The penultimate matchday of the group stage has been completed with mixed fortunes for the Bundesliga contingent as they battle to make it through. What are the takeaways from this week’s action involving the Bundesliga’s finest?
1. Who saw that coming from RB Leipzig?
Wow! RB Leipzig had their destiny in their own hands in Group F in their two-way battle with Shakhtar Donetsk to qualify, and they took a massive step towards fulfilling that destiny with a 3-2 win over the reigning Champions League winners at the Red Bull Arena.
They had put in a courageous performance at the Bernabeu on matchday 2, but few could have predicted a win over the Spanish giants on Tuesday. Two goals in the opening twenty minutes from Josko Gvardiol and Christopher Nkunku set them on their way, but a reply from Vinicius Junior just before the break gave Madrid hope. Substitute Timo Werner killed the game in the 81st minute rendering Rodrygo’s stoppage time penalty irrelevant.
“It was a brilliant evening for Leipzig” coach Marco Rose said after the final whistle. “We played really well; our opening 35 minutes were fantastic, and we were ahead 2-0. It was obvious that Real were then going to show their class and they made us run a lot. But we defended tirelessly, and we won our duels. We dealt with everything in the second half, and it was an open game. I think we didn’t allow them much.
“I’m very pleased with today’s performance and I’m happy that the boys believed in themselves and rewarded themselves. Despite the win, we know that we’re not through the group. We have to try and take the final step in Warsaw.”
2. Dortmund defend their way into the knock-out stage.
Mats Hummels voice has been quite prominent in recent weeks berating his BVB teammates for their performance levels and attempting to sting them into a reaction. Hummels must only have positive words following the Schwarzgelben’s goalless draw at home to Manchester City on Tuesday, which sees them through to the next stage.
As far as goalless draws go, it had its merits with Gregor Kobel saving a penalty from Riyad Mahrez and BVB keeping the returning Erling Haaland off the scoresheet- something that has proved impossible for Premier League defences this season.
“We wanted to finally beat City; we got close, especially in the first half” Hummels said after the match. “When I’m critical, it has to be expected that I lead the way in terms of performance. But Emre or Schlotti really got stuck in too. I’d like to single out Karim Adeyemi for special mention, who worked away like a bull down the right flank for 70 minutes.”
Penalty hero Kobel added: “It was very important for us that we got the reward. We were very disciplined, defensively too. Now we’re happy that we’ve qualified. We set out to continue where we left off in the last game against City. We wanted to play with lots of intensity, stay compact and run a lot.
“We also had one or two chances to take the lead, but in the end it’s a fair result. I would’ve actually liked Erling Haaland to take the penalty, but he unfortunately wasn’t on the pitch anymore. He’s a super guy; it was lovely to see him again today.”
3. Bayern send out a message
Despite having already qualified for the knock-out stage, Bayern travelled to Barcelona wanting to maintain their 100% record and send a message to the rest of Europe that they mean business in this season’s Champions League.
Their 2-0 win at the Nou Camp with Robert Lewandowski once again kept off the scoresheet certainly sent out the message that the Bavarians are going to be one of the clear favourites for this year’s Henkelpott.
First half goals from Sadio Mané and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (both set up by Serge Gnabry) put the Germans in control and despite some bright moments from Ousmane Dembélé, the Spanish hosts were kept at arm’s length and Robert Lewandowksi was once again kept goalless against his former side. An injury time goal from substitute Benjamin Pavard only piled on more misery for Barca, who are now destined for the Europa League in the New Year (or bankruptcy).
4. Hradecky’s making up for previous errors
The Werkself led twice at the Stadion Civitas Metropolitano only to draw 2-2 in dramatic fashion with the hosts missing a glorious chance to win it with a stoppage time penalty. Ten minutes (!) into time added on, Lukas Hradecky made up for some of his individual errors this season by saving the spot kick from Yannick Carrasco.
Moussa Diaby had given Bayer the lead in the 9th minute only for Carrasco to equalise. Callum Hudson-Odoi restored the lead on the half hour mark but Rodrigo de Paul levelled five minutes into the second period.
The late penalty drama should have seen Atleti take the win, but Leverkusen’s keeper came up trumps. Xabi Alonso’s side cannot now qualify, but the door is still open for Europa League football in the New Year if they win their final group game.
5. The Frankfurt dream lives on.
Group D remains on a knife edge following Eintracht’s 2-1 home win over Marseille and Tottenham’s being held at home by Sporting Lisbon. Goals from Daichi Kamada and Randal Kolo Muani either side of Matteo Guendouzi’s first half equaliser saw the Adler to a 2-1 win and seven points from five games. Sporting now also have seven after their 1-1 draw in London with Spurs on eight going into the final round of fixtures.
The winner of the matchday six clash between Frankfurt and Sporting has an awful lot to gain.