By Agathe Vanmassenhove || Sports Reporter
The Champions League was back for its fourth matchday on November 7th, helping to cement the bracket for the upcoming 16-team tournament. As of now, Manchester City, Bayern, and Real Madrid have already secured their spots in the next round, earning 12 points with their undefeated records, while Real Sociedad, Inter Milan, and Leipzig also qualified, with ten, ten, and nine points respectively.
Real Sociedad is having a tremendous run in the Champions League. So far, the team has registered three victories and one tie within the group stage, including a 3-1 victory against Benfica, forcing the Portuguese team’s elimination from the tournament. Real Sociedad opened their game up with strong offense, scoring by the sixth minute, and leading 3-0 by the 21st. Benfica. In addition, Real Sociodad missed a penalty kick, which could’ve added another exclamation point to their victory.
Real Madrid has also played at a high level through the tournament, racking up an easy win against Braga with a final score of 3-0. With Braga earning a penalty kick early in the game, it seemed as if they could have gained an early lead. But Andriy Lunin, taking over the starting role for the injured Kepa, showcased his ability with a defended penalty early in the game. After scoring their third goal in the 61st minute, Real Madrid’s fans expected coach Carlo Ancelotti to give young gem Arda Güler a shot to work back from an injury suffered last summer. The game against Braga could have been the 18-year-old’s chance to get back on track, but as of now he still has zero minutes.
The city of Madrid was well represented in the matchday’s highlight reel, with Atletico Madrid scoring an incredible six goals against Celtic. Griezmann was on fire, opening the scoring in the sixth minute, and later putting in an incredible acrobatic kick for another goal. Alvaro Morata put in two goals himself before Celtic got a red card in the 23rd minute, granting Atletico another scoring opportunity. Despite the Colchoneros being known for a defensive brand of football, Simeone’s team is proving they can win games with their explosive offense as well. Griezmenn has led this offensive explosion with incredible versatility and accuracy, transforming Atletico’s outlook, while proving that he is still one of the best players in the game.
In a surprising turn of events, FC Barcelona has struggled in the tournament despite their talent. The Blaugranas could’ve qualified for the tournament with a tie against Shakhtar, as they were only missing qualification by a single point. They instead lost 1-0 against the Ukrainian team, giving up three points to Shakhtar. This result was unfortunately expected following the recent performances of Xavi’s team. Fans held onto the hope that the return of their talented midfielder Pedri after an injury suffered in September could turn their team around, but the team’s performance was mediocre overall lacking communication and creativity. Xavi blamed the loss on the players’ mentality, an unpopular decision as fans feel that the coach’s recent gameplan decisions have played a larger role in their losses. The qualification for the next round will now depend on the game against Porto during the fifth matchday, with both teams tied at nine points.
Manchester United also lost, with a final score of 4-3 against Copenhagen despite Rasmus Højlund opening the score in the third minute, and scoring another goal later in the game. The Red Devils are now last in their group with only a single victory. Each team was awarded a penalty, before a red card for Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford helped Copenhagen get a last-minute goal, and seal the victory.
Finally, PSG lost against AC Milan in a tightly contested game, ending in a score of 2-1. Despite scoring the first goal of the game in the ninth minute, PSG was uncreative around the goal and was unable to score again. With AC Milan needing a win to remain in the tournament, Olivier Giroud scored in the 50th minute, sealing the victory for the Italian team. As of now, no team in Group F has cemented their positioning, and the tournament qualifying spots are still up for grabs.
The players will now go to their receptive national teams one last time in 2023 for two games in mid-November. With only two matchdays before the tournament begins, look for significant movement in the seedings for Groups E, F, G, and H. With only a handful of teams already qualified, we are sure to get competitive play throughout the coming weeks.
Current group standings after Matchday Four:
Sophomore Agathe Vanmassenhove is a Sports Reporter. Her email is email@example.com