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Champions League season 2013/2014: the group stage.

Updated on December 29, 2013

FC Copenhagen - Juventus FC - Champions League

FC Copenhagen vs Juventus FC Champions League match, 17 September 2013.
FC Copenhagen vs Juventus FC Champions League match, 17 September 2013. | Source

Now that the group stage is over in the Champions League, and the draw has been made for the first knockout round, it's time to analyze how the qualified teams have done in the group stage and, also, take a look at the highlights of the competition so far.

As in every season, there have been some pleasant surprises and some disappointments both in terms of players, and as well, in the case of some teams.

Let's take a look at what happened so far in the competition.

The main events in the group stage:

Before the start of the actual competition ( I haven't taken into consideration the qualifying rounds and play-off here ) there was a group that stood out from the pack, the so-called "group of death", group F.

Containing four clubs with great history behind them, in the competition and in their respective championships. All of them in good form in their local leagues and, because their local leagues were the Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Premier League and Serie A this meant that we were in for a treat.

The group proved to be too tough for Marseille which, after six matches remained without a single point. The other three dough, fought till the last match. So, with all the matches played, there were three teams with twelve points, meaning that the final standings will be done based on direct results and goal difference.

This lead to Borussia Dortmund topping the group, followed by Arsenal, and Napoli, the latter became the first team to be eliminated from the group phase of the UEFA Champions League with 12 points, as they finished the group third, meaning that the Italian team will go to the Europa League.

That being said, you shouldn't think that the other groups were easy, but in most of them the closest battles were for the second and third place, as the favorites of the groups have taken the first position in all of the cases.

Who will be the competition's top scorer?

See results

In group A, Manchester United got first position with fourteen points, and proved that it deserved the first place after winning 4-2 at Old Trafford against Bayer Leverkusen (2nd place) and dismantling the same team with the scoreline of 5-0 on the BayArena Stadium, in Germany.

The Germans got a convincing victory of their own against Shakhtar Donetsk at home, winning 4-0, and went on to finish second, with ten points.

Shakhtar after having lost a lot of important players in the transfer window, and also having bought new players to replace them, looked unconvincing at times, and could not manage more than a third place, and respectively, a Europa League qualification. The Ukrainian side did manage to gather 8 points and registered a 4-0 victory over Real Sociedad in Donetsk.

Real Sociedad was the most inexperienced team in this group in terms of Champions League appearances as they haven't played in the competition since the 2003/2004 season, and that lack of experience showed, as they finished with just one point after six matches. Mind you, that point was made against Manchester United, and the Spanish side has shown some good football in most of its encounters in this group, so they go out of the competition with some positive notes, after all.

Real Madrid - Juventus - Champions League

Real Madrid vs Juventus Champions League match, 24 October 2013.
Real Madrid vs Juventus Champions League match, 24 October 2013. | Source

Group B, or "the Real Madrid group" actually had two favorites: Real and Juventus, but the the team that had joined the Spanish giant into the last 16 was, surprisingly, Galatasaray.

The Turkish side qualified into the first knockout stage after the last match of the group, winning 1-0 at home, in Istambul, on heavy snow and a bad surface. This match produced one of the biggest upsets of this edition of the Champions League sending the Italian powerhouse in the last 32 of the Europa League.

To be fair to Galatasaray, they have a lot of talent among their ranks, and Juventus has been unimpressive in recent years, in the Champions League.

København finished last with a single win from six matches, victory registered against Galatasaray.

There was no drama in group C, with Paris Saint-Germain topping the group with thirteen points, three more that Olympiacos and Benfica who finished second, respectively third. Anderlecht finished last with just one point after a 1-1 draw against PSG, in Paris.

In group D, Bayern Munich finished first, with Manchester City second, and each of the two teams has gathered fifteen points to its name after the six matches.

This group was quite easy for the favorites as Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow won only against each other and finished third, respectively fourth, with three points each.

Andrea Pirlo ( Juventus ) - Champions League

Andrea Pirlo ( Juventus ) in the Real Madrid vs Juventus Champions League match, 24 October 2013.
Andrea Pirlo ( Juventus ) in the Real Madrid vs Juventus Champions League match, 24 October 2013. | Source

Group E, ended exactly as expected with Chelsea first with 12 points, Schalke 04 second with 10, Basel third with 8 points and Steaua Bucharest last with 3 points.

The biggest shocks of the group were the two victories Basel registered against Chelsea both on Stamford Bridge, and at home.

In group G Atlético Madrid was the revelation, with 16 points from the six matches played, the only match without victory being a 1-1 draw against Zenit in St. Petersburg.

The Russian team finished second with six points, while Porto got the Europa League spot with 5 points, the same as Austria Wien who ended up in the last place.

Group H also finished as expected with Barcelona first (13 points), Milan second (9 points), Ajax getting the Europa League spot with a trird place finish (9 points) and Celtic finishing last with 3 points, after a victory against Ajax in Glasgow.

The most important results of group H were Barcelona's 4-0 and 6-1 victories against Ajax, respectively, Celtic, and Ajax's 2-1 victory against the Spaniards in Amsterdam.

Now that we've covered the group phase let's see how the first knockout stage of the Champions League 2013/2014 season looks like.

Champions League 2013/2014 season - last 16 fixtures:

Team A
Team B
First leg ( date )
Second leg ( date )
Manchester City
18 February 2014
12 March 2014
Bayer Leverkusen
Paris Saint-Germain
18 February 2014
12 March 2014
Bayern Munich
19 February 2014
11 March 2014
AC Milan
Atlético Madrid
19 February 2014
11 March 2014
Zenit Saint Petersburg
Borussia Dortmund
25 February 2014
19 March 2014
Manchester United
25 February 2014
19 March 2014
26 February 2014
18 March 2014
Schalke 04
Real Madrid
26 February 2014
18 March 2014

The last 16 round:

As the table shows, the most anticipated matches of the first knockout round are: Manchester City vs. Barcelona and Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich.

These are the closest matches in terms of the teams' form and prestige. With Manchester City and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League and with Barcelona and Bayern leaders in La Liga and, respectively, Bundesliga, we will surely have some entertaining football to talk about after these encounters.

The Manchester City vs. Barcelona looks to be a very close meeting, but with Messi expected to return from injury before the two legs against City, the Spanish side may have an advantage. In terms of previous meetings, the two clubs have never played against each other in the Champions League.

In the Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich double, the Germans are the favorites, as they have won the Champions League last season, and eliminated Arsenal along the way.

The two clubs have met in the same round ( last 16 ) of the previous edition of Champions League, and Arsenal was eliminated by the aggregate score of 3-3 after losing 1-3 in London and winning 2-0 in Germany.

Both clubs have improved since their last meeting, and the double was quite close in the '12/'13 Champions League edition, so this is another tough call.

Who will win the competition this year?

See results

Bayer Leverkusen - Paris Saint-Germain is another evenly-matched tie, but Leverkusen's capitulation against Manchester United both at home and at Old Trafford may show
that the Germans lose their composure against tough opposition, and PSG is exactly that.

Also, PSG's stars can be decisive in the double against Leverkusen, so Paris Saint-Germain has a small advantage going into this meeting.

In the AC Milan vs. Atlético Madrid double, the Italian side looks favorite to go through at first glance, but things aren't quite so straight forward.

Atlético has breezed trough its CL group, and is currently second in La Liga with the same number of points as Barcelona ( 46 points from 17 matches ), while Milan has been unimpressive this season both in Serie A, and in Champions League. This also looks like a close double, but Atlético has the upper hand because of its recent results and the bad form Milan in going trough.

Arsenal FC - Olympique de Marseille - Champions League

Arsenal FC vs. Olympique de Marseille Champions League match, 26 Nov 2013;  CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
Arsenal FC vs. Olympique de Marseille Champions League match, 26 Nov 2013; CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. | Source

Zenit Saint Petersburg - Borussia Dortmund looks a close tie on paper, but I think Dortmund is the favorite here. Zenit is a good side and has some great players like Hulk, Danny, Andrei Arshavin and Axel Witsel, but Borussia Dortmund is the better team. Both Zenit and Borussia have great players, the difference is that the ones in the German side play like a team, while the Russian side usually relies on its stars to win a match.

This detail forces me to think that Borussia Dortmund will go trough, also with a lot of its injured players returning to the first team by the time of the double against Zenit, Dortmund will look again like the side that has impressed in the previous edition of CL.

Olympiacos - Manchester United, Galatasaray - Chelsea and Schalke 04 - Real Madrid meetings have all in common one thing, the fact that the favorites of this encounters should advance without too much hassle.

I don't want to be disrespectful regarding Olympiacos, Galatasaray and Schalke 04, but the fact is that, right now, they don't have the players or the level of football required in order to eliminate such big clubs from the competition.

United has disappointed in the Premier League but has done well in the CL group stages, Real Madrid is third in La Liga, which is disappointing by their standards, but Schalke also isn't doing too well in the Bundesliga, so I don't see any surprises here.

One upset may occur in the Galatasaray - Chelsea double. With Drogba wanting to impress against his former club, and with Chelsea blowing hot and cold in the CL group stage, this meeting may not be as one-sided as it looks on paper.

One thing is for sure, in these three Champions League fixtures, Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid shouldn't be complacent as that's exactly what their opponents are hoping for.

Have your say about the Champions League '13/'14 season group stages in the comments area below, also you can check more statistics and news regarding the competition by clicking on the following link:


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