Some things are more clear after the UEFA Champions League played its next round of matches on Tuesday and Thursday. Some things are more muddled than ever. There are still four matches left to play before the knockout bracket is completely filled out, but contenders and pretenders are starting to emerge. Let’s take a look at the second round of group-stage matches and the impact each had on their respective groups.
A complete rethinking of Group A is in order after the results of Wednesday’s matches left everyone equal on points and within two goals of each other in differential. Arda Turan’s 74th-minute goal gave Atletico Madrid the victory over Juventus, in a match where the Italian side couldn’t even manage a single shot on goal. In Sweden, Malmo FF made the most of its chances in a wide-open contest featuring 14 combined shots on target to earn the full three points against Olympiakos. Both goals for Malmo were scored by Markus Rosenberg, who returned to the club where he first turned professional this season after spending the past decade abroad in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and England.
Juventus and Atletico remain the favorites to advance from the group, but their Swedish and Greek challengers have proven resilient. Madrid has already suffered an away loss to Olympiakos, while both sides still have to visit Malmo. The group next plays on October 22, with Malmo visiting Atletico and Juventus traveling to Athens to take on Olympiakos.
PREDICTED FINISH: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiakos, Malmo
Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Real Madrid, passing Lionel Messi for second on the all-time Champions League scoring list with his 69th career goal. Karim Benzema would add another, and Real Madrid escaped a tougher-than-expected Ludogorets Razgrad side that actually took the lead six minutes into the match on a Marcelinho header off a corner. FC Basel claimed a not-so-surprising victory against reeling Liverpool on a 52nd-minute Marco Streller goal. The Merseysiders might have had more of the chances (15-11 in attempts on goal), but they were off-target most of the night and never really challenged Basel goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik when they did put the ball on net.
Real Madrid hasn’t been great so far, but they’re still shaping up as the obvious class of the group — just as expected when the draw was announced. Beyond them, though, the rest of the table is a mess. Ludogorets is the only club without a point, though up to this point they have been a tough out for both teams expected to be favorites. FC Basel, two years removed from qualifying for the round of 16, could be headed back there. Liverpool must sort out its offensive woes quickly with Real coming to Anfield on October 22, while Basel will head to Bulgaria to face Ludogorets on the same day.
PREDICTED FINISH: Real Madrid, FC Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets Razgrad