Champions League Matchday 5 began with four more teams clinching places in the knockout stages. Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Lazio and Atletico Madrid will all join Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Inter, Real Sociedad, Manchester City and RB Leipzig in the last 16. Only six spots remain up for grabs but the contenders are beginning to separate. Forced to play their home matches in Germany, Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk have been one of the biggest surprises of Champions League play, and after defeating Royal Antwerp, they've set up an epic clash with Porto for the final spot out of Group H on Dec. 13th.
City engineered a comeback over RB Leipzig, overcoming a two-goal deficit to win Group G, and PSG's late penalty was enough for Newcastle United to no longer control their own destiny in the group stage following a 1-1 draw.
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- Lazio 2, Celtic 0
- Shakhtar Donetsk 1, Antwerp 0
- AC Milan 1, Borussia Dortmund 3
- Feyenoord 1, Atletico Madrid 3
- Paris Saint-Germain, 1 Newcastle United 1
- Barcelona 2, Porto 1
- Young Boys 2, Crvena Zvezda 0
- Manchester City 3 RB Leipzig 2
Who can stop City?
In games like this one against RB Leipzig, it feels like City and Pep Guardiola make games harder on themselves knowing that they can come back when needed. Starting off with a rotated side, City went behind 2-0 due to a Lois Openda brace before subbing on their regulars to score three goals and secure their third come-from-behind victory of the season. It's the second time in Champions League play that City have trailed entering halftime and each time they've pitched a shutout and come back to secure all three points with one victory to go to have a perfect group stage.
After already winning the competition last season it feels like the only team that can defeat the Manchester City machine are themselves. They'll pick up losses but this season they've come when Rodri was suspended as opposed to having a full-strength squad. Bayern Munich may be the only squad in the world that combines talent with the level of ruthlessness seen from City which could see both teams on a crash course for a Champions League title when it's all said and done.
Home Is where the heart is
After defeating Barcelona, Shakhtar Donetsk then secured another victory in Champions League play this time over Royal Antwerp. Against the odds, the Ukrainian side only need to defeat Porto to make it into the last 16. While Porto have been in good form, the fact that the group is up for grabs on the final day is an accomplishment. Already at this point against the odds and playing their home games in Germany, to make it to the final day controlling their own destiny is quite an impressive feat. This team has already toppled Barcelona so they'll also feel like they can't be stopped and facing a team with nothing to lose in an elimination scenario can be quite tough to deal with.
The Group of Death nears its end with all to play for
In a group including PSG, Milan, and Newcastle United, no one would have expected Dortmund to be the team that emerged first, if even at all, but after defeating Milan the German side were able to do just that. Barely in the top four in Germany, Dortmund are a team that show that domestic form isn't always indicative of European success as they have only allowed three goals in five group stage matches which is the second best mark behind Real Sociedad and Inter Milan (who have played one fewer match) with Arsenal, Real Madrid, and Barcelona. Pretty good company to keep.
Now on the final day, Dortmund don't have to worry about the outcome of their match with PSG while each team needs nothing less than a victory. With only two points separating second place from fourth place, anything can happen on the final day in Group F. Milan have struggled to score but the chances are there and PSG's defense will gift anyone looks on goal. Newcastle may need help to make it to the last 16 but it's still possible as the stage is set for an exciting final day.
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