This years edition marks the 61st season of UEFA Champions League. This is the clash of the titans when it comes to soccer. Only the best soccer teams gain access to this tournament. When the whistle blows for the first time, the madness begins. All the teams want to advance as far as possible and they all dream of winning the trophy. The final will be played on the 28th of May next year, in Italy; until that moment comes, let’s review what happened so far.
The first round of qualification
The first qualifying round didn’t provide much in the way of surprise. The Lincoln Red Imps defeated FC Santa Coloma with a total score of 2-1. Pyunik went against Folgore and passed with a total score of 4-2. The face-off between the Crusaders of Northern Ireland and Levadia Tallin of Estonia was the only breathtaking match of the first round of qualification; the Crusaders barely made it, going to the next round with a 1-1 score thanks to the away goal rule. Last but not least, Thee New Saints destroyed B36 Torshavn with the total score of 6-2, making it clear that they deserved their qualification.
The second round of qualification
The second qualifying round provided the first major surprises this edition. Maribor was eliminated by Astana with the total score of 2-3; not many people taught that the team from Kazakhstan would be able to pass a team with experience like Maribor. The other surprise of this round was the elimination of Ludogorets Razgrad by Milsami Orhei from the Republic of Moldova. Let’s face it, no one gave these guys a chance, but they won by 3-1. Seven of the matches had many goals scored, keeping people entertained; Maccabi Tel Aviv won against the Hibernians by 3-6, HJK defeated Ventspils with a 4-1 total score, Molde eliminated Pyunik with a score of 5-1, Celtic flew right by Stjarnan with a devastating 6-1, Steaua Bucuresti barely made it by Terencio with the overall score of 4-3, and of course the biggest total score was provided by Underbelly Kore when they defeated with the total score of 6-4 the Crusaders. The other qualifying teams from the second round are FC APOEL, Charabanc, Les Poznan, BATE Borisov, Hollandaise, Malmo FF, Partisan Belgrade, Dinamo Zagreb and Videoton.
The third round of qualification
The losing teams in the third qualifying round entered the play-off round for UEFA Europa League. This round, as well as the second, provided some major surprises. Castanet defeated HJK by 4-3, proving it wasn’t a one time only affair when they passed the first two rounds of qualification. Dinamo Zagreb and FC APOEL barely defeated their opponents that were considered to be weaker than them; they both qualified thanks to the away goal rule. Four of the face-offs stood out more than the others by the number of scored goals. Steaua Bucuresti left the corner reserved for the champions being beat by 3-5 by Partizan Belgrade, Monaco pulverized the Young Boys from Switzerland with the mind blowing total score of 7-1, and both CSKA Moscow and Rapid Wien defeated their opponents by 5-4. The two stood of against teams with heavy names in soccer, more precisely CSKA defeated Sparta Prague and Rapid Wien defeated Ajax Amsteram. The other teams that passed this stage were Basel, Skenderbeu Korce, Celtic, Maccabi Tel Aviv, BATE Borisov, Malmo FF, Club Brugge and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The play-off round
Exactly like in the third round, the losing teams didn’t go directly home; the losers of the play-off went to UEFA Europa Leagues, but unlike the qualification round losers they go directly to group stage. The only big surprise in the play-offs was again Astana; this time, they defeated APOEL by 2-1 and qualified for the group stage. In terms of contrast, only the confrontation between Manchester United and Club Brugge provided with the jaw-dropping score of 7-1 in favor of Manchester. The other teams to get out victorious from the play-offs this year were Dinamo Zagreb, Malmo FF, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Bate Borisov, Bayer Leverkusen, CSKA Moscow, Shaktar Donetsk and Valencia.
The group stage so far
There are a total of eight groups that each contain four teams in Champions League. The teams that rank first and second will advance to the knockout phase, while the teams that rank third will go directly to UEFA Europa Leagues round of 32. The unlucky team that take fourth place will go back home, unfortunately for them; but the tragedy isn’t that big, because making it so far is hard. Let’s talk about what happened up to now in the group stage.
Group A is dominated by the clear favorites in this case, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, while Malmo is ranked third, topping Shakhtar Donetsk because of their smaller number in goal differences. The most confusing group up is Group B by far; all four teams, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg, have the same number of points, three. For the moment, Group C is dominated by Benfica with six points, being followed closely by the group favorite, Athletico Madrid with three points, and Galatasaray alongside Astana have just one point that they won when they faced each other.
Group D is a hell group, having teams that close to each other when it comes to the quality of the soccer they play. Juventus is leading the group by six points, followed by Sevilla and Manchester City with three points, while Borussia Monchengladbach has no points gathered yet. In Group E, Barcelona is the leader with four points, Bayer Leverkusen and Bate Borisov both have three points and the occupant of the last place for now is Roma with one point that they won in the match against their current group leader.
Group F is trembling in front of Bayern Munich, that takes command for now with the six points they gathered, Olympiacos and Dinamo Zagreb both have three points and surprisingly Arsenal hasn’t been able to win any point yet. In Group G we find both Porto and Dynamo Kyiv having four points, Chelsea staying right behind them with three points, while Maccabi Tel Aviv have no points yet. The last group, being Group H, has Zenit Saint Petersburg on first place with six well deserved points, followed by Valencia on the second spot with three points and at the bottom two places, Lyon and Gent having both one point each.