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Now That the Champions League Group Stage is Over, Let the REAL Champions League Begin!

The final round of the Champions League Group Stage is always the icing on the cake (at this stage). Yes teams like Real Madrid and Bayern and Barcelona and Zenit and co were already uncatchable at this point but teams like Arsenal needed to play their way out of the ‘conditions’ they played themselves into, Man. City wanted to top their UCL group for the first time and Man. Utd were still trying to qualify out of their group.

UCL: The Boys have been sorted from the Men
UCL: The Boys have been sorted from the Men

Football is still painfully unpredictable but now that the boys have been sorted from the men what can we expect from the teams that progressed (and those that did not) after their performances in the final round of the UCL?

My way or the highway: High-handed meister
My way or the highway: High-handed meister

– Obviously, LVG is the Problem!
For a team that scores like as if they’re afraid the goals will finish, it’s to their own advantage that they’re now out of ‘Europe’s Premier League’. Why? Well, they wouldn’t have gone far anyways even if they did – even with football being as unpredictable as it is – so why bother?

And now, they have crazy coach van Gaal to thank for qualifying them for the craziest competition in the world I know: the Europa League.

Man. Utd failed to show up in this season’s UCL, despite having the 3rd highest ball-possession in this season (behind Barcelona and Bayern Munich according to SkySportsNews). And who’s to blame? You’re wrong, it’s not Rooney’s fault. It’s van Gaal’s. This is what you get when, as a coach, you focus too much on the defensive aspect of the game. This is what you get when you make life hard for the ‘magicians’ in your team with the way you set the team up. And when you play on the ‘big stage’ without flexibilty, you get broken easily.

Expectations: Man. Utd’s Europa League qualification is TOTALLY bad for them. With teams like B. Dortmund, Sevilla and the ‘random ones’, they don’t stand a chance there. The stress of playing on Thursdays will obviously take its toll on whatever plans they may have to take over in the English Premier League. Well done Louis!

Man. City: Big time scorers, freelance conceders
Man. City: Big time scorers, freelance conceders

– Man. City’s Goal-scoring Prowress is Legendary… so is their Goal-conceding Power!
England’s ‘Scariest Team’ finally topped a Champions League group after the Group Stages thanks to a last-ten-minutes sterling performance and a Sevilla win over Juventus and Pellegrini’s celebrations on the touch-line spelt out how important the feat was. They wanted to ‘avoid the big boys’, go as far as possible in the Champions League and thereby impress themselves as a powerhouse in European Football which is what the club owners have wanted so badly!

But as they progress in the competition, their major problem persists: their defense can’t stop conceding goals! It’s like they love it. As good as Otamendi and Mangala are, City just can’t help letting the goals in! If the Citizens will score four in a game, they must concede two. Now, the irony is: Even if they get the ‘easy teams’ as is the reward for topping your group, what about the defensive issues? What will happen to a team that gets an easy opposition, concedes two in the first half and can’t recover from the deficit? Then the 2nd leg becomes a uphill climb and they’re knocked out again! Well, it’s football and, the reverse could always happen: They could win both legs by large margins.

Expectations: Again, Man. City have qualified for the Knockout stages of the Champions League. The team is naturally unpredictable. Every player on that team is a potential goalscorer – asides Hart and Willy of course – which makes them a hard opposition for any team going forward but their love for conceding goals will set them back. Furthermore, I’m sure they’re not expecting to get to the final of the competition so…

– C. Ronaldo’s 11 goals in 6 UCL  games
Ronaldo became the first player to hit double digits as per goals in the UEFA Champions League beating Luiz Adriano’s record of 9 goals. Thanks to clubs like Malmo, the Portugese was able to achieve this feat just like we can credit Bayer Leverkusen for letting Messi bang in five back then. CR7 could have gotten more which is a testament to what he is capable of and what football fans can expect as the competition moves to its closing stages.

Expectations: Madrid is just Madrid that has all that a team requires to win a trophy – you can say trophies. So, whatever the case, they should make it to the semi-finals, at least. C. Ronaldo will definitely add more goals and should end this campaign the highest goal scorer. By the way, I don’t think Benitez has what it takes to get to the final.

– Now Sevilla Can go and Win the Europa League… again!
They finished 3rd on the table after the group stages and qualified for the Europa League. Now you know why they were motivated to run past Juve and get that qualification.

First, they didn’t know what ‘Gladbach would do in England, so they had to win. Secondly, they wanted to be back in their ‘comfort zone’, a zone where they’ve been practically unplayable in years! Winning the Europa League last season qualified them automatically for the Champions League (which, I think, wasn’t exactly what they wanted). So they tried to get the necessary number of points they could so they could go back to where they were coming from; back to where they ruled like kings.

Expectations: They know the terrains of the EL very very well. Their presence and history in the competition will scare the sh** out of the other teams (no matter how big the team is). So no matter what, they should make it to the final and win it… again!

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Rotimi "Papi" Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi is the owner of ForTheGoal. A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @rotdav to keep up with his writings and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.

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