The fourth series of fixtures in the 2014-2015 UEFA Champions League revealed the first six teams to qualify for the knockout stage, and it also revealed the first three teams eliminated from the race. Some results played out just as anticipated; other matches stunned as teams fell short of qualification and others kept themselves alive with upset finishes. Let’s break down the state of each group at this point of the competition and break down where the top teams in Europe stand with two matches remaining in the group stage for each team.
- ALREADY QUALIFIED: none
- STILL IN THE HUNT: Atletico Madrid (9), Olympiakos (6), Juventus (6), Malmo FF (3)
- ALREADY ELIMINATED: none
When Delvin Ndinga headed in a Giannis Maniatis free kick crossed into the center of the box just after the hour mark, putting Olympiakos up 2-1 against Juventus in Turin, it appeared as though the Greek champion would put itself three points closer to knockout qualification and complete a sweep of the Italian giants. Then goalkeeper Roberto Gago bobbled a Fernando Llorente header that pinged off the post and coughed up the winner to Paul Pogba a minute later. And as a result Juventus held on at home for a 3-2 victory that could have been bigger, and Group A is once again wide open.
Atletico Madrid secured a 2-0 win at Malmo, Koke and Raul Garcia putting the Spanish champs atop the group as the first team in the group to win an away match. Olympiakos almost enters a must-win situation when they face Atletico in Spain on November 26; Juventus could create a three-way tie atop the group with a win in Sweden that same day. If that happens, look for Olympiakos to have the advantage in getting through thanks to a home showdown with cellar-dweller Malmo in the finale. Despite snagging defeat today, the Greeks are still alive.
PREDICTED FINISH: Atletico Madrid, Olympiakos, Juventus, Malmo
- ALREADY QUALIFIED: Real Madrid (12)
- STILL IN THE HUNT: FC Basel (6), Liverpool (3), Ludogorets Razgrad (3)
- ALREADY ELIMINATED: none
It is no shock that Real Madrid is among the early qualifiers for the next stage after just four matches. The defending European kings are still perfect in Champions League play this season after being held to just a 1-0 victory by a Liverpool team sitting eight of its usual starting 11. Though it wasn’t the prettiest of performances, Real bombarded Simon Mignolet with nine shots on target and 27 offensive chances. The 27th minute strike by Karim Benzema — who has found the back of the net in all four of the Spanish side’s wins to this point — guaranteed the full three points and a spot in the next stage.
While Liverpool languished, FC Basel stepped into second place with a 4-0 thrashing of Ludogorets Razgrad. The Swiss side is three points ahead in the standings and also four goals ahead of Liverpool in differential. Presuming that the Bulgarians don’t suddenly flip a switch and knock off the Merseysiders and the Spaniards in their final two matches, the showdown between Basel and Liverpool should prove decisive. Basel has already knocked off the English side once, and a draw will possibly be enough to go through.
PREDICTED FINISH: Real Madrid, FC Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets Razgrad