Champions League week 5 review: Barcelona remain favourites
Barcelona remains the favourite to win the Champions League for the sixth time after topping Group C thanks to a comfortable victory at Celtic Park. Man City go through as runners-up after a draw in Germany.
Champions League Week 5 Review: Barcelona remain favouritesBarcelona escaped from a potential banana skin of a tie in Celtic Park to qualify on top of Group C thanks to a brace from Lionel Messi. The Barcelona captain – looking more like Grizzly Adams that the world’s top footballer – scored either side of half-time to silence the enthusiastic support.
Celtic needed a win to retain a slim possibility of sneaking into the Europa League ahead of Borussia Monchengladbach. Man City fans were also tuning into the action on their transistor radios as a Celtic win would have kept City’s hopes alive of topping the group.
Neither of those eventualities came to fruition. Not many people in football thought they would. Messi’s first goal, in the 24th minute, was sublime. Neymar controlled the ball on the edge of the box. Messi darted into the six-yard box in the midst of six Celtic players and Neymar found him with an inch-perfect lob and the Argentinean half-volleyed the ball into the back of the net.
Moussa Dembele spurned an opportunity to level the tie when he headed tamely into the hands of the Barcelona keeper from six yards. And Emilio Izaguirre gift-wrapped Barcelona’s second goal when he dragged Luis Suarez down in the box – Messi scored from the penalty spot. It was his ninth Champions League goal in four games.
Barcelona goes through as group leaders after Man City failed to win away at Borussia Monchengladbach. Yaya Toure was unable to play after his two-goal salvo on the weekend (he isn’t a registered Champions League player), but City was still confident after beating the team with the longest name in the world on three occasions in the past 14-months.
That confidence soon dissipated after a mistake by John Stones allowed Lars Stindl to race up the touchline on the left. His daisy cutter of a cross took a slight deflection, the Brazilian striker Raffael brought it under control and rifled the ball home.
The goal seemed to pour some ice down the backs of the City players. Iikay Gundogan and Sergio Aguero both had chances to score as City pressed hard in the final 15-minutes of the first half, and they were rewarded in injury time after some smart work between Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne laid it on a plate for David Silva to equalise.
The second half was a non-entity courtesy of two sendings off. The Germans lost their captain when Stindl was sent off for a second bookable offence. But just when you thought City would make them pay for the extra man advantage, Fernandinho also exited stage left for two silly fouls.
Barcelona is still the favourite to win the Champions League at +300. Man City is a decent outside bet at +1000, but Pep Guardiola has not lifted the trophy since leaving the Catalan.
Atletico Retain 100% Win Rate; Munich Suffer Shock Loss
Atletico Madrid is still aiming to make it three finals in four years after a 2-0 win over PSV Eindhoven. It was the perfect tonic after their 3-0 humbling at the hands of noisy neighbours Real on the weekend.
Kevin Gameiro opened the scoring in the 55th minute. Antoine Griezmann sealed the win 10-minutes later. It was the Frenchman’s third goal of this Champions League campaign, and Atletico goes through as the only team with a perfect 5/5 record.
Bayern Munich joins Atletico in the last 16 despite a humbling in Russia. FC Rostov celebrated their greatest night in the clubs history with a 3-2 win at home to the Bundesliga champions, the first time a Russian side has beaten Bayern in the Champions League.
Rostov’s historic win means a point against PSV in the last game of the campaign will ensure they reach the Europa League, although the Dutch side is the favourite to go through with home advantage.
It’s been a tough week for Bayern who were knocked off their Bundesliga perch by RB Leipzig after losing by a goal to nil away at Dortmund on the weekend.