The group stage of the 2013-14 Champions League is officially over, following Wednesday's Matchday 6 action. It's only appropriate now to look back at some of the fixtures that proved the most important.
In case you missed it, here are the 16 clubs that advanced to the knockout stages.
|Champions League Group Winners and Runners-up|
|Manchester United||Bayer Leverkusen|
|Bayern Munich||Manchester City|
|Atletico Madrid||Zenit St. Petersburg|
It's hard to properly weigh the impact a match has right after it happens.
While a loss or draw may look bad at first, a club can overcome it with a good run. The converse is that a result draw may look good at first, but it's instead a worrying sign of things to come.
Now that the group stage has concluded, you get a better picture of what each of the fixtures meant for each club. For instance, Chelsea's losses to Basel proved to mean next to little for the Blues, as they managed to finish first in Group E, and Basel still finished third.
Other matches, though, carried heavy consequences. Among that group of fixtures, these four stick out the most.
Bayern Munich 3, Manchester City 1
The one match of the group stage that you should go back and watch is Bayern Munich's 3-1 demolition of Manchester City at the Etihad. It was one of the most complete performances you're ever going to see on a football pitch.
According to WhoScored.com, Bayern had 66 percent possession and 21 shots on goal. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben marauded down the flanks, while Toni Kroos was pulling the strings in midfield. Even more impressive was the way Yaya Toure and Fernandinho were complete non-factors. Toure usually thrives in big matches, but he was absent in this one.
The definitive victory was a statement of intent from Bayern that all but assured them first place in Group D and cemented the fact that this club could be improved under Pep Guardiola.
Juventus 2, Galatasaray 2
Some may be looking at the 1-1 draw with Copenhagen as Juventus' ultimate undoing in the Champions League, but that wasn't all that bad of a result. The Danish side beat Galatasaray 1-0 at home.
Of course, the 1-0 loss to Galatasaray would eliminate Juve, so that was no doubt an impactful fixture.
However, the result that hurt the reigning Italian champions the most was the 2-2 home draw to the Turkish side back in October. That was the beginning of the end.
It was the exact wrong response after the draw with Copenhagen, and it also meant Juventus would have to travel to Istanbul and take all the points, which evidenced by Wednesday's result, isn't easy to do.
Ajax 1, AC Milan 1
Little did we know a dive from Mario Balotelli would end up saving AC Milan's bacon when it came to advancing to the knockout stages.
It looked like Stefano Denswil gave Ajax all the points in the San Siro with his goal in the 90th minute. However, shortly thereafter, Balotelli made the most of an attempted challenge from Mike van der Hoorn. "Super Mario" stepped up to the penalty spot and hit the equalizer in the 94th minute to salvage a point.
Imagine what a home loss could've done for Milan. It's very likely Ajax would've been the club finishing second in Group H. Maybe Max Allegri is out of a job by now, and Balotelli's angling for a move away from the club.
Arsenal 1, Borussia Dortmund 0
Maybe the Arsenal of last year would've capitulated after losing 2-1 at home to Borussia Dortmund. That would have begun a drop in form that spills over in the Premier League and sees the Gunners tumble down the table.
This Arsenal is different, though, and this result proved it.
The Gunners turned around and beat Dortmund 1-0 in the Westfalenstadion. It wasn't a great performance by Arsene Wenger's side, but simply getting the result was impressive in its own right.
Beating Dortmund helped to put Arsenal in the driver's seat in Group F. This allowed the club some wiggle room against Napoli in the final match of the group stage. If the Gunners would've had to make the trip to Naples and force a draw or possibly even grab a win, they could've been in real trouble.
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