The Champions League group stage has now reached its business end, with just one round of fixtures remaining for Europe's big guns to seal a place
The Champions League group stage has now reached its business end, with just one round of fixtures remaining for Europe’s big guns to seal a place in the knockouts.
All four Premier League teams have already safely secured their spots in the last-16, with Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United confirmed as group winners, but there’s still work to do yet for Chelsea.
Thomas Tuchel’s side, who narrowly overcame City to lift the Champions League trophy last season, qualified last time out with an emphatic 4-0 win over Juventus, but face a tricky trip to Zenit St Petersburg as they look to win the group.
Meanwhile, Ralf Rangnick will get a taste of European action for the first time as Manchester United boss as they play Young Boys on Wednesday night.
While the Premier League quartet have navigated their way through the group stage, the likes of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and AC Milan still have it all to do.
With just the one set of fixtures remaining in this year’s Champions League group stage, Sportsmail takes you through the state of play.
The Champions League group stage is at its business end with the knockouts now in sight
Manchester City confirmed their progression to the last-16 last time out with an all-important 2-1 win over Mauricio Pochettino’s Paris Saint-Germain.
The Premier League leaders also confirmed their status as group winners, with PSG four points behind and unable to catch Pep Guardiola’s side.
While PSG fell to a bitterly disappointing defeat, their progression to the last-16 was also confirmed as Club Brugge fell to defeat against RB Leipzig.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have already confirmed their places in the last-16
Raheem Sterling celebrated a goal as City beat PSG 2-1 to qualify as Group A winners
While the top two – and therefore last-16 qualification – has already been decided, a place in the Europa League is still up for grabs.
RB Leipzig are currently in third place by virtue of a better head-to-head record. The pair have one win apiece against each other, but Leipzig bounced back from their 2-1 home defeat to win the away clash 5-0.
The German outfit now simply need to match Club Brugge’s result to qualify for the Europa League. They welcome City to the Red Bull Arena on Tuesday night, while Club Brugge face a tricky trip to PSG, albeit against a side lacking in confidence.
- December 7: Paris Saint-Germain vs Club Brugge
- December 7: RB Leipzig vs Manchester City
Group B is set for an enticing finale, with three teams of huge historical significance still fighting for a runner-up spot.
Liverpool have already secured the title of group winner and will be seeded going into the round of 16 draw.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have won all five of their matches to date and can safely rotate in their final outing at AC Milan as they focus on the Premier League.
Liverpool have already wrapped up Group B with a perfect record of five wins in five games
Thiago Alcantara scored a brilliant long-range goal as Liverpool beat Porto last time out
Despite defeat to Liverpool last time out, Porto still have last-16 qualification in their own hands heading into their final game at home to Atletico Madrid.
Any win will be enough to seal their progression – as would a draw, so long as Milan don’t beat Liverpool.
Their opponents Atletico fell to a bitterly disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to Milan last time out and now have it all to do on the final day.
They sit bottom of the group and can only progress to the last-16 with a win. A draw could also be enough to leapfrog Milan into the Europa League spot.
Milan, meanwhile, can only finish in the top two if Porto don’t beat Atletico.
If Milan and Atletico both win, it will come down to goal difference. This is because they have the exact same head-to-head record.
Currently, it’s Milan who have the higher goal difference, but that could of course change by the end of the evening.
- December 7: AC Milan vs Liverpool
- December 7: Porto vs Atletico Madrid
Group C has already been decided, with Ajax confirmed as group winners with five wins from as many outings.
The Dutch side have conceded just three goals in the competition to date and have been one of the most impressive sides so far.
Meanwhile, having secured a better aggregate score in their two outings against Dortmund, Sporting Lisbon have also booked their spot in the knockouts.
Group C is already wrapped up, with Ajax and Sporting Lisbon progressing to the knockouts
Dutch giants Ajax confirmed their spot in the round of 16 after just four rounds of fixtures
That leaves Dortmund in third and dropping to the Europa League, with Besiktas still to gain a point and already out.
The German outfit take on Besiktas on Tuesday, while Ajax look to finish the group in style against runners-up Sporting.
- December 7: Borussia Dortmund vs Besiktas
- December 7: Ajax vs Sporting Lisbon
Group D is set for an enticing finale, with Real Madrid and Inter Milan going head-to-head for top spot.
An under pressure Madrid side sealed their spot in the knockouts with a crucial 3-0 away win at Sheriff last time out, while Inter breezed past Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0.
Madrid welcome Inter to the Bernabeu on Tuesday and simply have to avoid defeat to be crowned group winners. For Inter only a win will see them leapfrog the Spaniards.
Real Madrid and Inter Milan will go head-to-head on Tuesday to determine the Group D winner
Madrid sealed their round of 16 qualification with a 3-0 away win over Sheriff last time out
The rest of the group is already decided, with Shakhtar Donetsk sat on just one point and out.
As for Sheriff, they have enjoyed a stunning debut campaign in the Champions League, with their European adventures to continue in the Europa League.
- December 7: Real Madrid vs Inter Milan
- December 7: Shakhtar Donetsk vs Sheriff
Bayern Munich have comfortably made the knockouts once more, scoring a whopping 19 goals in their five victories to date.
All eyes are on Barcelona, however, who are at genuine risk of missing out on a Champions League knockout place.
New manager Xavi took charge of their crunch clash at home to Benfica last time out, but the Catalan outfit could only muster a 0-0 draw.
Bayern Munich have already secured qualification, but there’s still work to do for Barcelona
All eyes are on new boss Xavi’s Barcelona as they look to qualify for the knockout stages
The Catalan side face a trip to Bayern on Wednesday, knowing a win will take them through to the knockouts. It would put them on 10 points and out of reach for Benfica, currently on five.
However, Benfica, currently in third, have a significantly easier tie at home to Dynamo Kiev, who have amassed just one point and are already out.
Importantly, the Portuguese outfit have a better head-to-head record than Barcelona, having beaten the Spaniards 3-0 at home, meaning they will progress should they finish on the same points.
With Benfica the overwhelming favourites to beat Dynamo Kiev, while Barcelona were thumped 3-0 at home to Bayern, that is now a real possibility.
- December 8: Benfica vs Dynamo Kiev
- December 8: Bayern Munich vs Barcelona
Briefly under the guidance of Michael Carrick, Manchester United sealed a spot in the last-16 as Group F winners with a hugely important 2-0 win at Villarreal last time out.
Again, it’s head-to-head record that has the first say should two teams finish level on points; and with United beating Villarreal twice, they can’t be caught regardless of Wednesday’s results.
The group is still very much alive, however, with the battle for both the runner-up and the Europa League spot still yet to be determined.
Manchester United have already qualified as Group F winners and will feature in the last-16
Jadon Sancho was among the goals as United beat Villarreal to wrap up Group F in style
Sat on seven points, reigning Europa League champions Villarreal are in the driving seat to finish as Group F runners-up. If they avoid defeat against Atalanta on Wednesday, they will go through.
As for Serie A outfit Atalanta, their task ahead is also clear: win against Villarreal and they’ll be through to the knockouts. With a better head-to-head record than Young Boys, a draw will be enough to secure third place.
Young Boys kept their hopes of a Europa League spot alive with a draw against Atalanta last time out, but any hopes of progression to the knockouts is now gone, having lost twice to Villarreal.
They can gain a Europa League spot if they beat United at Old Trafford, so long as Villarreal win against Atalanta.
- December 8: Manchester United vs Young Boys
- December 8: Atalanta vs Villarreal
Group G is one of the more open of the eight, with just three points separating Lille in first and Wolfsburg in fourth.
Plenty of twists and turns are expected yet, however, with Lille travelling to Wolfsburg on Wednesday, while RB Salzburg host Sevilla.
Lille are currently in pole position, with just a draw enough to guarantee a top-two finish. A win would cement first place in Group G, while a loss could see them drop into third.
Group G remains entirely up for grabs, with all four teams still in contention to qualify
Lille celebrated their most recent victory over RB Salzburg to take control of Group G
Wolfsburg would be behind Sevilla on head-to-head record, meaning anything but a win would see them finish in fourth. A win would propel the German side into second place, however. They would finish above current leaders Lille but would be overtaken by one of Salzburg or Sevilla should they win.
Meanwhile, Salzburg need just a point against Sevilla to secure a top-two finish, regardless of what happens between Wolfsburg and Lille.
Sevilla simply need to win in Germany if they are to progress to the knockouts. With defeat, they will drop into the Europa League – so long as Wolfsburg don’t beat Lille.
- December 8: RB Salzburg vs Sevilla
- December 8: Wolfsburg vs Lille
Group H is already largely decided, with Chelsea and Juventus progressing to the knockouts and Zenit dropping into the Europa League. Malmo are out.
What is yet to be decided, however, is who will take top spot, with both Chelsea and Juventus still able to top the group.
Chelsea were highly impressive as they beat Juventus 4-0 last time out, though, and it’s in their hands with one fixture remaining.
Chelsea and Juventus are already through, with Zenit St Petersburg finishing in third place
Chelsea celebrated a stunning 4-0 win over Juventus to confirm their progression
Chelsea travel to Zenit for their final fixture, where a win will guarantee them top spot. Ultimately, they just have to match Juventus’ result against Malmo, though anything but a win for the Italians would be a shock.
As for Juventus, they need a favour from Zenit if they are to win the group. As stated, if Chelsea win, there’s nothing the Serie A side can do.
- December 8: Juventus vs Malmo
- December 8: Zenit St Petersburg vs Chelsea
What happens if two teams finish on the same points?
If two teams finish on equal points, the following criteria is applied in order (as per UEFA):
- Higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question
- Superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question
- Higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question
- If, after having applied criteria a) to c), teams still have an equal ranking, criteria a) to c) are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the remaining teams to determine their final rankings. If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria e) to k) apply in the order given to the two or more teams still equal
- Superior goal difference in all group matches
- Higher number of goals scored in all group matches
- Higher number of away goals scored in all group matches
- Higher number of wins in all group matches
- Higher number of away wins in all group matches
- Lower disciplinary points total based only on yellow and red cards received by players and team officials in all group matches (red card = 3 points, yellow card = 1 point, expulsion for two yellow cards in one match = 3 points)
- Higher club coefficient
When is the Champions League last-16 draw?
The draw for the 2021/22 Champions League round of 16 will take place on December 13.
It will be held at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland and will get underway at 11am in the UK.
The draw will consist of the eight group winners and thus seeded teams and the eight runners-up. The seeded side will play away in the first leg.
No teams from the same nation can be drawn against each other at this stage of the competition.
Champions League key dates
- Round of 16 first legs: February 15-16 & 22-23
- Round of 16 second legs: March 8-9 & 15-16
- Quarter-final and semi-final draw: March 18
- Quarter-final first legs: April 5-6
- Quarter-final second legs: April 12-13
- Semi-final first legs: April 26-27
- Semi-final second legs: May 3-4
- Final: May 28 at the Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg