TOP OF THE POPS
Five teams went through the group stages unbeaten, and of those five, Porto amassed the highest points tally after winning five and drawing one in Group D. True, the competition was nowhere near as fierce as in other sections, but the Portuguese champions won all of their games after a 1-1 draw at Schalke in the first round of fixtures. That includes an entertaining 3-2 victory away at Galatasaray in their final match, never an easy place to go.
Bayern Munich and Barcelona were two of the other teams who breezed through without a defeat. The Bundesliga giants couldn’t get the better of Ajax home or away, conceding a 95th-minute equaliser to the Dutch outfit at the Johan Cruyff Arena. Bayern won all of their other games though, inspired by the tournament’s top scorer so far, Robert Lewandowski.
Second in the scoring charts is Lionel Messi. Barcelona’s little magician has six goals to his name, and looked as brilliant as ever as he helped his team to top spot in Group B. Qualifying alongside Ernesto Valverde’s side is Tottenham, who pulled off a stunning comeback from the brink of elimination.
The Premier League outfit failed to win any of their opening three games, losing their first two. However, they sealed their spot in the knockout rounds with a narrow victory over Inter at Wembley, before a point at Camp Nou where they enjoyed more possession than Barcelona. It may have been a weakened Barca team, but it still contained two of the world’s most expensive players, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele, while Messi was on the pitch when Spurs equalised late on.
Paris Saint-Germain scored more goals than any other team in the group stages, banging in 17 across their six matches. Neymar got five of those, with the darling of world football, Kylian Mbappe, netting three. PSG’s vibrant attack spurred them on to top their group ahead of Liverpool, who only secured their progress to the last 16 on the final matchday with a nerve-jangling 1-0 victory over Napoli at Anfield.
Fellow English side Manchester City found the going a little tougher than the Premier League, but went on to top their section by five points from Lyon. Crosstown rivals Manchester United pulled off a throwback late show to win from behind against Juventus in Turin, but Jose Mourinho’s side were outplayed by the Old Lady in their first meeting at Old Trafford. Paulo Dybala starred in that game, while Cristiano Ronaldo reminded his old club what they’ve been missing since he left English shores.
“The Champions League is the final frontier for Manchester City” TOP:Manchester City is looking to go all the wayBOTTOM:Bayern is looking strong as alwaysRIGHT:Real Madrid are looking to make history by winning the Champions League for the fourth time in a rowMAIN (OPPOSITE PAGE):Lionel Messi looked as good as ever as Barcelona made safe passage through the Champions League group stage