Tue. Apr 23rd, 2019

Champions League: Barcelona rests Messi, draws Juventus, highlighting group stage’s irrelevance


Eight Champions League matches were contested on Wednesday. Barring major upsets two weeks later, none of them – not a single one of the eight – really mattered.

The games featured several title contenders and a few surprising results, but in the grand scheme of European football, they were pretty irrelevant. Part of their irrelevance is circumstantial. Part of it is hierarchical. The gap between the elite and what used to be their challengers has widened. But that’s another discussion for another day. [restrict]

Whatever the reasons, the second half of the penultimate matchday will likely have no impact on the ultimate outcome off the competition. Atletico Madrid beat Roma, but will need a win over Chelsea and a Qarabag result in Rome to advance to the knockout stages. Manchester United lost to Basel, but will almost certainly qualify for the Round of 16 despite of its shortcomings in Switzerland.

A draw between Barcelona and Juventus helped distinguish Group D winner from runner-up. But that distinction has only a minimal impact on the Round of 16. Bayern Munich won to keep its hopes of top spot in Group B alive as well, but will need to beat PSG by four goals on the final matchday to pip the Parisians for first place.

The games weren’t completely uneventful. Below is a recap of all the action. But the implications will make the day a forgettable one.

Griezmann keeps Atletico alive

Atletico Madrid needed a win over Roma at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano to stay alive. It got it, courtesy of an acrobatic Antoine Griezmann wondergoal:

Kevin Gameiro sealed the victory late on after Roma’s Bruno Peres had been sent off. But, as mentioned above, the three points bring Atletico to just six on the campaign. Roma is on eight. Earlier in the day, Chelsea beat 10-man FK Qarabag 4-0 to bring it to 10 points and confirm its progression.

That means Atletico will have to win at Stamford Bridge on Matchday 6 to advance. It will also need Qarabag to go to Rome and either win or draw. (Atletico would have the tiebreaker over Roma.)

Assuming Roma does win, the only implications at the top of the group will be winner versus runner-up. Chelsea would need to beat Atletico to secure top spot. (Roma would have the tiebreaker over Chelsea in the event of a Blues draw.)

PSG smashes Celtic, Bayern labors to win

The two Group B giants haven’t dropped points against the two Group B minnows. Anderlecht almost ended that streak in Belgium on Wednesday. It was level at 1-1 with Bayern with 15 minutes remaining. But Corentin Tolisso’s 77th-minute goal secured three points for the Bavarians.

Meanwhile, PSG ran circles around Celtic in Paris. The visitors scored less than 60 seconds into the match, but the hosts proceeded to score seven. [/restrict]

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