Xavi's Celebration

In the Champions League, the winners of tickets to the playoffs continue to be determined. And in this context, special attention was focused on the representatives of Spain, who failed in last year's tournament draw. At that time, only Real Madrid made it to the 1/8 finals, while Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla completed their performance in the group stage. But this season, we worked on our mistakes and got into the top 16 strongest teams in Europe.

After four rounds, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad guaranteed themselves a place in the playoffs, and at the end of the fifth, they were accompanied by two more La Liga giants. One of them was Barcelona, who can now only be prevented by a miracle from finishing first in Group H. And this happened thanks to the triumph in the meeting with Porto.

Yes, the Dragons fought selflessly and were no worse than the Blaugrana in the first half. Moreover, they even opened the scoring - Pepe (the one who is Brazilian) played on the rebound after Vanderson Galeno's shot and gave Sérgio Conceição's wards hope for success. But the guests did not rejoice for long. Two minutes later, João Cancelo moved from the left flank to the center and hit the far corner of Diogo Costa's goal, and after the break he took part in organizing the winning goal. This time, the Portuguese lateral assisted his compatriot João Felix. Mehdi Taremi could have restored parity, but his goal was cancelled due to offside. Barcelona scored 12 points and advanced from the group for the first time under Xavi, while Porto have nine points left - the same number for Shakhtar, in a head-to-head confrontation with whom they will determine the winner of the second ticket to the round of 1.

A gift for Simeone

Barcelona's initiative was supported by Atletico, who coped with one of their competitors in the fight for a place in the top 16. And the funny thing is that Madrid would have prevailed even if they themselves had not scored a single goal. The match with Feyenoord ended with a score of 3:1, and the Rotterdam team scored two own goals. Already in the 14th minute, Lustharel Gertreida cut the ball into his own net in the most ridiculous way after a cross into the penalty area, and in the end his teammate Santiago Jimenez repeated after him. The striker, who returned to the defense on a set piece, beat Memphis Depay in the air, but out of habit did not make a clearance, but hit exactly under the crossbar.

In between, the teams upset each other once. And as in previous cases, they were preceded by crosses into the penalty area. But if Mats Wieffer only made a well-placed header from a corner, then Mario Hermoso created a real masterpiece. The centre-back responded to the parachute of substitute Pablo Barrios and recalled Marco van Basten's legendary goal in the Euro 1988 final against the USSR. The Spaniard perfectly adjusted to the pass and shot into the far corner on an incredible trajectory, reserving his place among the contenders for the best goal of the round.

Thus, the Atlético players presented a gift to their coach Diego Simeone, who reached the mark of 100 matches in the Champions League with one club - only ex-Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger (177) and Manchester United symbol Alex Ferguson (190) have more. And also helped Lazio to make it to the next round. The Romans broke Celtic's resistance thanks to Ciro Immobile's brace in three minutes and moved four points clear of Feyenoord.

City's comeback

Unlike the above-mentioned teams, Manchester City and Leipzig skated through their opponents in the G quartet and solved all the issues after four rounds. But this did not make their face-to-face confrontation any less fundamental. Over the previous two seasons, the Germans suffered two crushing defeats at once - in the fall of 2021 they were beaten in the group (3:6), and in the spring of 2023 they experienced a real humiliation in the return match of the 1/8. Then the "citizens" shipped them seven unanswered goals and made it clear that the draw in the first meeting was only an accident.

This season, City have already managed to break the resistance of their counterparts away, so they were considered clear favorites at home. But at the end of the first half, it didn't seem that way. Yes, the hosts looked better, but conceded two striking counterattacks by the 33rd minute. And both were realized by Louis Openda, who climbed to the third line of the best scorers of the championship with four goals. At that time, only Alvaro Morata and Rasmus Hojlund had more (both five each).

But after the break, the Citizens stepped up the pressure and, most importantly, began to convert their chances. First, Haaland scored his fifth goal in the current Champions League draw, breaking out to the first place in the list of the most productive players of the calendar year. The Norwegian has 50 accurate shots, Harry Kane has one less. But the main hero of the match was not him, but Phil Foden, who assisted him. Subsequently, the Englishman scored himself, and three minutes before the end of regular time, he helped Julian Alvarez to do it. But everything could have ended differently if the referees had not canceled the goal of Leipzig midfielder Fábio Carvalho due to a micro-offside at 2:2.

Paris Saint-Germain Rescue

In total, City beat Leipzig almost five times in shots (14:5) and deserved to win in a crucial confrontation. But this does not compare with PSG's dominance in the meeting with Newcastle, which almost ended in a fiasco for the hosts. The difference in the number of attempts was six times (31:5), and the xG ratio (4.47 – 1:48) was also impressive. At the same time, Luis Enrique's wards managed to restore parity only in the 98th minute.

Moreover, the Parisians looked better from the very start and could have created a solid reserve, but in the middle of the first half they suddenly found themselves in the role of catching up. Gianluigi Donnarumma unsuccessfully parried away Miguel Almiron's long-range shot, and Alexander Isak worked on the rebound. And from that moment on, the pressure on Nick Pope's goal only grew.

As a result, four Paris Saint-Germain players made at least five shots, and Ousmane Dembele attacked most often. And although the French winger himself failed to achieve the goal, he at least helped the hosts earn an 11-meter penalty. Already in injury time, Szymon Marciniak awarded a penalty against Newcastle after the ball hit the arm of Tino Livramento, although he ricocheted into it after touching the body. One way or another, Kylian Mbappé came to the spot and easily outwitted the goalkeeper. PSG snatched a draw and continued to fight for a ticket to the playoffs.

Borussia Dortmund's shooting segment

And in order not to think about the outcome of the parallel match, the Parisians will need to beat the leader of quartet F in the final round. The only question is how motivated Borussia Dortmund will approach this meeting, being the first to secure a place in the 1/8 finals. In the fifth round, the Bumblebees broke Milan's resistance and became unreachable for competitors.

Here, too, there was a penalty. Moreover, by the tenth minute, the opponents approached the spot once. But if Olivier Giroud did not take his chance, then Marco Reus prevailed in a head-to-head duel with Mick Maignan. However, the Rossoneri did not lose heart and leveled the situation shortly before the break. For Samu Chukweze, this goal was the first after moving from Villarreal.

Milan continued to press in the second half – Christian Pulisic shot with scissors, Ruben Loftus-Cheek burst into the penalty area. But Borussia were luckier. In the 59th minute, Jamie Bayon-Gittens completed Dortmund's gorgeous multi-move with a billiard shot, and ten minutes later Karim Adeyemi put the spot. Maignan was caught on the counter and did not save his team. Luka Jovic, who came on as a substitute, could have restored the intrigue, but hit the post. The visitors were stronger – 3:1.