Champions League 2012: Biggest Surprises of Group Play so Far

Mike Hoag@MikeHoagJrCorrespondent IINovember 8, 2012

MILAN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 06:  Malaga CF players applaud the fans at the end of the UEFA Champions League group C match between AC Milan and Malaga CF at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on November 6, 2012 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

UEFA Champions League group play has almost come to an end, and there are several intriguing story lines brewing as the final round of games approach. Is your team under-performing, over-performing or just skirting the line for qualification into the knockout round of 16?

A lot of things are going to be cleared up in the coming weeks as the contenders and pretenders are beginning to sort themselves out.

Take a look at some of the biggest surprises and shockers through the first five (of seven) matches of group play.


Manchester City Collapse

The defending Premier League champions have yet to win a match in Group D competition. They’ve recorded just two points in draws against Dortmund and Ajax. That’s left the English side in a considerable point deficit approaching the final games of group play.

With only those two points, Man City are considerably behind both Dortmund (8 points) and Real Madrid (7 points) in the group standings. Luckily, they have one match remaining against each of the division leaders in the final week of group play.

They’ll need to win both of those tough matches and hope for the best. It’s more likely than not that the Citizens' Champions League competition will come to an in December.


Malaga atop Group C

Los Boquerones are the surprise team of their group and possibly of the entire Champions League this season. They’re undefeated and have a sizeable cushion in their first-place position.

The most impressive part is that the Spanish side finished fourth in La Liga last season and lost key players over the summer without replacing them with transfers or high-profile loans of their own.

Their two remaining matches are against Zenit and Anderlecht, who they beat both easily by 3-0 margins in their opening round matchups.

No matter what happens, Malaga will find themselves against the top 16 teams in the knockout round after this impressive showing in group play.


Juventus on the Ropes

Despite playing some good football, Juventus are still in contention in Group E and can theoretically still advance to the knockout phase of the UCL.

Their first win came on Wednesday against the doormat of Group E—FC Nordsjaelland.

While it’s a good sign, the Italian side has some ground to make up in their final two matches. Luckily for the bianconeri (6 points) they’ll play both Chelsea (7 points) and Shakhtar (7 points).

It’s far from over, but the fact that the Italians are in this position in the first place is troubling.