Champions League: City make statement with PSG fightback

26 November 2021 00:30:52 GMTPlus10
Mauricio Pochettino was in Manchester

Manchester City's 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday almost felt like a sideshow alongside the soap opera of United target Mauricio Pochettino being in the city.

Behind to a goal from in-form Kylian Mbappe early in the second half, City hit back with efforts from Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus to nail down top spot in Group A.

The well-beaten Parisians headed for the airport with tails between their legs, while Pochettino was left to fend off yet more questions about his future, the one crumb of comfort they could collectively cling to from a dispiriting night being that they too got through to the last 16.

City, last season's beaten finalists and hugely impressive, are to 6/5 to go on and finally lift the trophy for a first time, while PSG are now 12121/1.

Poch's PSG future still uncertain

Pochettino will presumably be in charge for their group-stage sign-off at home to Club Brugge on December 7th, through whether the ex-Spurs chief will be in the French capital for the first leg of the knockout phase is very much up in the air.

Pep Guardiola's side had been outstanding even minus the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, utterly upstaging the famed Mbappe-Neymar-Messi frontline, the French giants' holy trinity, who carried a sporadic threat at best.

It means that all four Premier League teams are through to the round of 16, City, Manchester United and Liverpool as group winners, while Chelsea will be confident of emulating the feat of their English rivals going into their last game.

English dominance beyond dispute

The last four Champions League finals have featured five English sides, two of whom went on to lift the trophy, Liverpool for a sixth time in 2019 and Chelsea for a second in May.

If Thomas Tuchel's men can match Juventus' result on December 8th - the Blues are at Zenit St Petersburg with Juve entertaining Malmo - and clinch top spot in Group H, it means all four will have gone through as sectional winners.

And given that the four cannot meet in the last 16 it's not beyond the realms of possibility that, as in 2018-19, England could have four clubs represented in the quarter-finals.

Once a plaything of the Spanish and Italian elites, England have become the pre-eminent force in European club competition with Liverpool at 8/15 and Chelsea 12121/1 among this season's well-fancied sides.

United, who have been on a ropey run of form domestically, have looked a different beast in Europe and are rated 12121/1 shots.

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Bundesliga's backward steps and big names on the brink

While England's quartet have sailed into the second stage of the tournament the same cannot be said for many of Europe's other superpowers, some of whom still have work to do, others of who have already bitten the dust.

RB Leipzig's exit from Group A is perhaps less of a surprise given the calibre of opponent they confronted in Manchester City and PSG, but Dortmund's demise in Group C, decided on Wednesday when they crashed to a woeful 3-1 loss at Sporting Lisbon, was a major surprise.

They had gone into the stage as group favourites ahead of Sporting, Besiktas and Ajax, who have taken the section by storm, winning all five of their games.

It's entirely possible Wolfsburg will miss out altogether in Group G - they are bottom of the section - which would leave just Bayern Munich flying the flag for Germany in the last 16.

Julian Nagelsmann's 12121/1 shots look as good as anything left in the competition, but it would be a depressing outcome for German football chiefs, who have had at least three clubs enter the knockout phase in each of the previous three campaigns.

Of course, bigger names than Leipzig are on the brink, none bigger than Barcelona, though given their current plight would their demise at this stage actually represent too much of a shock?

If Benfica beat Dynamo Kiev in Lisbon on December 8th and Barca fail to win in Munich against Bayern, then Barca will fail to make the knockouts for the first time since 2003-04, when they weren't even in the competition and at 1/2 to not qualify, the omens aren't good.

G-force! Who will prevail from group of death

Eleven teams are already through to the next stage, ten are already eliminated, but it's all to play for in Group G where nothing is decided.

Lille are top on eight points, Salzburg second on seven, then come Sevilla on six, with Wolfsburg on five bringing up the rear. In the final round of games Wolfsburg entertain Lille, while Salzburg take on Sevilla.

Such is the tightness of this section and so boundless are the permutations, that Wolfsburg can go through as group winners - for which they are 7/1 - or go out as group backmarkers, but they won't be able to qualify for the Europa League because they cannot finish third.

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