Tottenham Hotspur have somehow found a way to take just a single point in their first three group stage matches and get to the knockout round. I’m still trying to figure out just how they pulled this off, but it doesn’t matter in the long run. They’re in the Round of 16, and that means a look ahead to Monday’s draw.
The late Jim Valvano, who was basketball coach for North Carolina State back in the 1980s, coined the phrase Survive and Advance. The underdog Wolfpack somehow earned an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament and rode that momentum all the way to a national title. They were never given a chance, and man it feels like Tottenham are in the same shoes after finishing second in Group B behind Barcelona.
Now that the group stage is in the rear view mirror, here are the final results:
- Winners: Borussia Dortmund
- Runners-up: Atletico Madrid
- Europa: Club Brugge
- Goodbye: Monaco
Dortmund and Atletico were basically penciled in when this draw finished and they did not disappoint. Dortmund are running roughshod in Germany, sitting on 36 points and have yet to lose. They’re seven clear of Borussia Monchengladbach and nine clear of Bayern Munich. Meanwhile, Atletico continues to cruise right along. They’re third in La Liga but just three points behind Barcelona. They had some early hiccups given that they have seven draws in La Liga, but they’re figuring their issues out at the right time.
- Winners: Barcelona
- Runners-up: Tottenham Hotspur
- Europa: Inter Milan
- Goodbye: PSV Eindhoven (We love you, though.)
We have already gone into great detail how crazy it is we’re in second place, so I’m not going to rehash it. Thank you, PSV, for that big favor on Tuesday!
- Winners: Paris Saint-Germain
- Runners-up: Liverpool
- Europa: Napoli
- Goodbye: Red Star Belgrade
This group was insane. Nobody was safe going into match day six and all Napoli needed to really turn the group upside down was a single goal on Tuesday. They failed to get it and Liverpool got the one they needed. PSG are a well-oiled machine right now and Kylian Mbappe is terrorizing backlines with Neymar. Europa League is going to be brutal with a club of Napoli’s quality dropping down. I feel bad for whoever draws them in the Round of 32.
- Winners: Porto
- Runners-up: Schalke 04
- Europa: Galatasaray
- Goodbye: Lokomotiv Moscow
I missed a lot of this group but it seems that Porto didn’t have much of a problem with anyone, surrendering just six goals in six matches. Schalke won the matches they should have won to finish comfortably in second, sending the Turkish giants back to Europa League again.
- Winners: Bayern Munich
- Runners-up: Ajax
- Europa: Benfica
- Goodbye: AEK Athens
As expected, AEK Athens was nothing more than a doormat in this group. They scored just two goals and gave up 13, failing to achieve a single point. Bayern Munich managed to win the group on the final match day, but have lost Thomas Muller for at least one match due to an insanely dumb red card against Ajax. While Bayern are loaded, they are not the invincible killing machine they have been in the past. Their league form has been good, but nothing spectacular as they are 8-3-3 so far. Ajax probably should have won this group, but they’ll settle for second. Benfica will be a tough out in Europa for anyone.
- Winners: Manchester City
- Runners-up: Lyon
- Europa: Shakhtar Donetsk
- Goodbye: Hoffenheim
There was still some work to be done on the final match day in this group, but Manchester City took 13 of 16 points to win the group. Lyon won just one match in this entire group, but on the strength of five draws gets the second bid here on just eight points, same as Spurs. They just Portugal’d their way into the knockouts instead of winning matches. If it works? Can’t complain, I guess.
- Winners: Real Madrid
- Runners-up: AS Roma
- Europa: Viktoria Plzen
- Goodbye: CSKA Moscow
Real Madrid’s season has been the biggest roller coaster in their club’s recent memory. Even after firing their manager and bringing in Santiago Solari, Los Blancos won their group and are just five points back in La Liga. This team, like Bayern, does not have that same invincible feel to them. You still don’t want to play them when they’re in form, but they are far from unbeatable. AS Roma didn’t take the easy route in this group, but nine points were enough to get through.
- Winners: Juventus
- Runners-up: Manchester United
- Europa: Valencia
- Goodbye: BSC Young Boys
Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus has certainly strengthened their attack, but this group wasn’t easy for them. Four wins were enough to top the group, though, while Manchester United have managed to slip into the second spot amidst all their problems and turmoil. It also means that all four English clubs have made it to the knockout rounds.
Soooooo... what’s next?
The draw for the Round of 16 is on Monday, December 17. It’ll be held at noon ET (5 pm UK) and we’ll have more info for you on where you can watch it later. For now, we’re looking at the teams that Spurs can be drawn against and figuring out who would be the ideal matchups and who they should absolutely want to avoid. The draw rules are as follows:
- The eight group winners are considered the seeded teams. The runners-up are unseeded. This means that seeded clubs will not be drawn against each other and, likewise, unseeded teams cannot face each other in this round.
- Clubs cannot be drawn against the team they faced in the group stages, so Barcelona is out for Spurs. Nobody will complain about that, even with that performance at Camp Nou.
- Clubs cannot be drawn against the same association.
- Unseeded teams will get the home leg first, then travel to the seeded team’s ground for the second leg.
With all that being said, the clubs left for Spurs are:
- Borussia Dortmund
- FC Porto
- Bayern Munich
- Real Madrid
Yuck. That’s basically murderer’s row on steroids. There really isn’t a way for this to get worse, is there? That’s the punishment for not winning your group.
Dortmund are currently playing some beautiful football. Jadon Sancho looks like the real deal and their defense has been stout. They surrendered just two goals in group play and are +25 in Bundesliga with 39 goals scored and 14 against. While Spurs handled this club twice last year, this is a different team. They look much better.
Paris Saint-Germain are looking to break their hex in the knockouts. They just seem to lose their mind in some incredulous way, but they look terrifying right now. They are +39 in Ligue 1 with 49 goals scored. While their group in UCL was not nearly as smooth as France has been for them, this is a team that can score goals in bunches and I’m not sure I want to see Neymar and Mbappe running down the flanks against Spurs right now.
I think the obvious choice for “team that scares me the least” is Porto. Yes, they took 16 of 18 from their group and are sitting on top of the Primeira Liga at 30 points out of 36, but when you look at the other options, I think I’d happily take a trip to the coast of Portugal over anyone else right now.
While Bayern Munich have feasted on clubs in the past in UCL all the way until, usually, the semi-finals, this year is different. Yes, they’re still damn good and will be a challenge for anyone, but Muller’s red card is going to affect their attack. He’s the engine that makes things tick usually for the German giants. They’re in an unfamiliar position in Germany being nine points behind Dortmund and, at times, have looked disinterested in league play. They look to be changing that as of late, and their winter break should allow them some much needed rest.
Maybe I’m nuts, but Real Madrid might be number two on the list of clubs I want to face. They have been in absolute turmoil and I’m sure they wish they hadn’t run Zidane into the looney bin after he won them eight trophies in his tenure. That job is where coaches go to succeed and also lose their minds. Solari has brought some semblance of sanity back to the European Champions, and saying that not having Ronaldo makes them less dangerous is saying the sky is blue in the daytime. But, I don’t think we’re going to see a deep run for them and someone is going to knock them off. Spurs took four of six points from them last year. Why not do it again?
Then there’s Juventus, who scare the ever-loving sh*t out of me. I’ve made it a point to watch them more this year and Ronaldo has just fit like a glove with them. They’re on an unreal 43 of 45 points in Serie A and, while they weren’t perfect in their group, they are absolutely stacked with talent. Want to stop Ronaldo? Cool, here’s Paulo Dybala. Try and stop him? Great, Douglas Costa is running at you with space. Alex Sandro is there. Miralem Pjanic is there. They are just loaded, top to bottom. I’d like to avoid them for as long as possible.
So there you have it. The gut tells me that Porto is far and away the best option for advancement to the quarterfinals, but I wouldn’t cry about having to face Real Madrid, as crazy as it sounds. Juventus should be avoided like the plague, along with PSG. No matter what, Spurs are going to get one hell of a matchup in the Round of 16.
If we’re going with our club motto, though? To dare is to do, gang. Give us Juventus again.