Soccer on TV: Brenden Aaronson is a win away from the Champions League knockout rounds
There are live stakes for every men's Champions League group in this week's final group stage games.
This week brings the season’s final group stage games in the UEFA men’s Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League.
In a lot of years, there isn’t a lot of drama in the final round of Champions League matchups, because most of the knockout round berths have already been decided. But this year, there’s so much at stake that this post will just focus on that tournament. And we’ll go alphabetically by group instead of by order of kickoff.
The top two teams in each of the eight groups advance to the knockout round on a seeded basis. The third-place teams go into a qualifying playoff round against the second-place teams from each of the Europa League’s eight groups.
In case of standings ties, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head results; the second is goal difference in those games; and the third is goals scored in those games.
The best way to keep track of all the games at once is the live whiparound coverage on CBS Sports Network and Paramount+. It’s on from 2-5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday for the Champions Leaguee, and 12-5 p.m. on Thursday for the Europa League.
Tuesday, 12:45 p.m.: RB Leipzig vs. Manchester City (Galavisión and Paramount+) and Paris Saint-Germain vs. Club Brugge (UniMás, TUDN and Paramount+)
Standings: Manchester City 12 points, PSG 8, Leipzig 4, Brugge 4
It felt both inevitable and disappointing that Leipzig fired American manager Jesse Marsch on Sunday after only four months in the job. Of course it matters that Leipzig has fallen to 11th in the Bundesliga, and some veteran players haven’t liked Marsch’s tactics. Marsch even felt himself that he wasn’t the right fit, and he told the front office that.
But it also stings that he got sacked while in COVID-19 isolation, and right before the team’s shot at getting to the Europa League playoff. It’s up to assistant coach Achim Beierlorzer to take the helm for now as Leipzig tries to get the result it needs.
Tuesday, 3 p.m.: AC Milan vs. Liverpool (Paramount+ and TUDN.com) and Porto vs. Atlético Madrid (Paramount+ and PrendeTV)
Standings: Liverpool 15, Porto 5, Milan 4, Atlético 4
Heading into the last round of group games, Milan was rooted to the basement with just one point. But an 87th-minute goal at Atlético by Junior Messias — a former undocumented migrant from Brazil who played in Italy’s fifth tier when he arrived in the country — gave the Rossoneri a win, and a burst of new life. Now there’s all to play for at home on the last day against a visitor that’s a long way clear in first.
Tuesday, 3 p.m.: Borussia Dortmund vs. Beşiktaş and Ajax vs. Sporting Clube de Portugal (both on Paramount+ and TUDN.com)
Standings: Ajax 15, Sporting 9, Dortmund 6, Beşiktaş 0
This is the only group where the standings places are already set. Dortmund can tie Sporting on points, but can’t jump into second place because Sporting’s 3-1 win in Portugal trumped Dortmund’s 1-0 win in Germany.
For a lot of people, Dortmund’s failure is the biggest story in the group. But Ajax’s success ought to be a big deal too. Forwards Dušan Tadić, Steven Berghuis and Sébastien Haller have fired the venerable Dutch club to a sweep of the group stage so far, including a 5-1 rout at Sporting and a stunning 4-0 demolition at Dortmund.
Tuesday, 3 p.m.: Real Madrid vs. Inter Milan (UniMás, TUDN and Paramount+) and Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Sheriff Tiraspol (Paramount+ and TUDN.com)
Standings: Real Madrid 12, Inter 10, Sheriff 6, Shakhtar 1
All that’s at stake here is first place, and Real is likely to hold serve at home. Sheriff going to the Europa League is quite a story, but its game this week doesn’t matter for the standings.
Wednesday, 3 p.m.: Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona (Univision 65, TUDN and Paramount+) and Benfica vs. Dynamo Kyiv (Paramount+ and TUDN.com)
Standings: Bayern 15 points, Barcelona 7, Benfica 5, Dynamo 1
Though Benfica enters the week trailing Barcelona in the standings, the Portuguese club is favored to finish second because of Barcelona’s trip to rampaging Bayern. The stands will be empty at the Allianz Arena, but Bayern is too talented for that to have a big effect. Don’t expect the German giants to be charitable toward Barcelona’s effort to escape with a second-place finish.
Wednesday, 3 p.m.: Manchester United vs. Young Boys (Paramount+ and PrendeTV) and Atalanta vs. Villarreal (Paramount+ and TUDN.com)
Standings: Manchester United 10, Villarreal 7, Atalanta 6, Young Boys 4.
Manchester United has already clinched first place, but second place is up for grabs. Jordan Pefok’s Young Boys can also get to third with an upset win at Old Trafford and an Atalanta loss — but only that way.
Wednesday, 3 p.m.: VfL Wolfsburg vs. Lille and Red Bull Salzburg vs. Sevilla (both on Paramount+ and TUDN.com)
Standings: Lille 8, Salzburg 7, Sevilla 6, Wolfsburg 5
This is going to be the craziest group of all, with all four teams still able to advance.
Brenden Aaronson’s Salzburg is on the doorstep of the first Champions League knockout round berth in club history, but could land anywhere from first place to eliminated. Tim Weah’s Lille has clinched at least third, but not more yet. John Brooks’ Wolfsburg has to win, because it can’t jump over Sevilla if the teams both finish with six points.
Wednesday, 12:45 p.m.: Zenit St. Petersburg vs. Chelsea (UniMás, TUDN, Paramount+) and Juventus vs. Malmö (Galavisión, Paramount+)
Standings: Chelsea 12, Juventus 12, Zenit 4, Malmö 1
It’s been long since set that Chelsea and Juventus will advance, but first place matters. Chelsea has the goal difference tiebreaker thanks to a 4-0 win in London after Juve’s 1-0 win in Turin.
All eight groups have at least one live game, and it’d take a long time to list them all here. So we’ll pick one group to highlight, and it’s Group C. Leicester City has 8 points, Spartak Moscow and Napoli have 7, and Legia Warsaw has 6. The concluding games are Thursday at 12:45 p.m.: Napoli hosts Leicester (UniMás, TUDN and Paramount+) and Legia hosts Spartak (Paramount+ and TUDN.com).
The first-place team in each group advances to the knockout stage; the second-place teams go into playoffs with the third-place Champions League teams; and the third-place teams go into the Europa Conference League’s knockout rounds.
» READ MORE: The rest of this week's Europa League schedule
Europa Conference League
All eight groups have live games, but one stands out far above the rest: Group G. Rennes has already won it, four points clear of Tottenham and Vitesse Arnhem. It’s pretty surprising that Spurs and Vitesse are tied — and it’s so because Spurs lost at last-place Mura, of Slovenia, in the previous game.
Tottenham has the edge thanks to the fourth tiebreaker of overall goal difference, soccer’s traditional first tiebreaker, +3 to +1. It must beat Rennes in London and keep the goal difference lead while Vitesse hosts Murato advance in second place.
Both games are Thursday at 3 p.m. on Paramount+ and TUDN.com.
UPDATE: Tottenham-Rennes won’t be played as scheduled because of a COVID-19 outbreak among Spurs players. Manager Antonio Conte said Wednesday that eight players and five staff members have tested positive. A team statement said “discussions are ongoing with UEFA,” and there will be an update “in due course.”
Women’s Champions League
This is the first week of the season in which Europe’s top men’s and women’s club competitions have games at the same time. UEFA has tried to give the women’s Champions League its own days in the calendar, but the calendar is so jammed that an overlap was bound to happen at some point.
The big game this week is Arsenal vs. Barcelona on Thursday at 2 p.m. (YouTube and DAZN). Vivianne Miedama and Arsenal will try to put a dent in newly-crowned Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas and Barcelona’s charge toward a second straight European title.