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5 Things We Learned From The UCL Group Stage

The 2016-17 Champions League Group Stage has finished with all the usual contenders set to battle it out in the round of 16. Monday’s draw has handed us the following match ups:

  • Manchester City vs. Monaco
  • Real Madrid vs. Napoli
  • Benfica vs. Borussia Dortmund
  • Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal
  • Porto vs. Juventus
  • Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid
  • Paris Saint-Germain vs. Barcelona
  • Sevilla vs. Leicester City

But before we preview the round of 16 action, let’s take one final look at the major talking points from the group stage.

#1: La Liga Dominates

La Liga remains the league to beat as all four of their representatives have advanced to the knockout stage, the only league to do so in the tournament.

Barcelona finished on top of Group C ahead of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and last year’s runners-up Atletico Madrid edged out Bayern Munich to lead Group D. 

The defending champions Real Madrid, however, had to settle with the second place behind Borussia Dortmund, and the winner of the last three Europa League titles, Sevilla, held off Lyon to finish as runners-up in Group H behind Juventus. 

#2: Leicester City’s Fairytale Continues 

Despite only making their Champions League debut, last season’s shocking Premier League winners are through to the next round. Although the Foxes suffered a heavy defeat away from home to Porto in match day six after fielding a much changed squad, they still managed to win their group with 13 points out of a possible 18. Claudio Ranieri’s men look set to continue their fairytale as they’ve been handed a winnable draw against Sevilla.

#3: The Biggest Shock Was The Elimination Of Besiktas 

Before the matches kicked off on Tuesday, Group B had the most interesting scenario with three teams separated by just one point. Napoli and Benfica both had eight points while Besiktas was right behind them and had the advantage of going up against Dynamo Kiev.

However, their away trip to Ukraine ended up in a disaster as they suffered a shocking 6-0 defeat at the hands of the already eliminated Dynamo. Dynamo hadn’t won a match prior to their home encounter with the Turkish giants, but a penalty and two red cards for the opposition helped seal the victory as they both bowed out of the competition. 

#4: Is This The Dawn Of A New Arsenal?

Arsenal fans were in dreamland after the Gunners finally finished as group winners for the first time in five years. This was not expected, however, as Arsenal only managed a draw against PSG at home a couple of weeks ago, which looked to make second place a formality.

But PSG’s surprise draw with Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets on Tuesday meant Arsenal were seeded heading into Monday’s round of 16 draw, looking to end a run of six straight round of 16 defeats. Of course, as fate would have it, Arsenal have drawn Bayern Munich in the round of 16.

#5: Borussia Dortmund Are Young But Full Of Fight

Borussia Dortmund showed great character and attitude when they made a dramatic comeback against Real Madrid away from home. After being 2-0 down by the 53rd minute and completely outplayed, Thomas Tuchel and his men made a remarkable turnaround to get a point, sealing their place as group winners.

It’s also worth noting the incredible energy and ruthlessness from the team as nine out of the 14 players that took part in the match were aged 27 and under. They can pose a dangerous threat to any other club in this competition and will head into the knockout stages as a major dark horse. 

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