0 road win. Juventus could technically still claim the top spot in Group A, but they would need to beat Atletico by five goals when the face off in Turin in two weeks. Olympiakos, even with a Juventus loss to Atletico, sits eight goals behind the Italians in goal differential and are unlikely to make up the deficit in their final 90 minutes; more likely for the Greeks is a spot in the Europa League.
- ALREADY QUALIFIED: Real Madrid (15)
- STILL IN THE HUNT: FC Basel (6), Liverpool (4), Ludogorets Razgrad (4)
- ALREADY ELIMINATED: none
FC Basel actually generated more attempts on goal than Real Madrid at St. Jakob-Park on Wednesday, but out of the 18 shots the Swiss side took only four made it on target — and Keylor Navas was more than up to the task when called upon in the Real net. Cristiano Ronaldo’s 35th-minute strike proved enough for Madrid to seal its eighth straight Champions League victory dating back last year’s title run, and nobody in Group B has proven anywhere near the class of the Spaniards.
The second spot in the group is up for grabs after Georgi Terziev’s 88th-minute equalizer shocked Liverpool. The three teams behind Real Madrid are all within two points of one another, and anybody could technically claim the other berth in the knockout stage. Liverpool hosts FC Basel at Anfield on December 9, and unless the Bulgarians can upset Real at the Bernabeu the duel between the Brits and the Swiss should be decisive. All Basel needs is to draw away; the Merseysiders must win to advance.Liverpool should be able to advance, but this week’s slip in Bulgaria makes it more likely that Basel will move on.