The Champions League group stage has come to a close and the winners and losers have been determined. We now have a good idea of who’ll dazzle us in the knockout rounds, as well as knowing who’s going out altogether and who’s going to feature in the Europa League.
Judging by the evidence of their group-stage performances, here are the sides who have most impressed in Europe’s most prestigious competition so far this season.
Despite a defeat to Bayern Munich in their final fixture from Group B – and there’s no shame in losing at the Allianz Arena – PSG still deserve massive kudos for how they handled the group. Helped in no small part by a ruthless 7-1 victory over Celtic, the Parisiens set a new record of 25 goals at the group stage, smashing the previous record of 21 set by Borussia Dortmund in 2016.
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With Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe terrifying in attack and enormous quality all through their defence and midfield, PSG will still be among the tournament favourites regardless of losing in Bavaria. Neymar alone has scored six goals in Europe already – the mere sight of the blond Brazilian would petrify most teams.
While North London rivals Arsenal have faced a joyless slog through Europa League Group H, Spurs have had a Champions League group stage to remember. Not only have they topped a group containing Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, they beat the latter 3-1 at Wembley in what will surely go down as one of their most famous outings in Europe.
While it is way, way too early to be tipping them for European glory, Spurs have shown this season that they are more than just Champions League day trippers. If Mauricio Pochettino can keep Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen fit and firing, Tottenham could match their famous run to the quarter-finals in 2011, at least.
Considering their blistering start to the Premier League season, Manchester City’s European escapades have been even more impressive. Pep Guardiola’s men have shown little sign of fatigue on Champions League nights, storming to the top of Group F in style.
Napoli and Shakhtar Donetsk have been far from easy pickings for City, as exemplified by the six-goal thriller at the Stadio San Paolo in which the Sky Blues triumphed over the Neapolitans with second-half goals from Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero (not to mention City’s dead-rubber defeat to Shakhtar). If City’s knockout matches are half as exciting, they’ll be the talk of Europe for a long time to come.
Special mentions: There’s been unusually little fanfare around them this season, but Barcelona have also been brilliant. Undefeated in a group which included Juventus – who they beat 3-0 in September – Barca could well be back to their best on the European stage.
Liverpool should probably get a mention, too, having scored a whopping 23 goals in an albeit average group.