With most groups in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League undecided until the last round of matches, in a goal-saturated two days, many teams made a spectacular claim to a knock-out round slot in just the past 48-hours.
PSG, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Juventus, and Barcelona knew they were in, but several of the other nine slots were filled by teams that were not expected to progress. Papa himself was off in half of his predictions.
Italy’s Atlanta, loser of its first three matches, clinched qualification by a point over Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, winning 3-0 away at Metalist Stadium, in a game of goals by inches and glances. While at the Wanda Metropolitano, Atletico Madrid defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 to clinch their slot.
At the San Siro, Barcelona’s B-team was more than good enough to defeat Inter Milan 2-1 with an 86th minute goal by Ansu Fati, who became the youngest Champions League goalscorer. In truth, Borussia Dortmund earned their place but Inter could have won the match going away if not for a series of incredible misses from their forwards.
Liverpool 2-0 away to Red Bull Salzburg, and Napoli 4-0 at home to Genk, ensured their places with emphatic wins.
Benfica saved its best for last and clobbered Zenit St. Petersburg 3-0 at the Estadio da Luz, while Lyon got its one golden point in a 2-2 home draw with RB Leipzig, advancing the German and French teams.
Valencia won by a solitary early goal away to Ajax and then made its head-to-head win over Chelsea count as a tie-breaker when the Spanish and English teams tied at 11 points and +2 goal differential.
In a round with 45 goals scored in 16 matches, a 2.8 goals-a-match average (a drop from the 3.21 goal average for the entire tournament so far), each team that could took the time to make a goal-scoring statement, not just notch a clinching win or draw, but showcase what might still come ahead.
Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski at 10 goals, leads the scorers’ table, while of the remaining teams Harry Kane at six goals and seven others at five goals trail the Polish striker. Of the remaining teams, three players are tied with four assists each and nine follow those two at three goals each.
The draw for the Group of 16 matchups will be held on Monday, December 16 at 12:00 CET.