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Champions League winners and losers


Marouane Fellaini
Jose Mourinho quickly went to attack after Manchester United secured qualification for the knockout round, indicating that he had participated 14 times in the Champions League group stage and made it through every time.

The manager payment line – "Just a little curiosity for all my lovers to note" – denounced the attempt to cut social media which made everyone think you were a little bitter. Manchester United have made everything difficult for themselves in Group H, but there should be no surprises in finishing above Young Boys and the Valencia team who have won three of their 13 La Liga matches this season.

Instead, let's get praise for Fellaini, who is a true architect of Manchester United's qualifications. Two of their three group wins were inspired by Fellaini's inspired massacre. He panicked Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in Turin, and scored the winning goal during the match against Young Boys. He may only be a midfielder or Manchester United striker who appears.

Fellaini being very important for United is a sad indictment from the club's level of performance. Supporters will prefer to see Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez dominated on their side and prepared an opportunity for Romelu Lukaku to finish, with Paul Pogba as the creative force from midfield.

But the need must be, and that should not reduce Fellaini's contribution. He might be awkward, but he caused panic. It might be worrying that Plan B is often a Plan A because United is getting slower in attack, but the plan often works. It may be sad that they need it to save them at home for the worst team in the group, but save them.

Manchester United
As low as the bar, they clean it. Just about.

Paris Saint-Germain finally delivered
That's how it is their financial dominance in Ligue Un, PSG will only be judged based on their appearance in Europe. They have played eight Champions League matches in the past year and have only won twice, against Celtic and Crvena Zvezda. Six matches against Napoli, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid produced four defeats and two draws.

So this feels like a breakthrough victory for Thomas Tuchel's team, who stormed last season's finalists in the first 30 minutes. This is a mirror of the style that Liverpool themselves used under Klopp last season, the initial salvo took the game beyond the reach of their opponents.

Marco Verratti is a brilliant midfielder, although he should have been sent off. Thiago Silva is a defensive leader. Angel Di Maria is far better than the ghost player we witnessed in the Premier League. Juan Bernat is an incredible left back. Marquinhos performed superbly in the defensive midfield role.

But really, it's all about the three fronts. Among them, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani have scored 126 times in all competitions for PSG since the start of last season. They have the skills, speed and strength of each that makes them perfect attacking units. Keep shooting like they did on Wednesday, and PSG can really win this.

The lifeline of the Champions League. If it's not impossible for Tottenham to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League with two matches remaining, it's impossible to close it. The first minimum requirement is to beat Inter with two clear goals or 1-0 and thus move forward from Italy to a head-to-head record. The second part of the task is still more difficult: match Inter's results in the easiest group match (PSV at home) at Tottenham's most difficult, far away in Barcelona in two weeks. But there are still opportunities.

Also important is the fact that victory over Inter maintained Tottenham's brilliant performance. They have won six straight matches in all competitions since losing at home to Manchester City. If they suffer out of the Champions League, enthusiasm will be stabbed before the north London derby. Now, Mauricio Pochettino has led them to win their first two matches from a period of eight big days. Avoid defeat at Emirates on Sunday, and this will be a very good week for high-performing managers at the Big Six.

Mauricio Pochettino …
… and the plan played pure perfection.

Moussa Sissoko
As I walked out of Wembley to an endless queue towards Wembley Park, singing began and spread like wildfire in the way they felt when a large number of supporters were happy with what they had just witnessed. "Wake me up, before leaving, leave. Who needs Bale when you get Sissoko?" They sang. It's been a long time since the short song was heard.

Of course the lyrics are not meant to be taken seriously, but symbolize them Sissoko Redemption at Tottenham. If Saturday brings praise for his work as a midfield destroyer, it is driving forward running into the penalty area which helped Tottenham winners on Wednesday. Bloody youth play fair.

David de Gea
Stop the clock and remove the cellphone from the hook. Turn off all forms of communication to the outside world. Lure David de Gea into the dimly lit room and lock the door. Read the poem for him, play love songs and add as many digits as possible to a large number until he agrees to stay.

De Gea is not in his best condition this season, which means he appears like most other top goalkeepers. The percentage of deposits in the Premier League is only 67.6%, 16 in the division. That reflects both Manchester United's allowing their opponents to clear opportunities, and their own form doesn't quite match the previous brilliance.

But in the big moments of the big game, De Gea was the most frequent savior at United. A late saving from unusually extraordinary Ulisses Garcia shots. De Gea has the ability to react to a moving ball as if he is watching life pass at a slower pace for all of us.

"I know he is happy here, I know he wants to stay, and I know the council is working to make it happen," Mourinho said after the match. If all three statements are true, United supporters can at least feel confident about one element of them uncertain future.

Jose Mourinho

No voice in this matter.

Real Madrid
Suffering at home, but snoring again in the Champions League. Nothing summarizes Real Madrid's ability to forget their La Liga dispute while playing in Europe like losing to Eibar for the first time in their history on Saturday before pulling out last season's semi-finalists at Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday.

That way, Real ensured their place at the top of Group G with the remaining games. That happens again.

It might sound a little patronizing to praise any team for drawing at home, especially when the team is the second best in the group. But it shouldn't be. Lyon sit 15 points behind Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue Un, but they have tested Manchester City as no other non-English club has been managed since Monaco in March 2017. Maybe French football has some depth.

Maxwel Cornet has become the star of Lyon against City, with three goals in two matches, but the entire team deserves praise. There was no team this season that made City look uncomfortable in carrying out Pep Guardiola's plans, but that largely came from the courage of Bruno Génésio to leave at least two or three players when City attacked. If that reduces the game to organized chaos, where both teams take turns attacking, that's the best you can expect against City in this form.

Lyon midfielder of the future
It's time for Houssem Aouar and Tanguy Ndombele to go through a match against a team that can immediately replace their old midfield.

Memphis Depay
Created six chances against City in 90 minutes on Tuesday. The entire Manchester United team created four earlier this month against the same opponent. Just saying.

Mario Mandzukic
Cristiano Ronaldo is a superstar and Paulo Dybala wonders, but don't forget about old Mario. Mandzukic only played more than 1,000 minutes in Serie A and the Champions League combined this sea, but he has six league goals and on Tuesday scored the winner to secure Juventus top spot in Group H. Ignore him at your peril.

To the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2006, when they finished behind Arsenal and in front only FC Thun and Sparta Prague in the group were gloriously gentle. There are no teams in the competition that have conceded fewer, and eight teams that started in Athens aged 22 or below. For us at a certain age, there is beautiful nostalgia in the young Ajax team who make waves again.

Robert Lewandowski
His two goals on Tuesday led Lewandowski past Thierry Henry and into sixth place in the all-time European Cup goalscorer list. Obviously this list is weighted towards today with the addition of the group stage to the current format, but that is still a remarkable record. Plan his career accordingly, and Lewandowski may retire behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi on the list.

Arjen Robben
This year is 2058, and the world is desert. The remaining humans survive through victory in battle against the giant cockroaches that roam the earth. They can only be destroyed by being placed into an incinerator which then flows their toxic remnants deep into the soil.

One morning, Arjen was on a patrol shifting somewhere in the eternal desert that was once Central Europe. After 40 minutes of the regular route, Arjen looked at the antenna that protruded from behind the rock. Roaches, usually like wild animals, have exposed themselves. That will pay for that mistake.

Arjen immediately started work. Running on the opposite side of a large rock, it caught a cockroach with surprise, kicked its prey from behind and sent it into several rounds in front of it. Catching up with cockroaches, Arjen paused, dragging him from one foot to the other to keep him astonished.

Twenty meters away stands an incinerator, a small hatch opens and waits for delivery. Arjen did not dare to take cockroaches. He never likes to bring such things closer to his face than is needed. He had seen too many scars on his face too much for that.

Instead, Arjen performed his party tricks. Dipping to one side, he kicked the cockroach to the side with his left foot, bringing the incinerator into view around the large rock. When the animal starts to move, Arjen knows that he has a chance. Plugging in a cockroach with the inside of his left leg, he sent it curling through the air and into the hatching incinerator.

Arjen immediately breaks into a celebration, as he always does. Nomadic remnants believe that he only celebrates his purpose and cleanses the earth of other poisonous animals, but Arjen knows differently. He does not celebrate success; he admired the past, when his left leg earned him the fame and glory that was now counted in vain. The trusted left foot never let him down at that time. That will never happen now.

Oh yes, Robben scored twice against Benfica. You already know what that goal is.


Not a disaster, but last year's finalists were teetering on the edge of elimination. Most likely, Jurgen Klopp's team had to beat Napoli with two clear goals at home to reach the last 16. Their fate is still in their hands, but that is a big demand.

When he woke up on Thursday morning, Klopp must have wondered how his team made him like pickles after defeating PSG at Anfield in their first match in this group stage. The answer lies in three distant performances that range in quality from gloomy to just a little less bleak, and three away defeats in the Champions League group stage for the first time in their history.

Add in the semi-final second leg and the end of last season, and Liverpool have now lost five consecutive Champions League matches to Anfield. Obviously there is a problem, and it lies in passivity in the midfield and individual defensive errors.

Klopp predicted the show in Paris. He warned his Liverpool team that they must be prepared to play badly, and they proved themselves unable to do so. PSG is guilty some games are outrageous to run to the second round, but they got the position of authority too agile for Liverpool.

If losing to one of the richest clubs in the world is not embarrassing, herein lies the problem by reducing your margin for mistakes by losing in Belgrade and Napoli. For the first time in a long time, Klopp is under pressure to respond. Failed to win the Merseyside derby at Anfield on Sunday, and he will fight to ensure that the big ambitions for this season are not destroyed before Christmas.

Jordan Henderson
Sent on Saturday and condescending on Wednesday, it hasn't been a good week for the Liverpool captain. When pitted against the best in business, Henderson suffered greatly. He was not the only one wrong because Liverpool struggled to overcome PSG's extraordinary four fronts, but he failed completely in protecting the defense. He will get Sunday to watch from the stands.

Marcus Rashford
It starts as the center advances again and has six shots, but only one is on target. Most frustrating were two missed opportunities which caused his manager to wince and complain at the edge of the field. If playing the weakest team in the group gave Rashford a chance to restore confidence at club level, he took a step back.

You can argue that Rashford played under the wrong manager. Young players need time and patience to make mistakes without fear of being harassed by the public. The difference between Rashford's form and beliefs for Manchester United and England might be explained by the pressure he wants to succeed, and how it manifests in the reaction of their respective managers.

Since scoring twice against Liverpool in March, Rashford has scored four times for England but three of 27 matches for Manchester United. Not good.

But Rashford must do the best of this, and must find a way. If Jose Mourinho doesn't go anywhere for now, then his only choice is to explore and hope that the current downturn disappears to greet at the new dawn.

Phil Foden
We are all sure he will start, given the pre-match praise of the Pepuis and the Manchester City manager who stated several times that Foden was ready to leave from the first minute. And there he sat, on the bench.

I understand that is difficult. Every match carries such pressure so playing young people on top is very difficult. When they come usually due to injury has given managers less free choice. Foden will start the final group match in the Champions League and possibly the EFL Cup quarter-final against Leicester City.

But soccer is so important that most help young players develop. Foden's minutes in seven Premier League appearances this season: 8, 21, 2, 15, 18, 1, 21. Foden's minutes in two Champions League appearances this season: 1, 3. Scores at his introduction in four matches when Foden played more than 10 minutes: 4-0, 3-0, 5-1, 3-0.

Minutes in the high pressure scenario are worth many times more than dead rubber and equipment in secondary competition, and Foden is unfortunately lacking in them. Yes, he is only 18 years old, but every coach who works with Foden believes he is ready. This is a compliment to him that I belong to him in this section because everyone is very happy to see him make a difference.

Oh dear

Pulisic Christian
Oh baby, oh honey

CSKA Moscow
After 55 minutes, CSKA took a 1-0 lead over Viktoria Plzen which kept their chances of reaching the knockout stage alive. With full time, they somehow managed to lose at home to one of the weakest teams in the competition and almost guaranteed that they would not play in the spring Europa League. Special effort.

Without a win, and almost certain to finish the bottom of Group F after clawing their way back against Shakhtar only to lose the match for the second time. With Julian Nagelsmann leaving at the end of the season, there are fears that this big over-period will end.

Lost is a development opportunity, but very real is the possibility to complete the bottom of Group D. It will be a disaster.

Daniel Storey

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