Champions League Groups Roundup: Barcelona, Atleti Look Good for Knock-out Stage
The third round of the UEFA Champions League group stage saw a few big results come in, particularly for Atletico Madrid, who went clear in Group G, and Borussia Dortmund, who managed to seal an away win at Arsenal.
Halfway through the group stages now for teams in Groups E to H, two big Spanish teams already look set for safe passage to the knockout stages, while a couple of teams are really floundering as they bid to extend their European season.
Here's a complete roundup of those teams who have already gone close to sealing their post-new year Continental status.
Schalke would have been looking great for qualification had they managed a home win over Chelsea—but Jose Mourinho's men picked up a huge 3-0 victory on the road, to move back to the top of the group.
They, and the German side, will be big favourites to progress to the knockouts, but the next match-week could see either of them drop out of the top two if Basel beat Steaua Bucharest at home.
The Romanian side have managed just one point at this halfway stage and could be all but out of the running by the next time the full-time whistle blows.
The tightest group of all so far; Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli are all tied on six points from three games, with only French representatives Marseille already looking a beaten force.
The Ligue 1 outfit have yet to take a point in the group stage and have severely disappointed.
On the other hand, the quality of their three opponents has yet to be separated; Napoli beat Dortmund, the Germans won in London and the Gunners earlier beat the Italians, so it's still anybody's guess who will pull through in the top two spots.
Napoli will be expected to beat Marseille at home next time out, so the pressure will be on Arsenal to earn a result in Germany—or else head into the final two rounds of games outside the qualification spots.
Atletico Madrid are the only club, out of the 16 who have now played three matches, to remain with a 100 percent record.
A convincing 3-0 win over Austria Wien means they now have a five-point lead at the top of the group and could feasibly be confirmed as having qualified in top spot by the end of their return game against Wien.
Behind them, Zenit have overcome a poor start to be in second place following a win at Porto; repeat the trick at home and they will look set for the knockout stages themselves.
Wien have managed just one draw and have not yet scored a goal despite already played twice at home, meaning they are unlikely to even challenge for third place and a Europa League berth.
Barcelona settled for a point in Italy against AC Milan and will be confident of going one better next time out in their own stadium against the same opponents.
Top of Group H by two points, Barca are undefeated and have only conceded one goal in the group stage thus far, meaning they are heavy favourites to finish top.
Celtic gave themselves a fighting chance of taking second by winning 2-1 against Ajax, with the Dutch side now bottom with one point from three games. The reverse fixture might end up being nothing more than a third-place playoff, but if Celtic win it they will go into the final two games with a great chance of reaching the knockout stages for the second year in a row.
An Ajax win leaves Milan in the driving seat for second, even if they are beaten by Barcelona.
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