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The Calm Before: All the Clinching Scenarios in Match Day 11 of the 21/22 UEFA Champions League group stage

Most of the groups today have been settled, but one group has serious implications ahead

Atletico Madrid vs Milan - UEFA Champions League Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Well we’ve finally arrived. It’s the last week of the group stages — and for some teams it couldn’t come sooner.

Only one group is fully set in stone: Group C. After losing to Sporting Lisbon 3-1 at the end of November, Borussia Dortmund is off to the Europa league by virtue of being behind the Leões on goal difference. Second place Sporting will join group winners Ajax in the Round of 16.

I’m going to go a bit out of order as Group A and Group D have similar situations. But trust me, you fans of Team Chaos will know the best comes last.

Club Brugge KV v RB Leipzig: Group A - UEFA Champions League Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

Group A

Current standings: 1) MCI— 12 pts 2) PSG— 8 pts 3) RBL— 4 pts 4) CBR— 4 pts

Who’s clinched knockouts and first place: Manchester City

Who’s clinched UCL knockouts: Paris Saint-Germain

Who’s clinched Europa League: None

Who’s eliminated: None

The top two spots in this group are set in stone — and it’s not exactly a surprise. The two richest clubs in the world have managed to make it through to the round of 16 with relative ease. With Leipzig’s failure to produce a challenge under former coach Jesse Marsch and Club Brugge having not won a UCL game since September, it’s on the bottom two teams to try and produce results against the heavy hitters to make the Europa League.

The greater onus is on Brugge. While both Die Roten Bullen and the Blauw-Zwart each have a win to their names, Leipzig’s 5-0 victory gives them a distinct edge in goal difference. It’s not impossible for Brugge to overcome the odds. They play a PSG team they drew 1-1 in the first group stage match of the tournament. If they can manage that, and Leipzig pick up no points, they’ll be staying in Europe while Leipzig get sent back to Saxony.

Who can clinch (if not, eliminated):

  • Leipzig
    Can clinch Europa League if they match or beat Brugge’s result
  • Club Brugge:
    Win vs. PSG AND Leipzig draw/lose OR
    Draw vs. PSG AND Leipzig lose

Inter v Real Madrid - Group D - UEFA Champions League Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Group D

Current standings: 1) RMA — 12 pts 2) INT — 10 pts 3) SHR — 6 pts 4) SHK — 1 pt

Who’s clinched knockouts and first place: None

Who’s clinched UCL knockouts: Real Madrid and Inter Milan

Who’s clinched Europa League: Sheriff Tiraspol

Who’s eliminated: Shakhtar Donetsk

The only competition remaining is between the two teams at the top of the table for the number one spot — who both happen to play each other on the final day. Each have already made it and the points difference is clear enough for there to be a clear winner without tie breakers.

Who can clinch the top spot:

  • Real Madrid
    clinches the top spot with a win or draw against Inter
  • Inter Milan
    clinches the top spot with a win

Atletico Madrid vs Milan - UEFA Champions League Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Group B

Current standings: 1) LFC — 12 pts 2) FCP — 5 pts 3) ACM — 4 pts 4) ATM — 4 pts

Who’s clinched knockouts and top spot: Liverpool

Who’s clinched UCL knockouts: None

Who’s clinched Europa League: None

Who’s eliminated: None

Here’s what I said last time:

“if Porto can find a way to win, there’s a way for them to eliminate both Atletico Madrid and AC Milan. On the flip side, if Liverpool continue their dominance and AC Milan can beat Atleti, we’ll have a final group stage day for the ages.”

Well, Liverpool beat Porto 2-0 and AC Milan came out on top of Atletico Madrid 1-0. Well done, Team Chaos.

Now, who wants seconds?

Here’s the utterly ridiculous scenarios we have ahead of us.

The most straightforward are if Milan or Atletico Madrid win with the other side losing. Any of these scenarios sees the losing side stay home. There’s a fun little scenario where a ACM-LIV draw and a Madrid win would see Atleti go to the UCL knockouts — rocketing from 4th to 2nd — and Milan would make the Europa League, dooming 2nd place Porto to elimination. Another one involves a double draw scenario, by which Milan would advance thanks to a better goal difference.

But you want some real table watching, number crunching, tie breaker analyzing chaos? Root for Milan and Atletico Madrid to match each other with either a win or a loss— which would see them fight for the Champions League knockouts. Then, we get into the deep tie breaker scenarios.

Currently, Milan hold an overall goal difference advantage of 1. That means we’re already at the fourth tiebreaker scenario. Say the wins come along and Atletico Madrid wins by one more goal than Milan did in their win (i.e. ATM 3-1, ACM 2-1). We’d have to go to tie breaker seven (away goals scored) as the teams would be tied on goal difference AND goals scored.

But wait: Milan lead in that category by three goals to two AND Atletico Madrid play away. So, if Milan win 2-1, they’d have five away goals for. If Atleti win 3-1, they would ALSO have five away goals for. On to the next one.

The true final tiebreaker would be number 9: away wins in all group matches. Milan play at home against Liverpool and having one away win to their name. While Atletico Madrid also go into this round with a single away win, remember they play away to Porto. Therefore, if both sides win, and all previous scenarios happen, we would have to go to the 9th tiebreaker to send Atletico Madrid to the knockout stages and Milan to the Europa League.

But that’s not the worst one. Here’s some table calculus that made me get nauseous and took me a good 10 minutes of concentration to figure out:

  • Milan get shut out and lose by two. Their goal difference looks like 5GF/9GA/ -4GD
  • Atletico Madrid lose 2-1. Their goal difference looks like 5GF/9GA/ -4GD
  • Teams would go all the way to the 10th tiebreaker (disciplinary points)
  • Currently, Atletico Madrid has 16 disciplinary points from 10 yellow cards and two red cards
  • Meanwhile, AC Milan have 18 disciplinary points from 15 yellow cards and one double yellow card
  • Therefore, if Milan get shut out and lose by two AND Atletico Madrid pick up one yellow card or less, Atletico Madrid qualify for the Europa League and Milan are eliminated from Europe.
  • BUT, if all that happens, AC Milan doesn’t get booked, and Atleti pick up two cards or otherwise make up the difference, we go to Tiebreaker #11: FIFA Club Coefficients
  • Atletico sit 10th in FIFA club coefficient rankings, while AC Milan sit 40th
  • Therefore, Atletico Madrid would still advance to the Europa League and Milan would still be eliminated from Europe.

I won’t repeat all of that below, but now you know what chaos potentially awaits us.

Who can clinch Champions League knockouts:

  • FC Porto
    clinches with win
    draw AND Milan-Liverpool draw
  • AC Milan
    clinches with win AND Atletico Madrid loss
    clinches with win AND if Atletico Madrid win, beat them on tie breakers
  • Atletico Madrid
    clinches with win AND Milan loss
    clinches with win AND if Milan win, beat them on tie breakers

Who can clinch Europa League

  • FC Porto
    clinches with loss AND Milan loss
  • AC Milan
    clinches with any draw
    loss AND Atletico Madrid loss
    Milan maintains a higher goal difference (a.k.a. lose by less than three goals)
  • Atletico Madrid
    clinches with draw AND Milan loss
    Milan lose 2-0 AND Atletico lose BUT score one goal
    loss AND Milan loss
    Milan loses by three goals or more AND Atleti lose by one goal

Who can be eliminated

  • FC Porto
    eliminated with loss AND Milan win
    loss AND a LIV-ACM draw
  • AC Milan
    eliminated with loss AND EITHER Atletico win OR draw
    lose 2-0 AND Atletico lose by one BUT score
    loss AND Atletico loss AND (reference tiebreakers because I’m not doing all of them)
  • Atletico Madrid
    eliminated with loss AND Milan win OR draw
    draw AND Milan win OR draw
    loss AND Milan loss BUT current goal differences are maintained

Here are all the kickoff times for Tuesday’s slate of games (all times Eastern U.S.):


  • Paris Saint-Germain FC v. Club Brugge KV (Parc des Princes - Paris, FRA)
  • RB Leipzig v. Manchester City FC (RB Arena - Leipzig, Saxony, DEU)


  • AC Milan v. Liverpool FC (Stadio Giuseppe Meazza [San Siro] - Milan, Lombardia, ITA)
  • AFC Ajax v. Sporting CP (Johan Cruyff Arena - Amsterdam, NLD)
  • Borussia Dortmund v. Beşiktaş JK (Westfalenstadion - Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia, DEU)
  • FC Porto v. Atletico Madrid (Estádio do Dragão - Porto, PRT)
  • Real Madrid v. Internazionale Milan (Estadio Santiago Bernabéu - Madrid, ESP)
  • FC Shakhtar Donetsk v. Sheriff Tiraspol (Olympic National Sports Complex - Kiev, UKR)

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