Champions League scenarios: Guide to tiebreakers and stakes for group stage finales

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It should be a fun two days of group-stage finales in the UEFA Champions League, with five knockout round berths still up for grabs and Europa League playoff spots at stake.

It starts with the action on Tuesday, which will determine (1) a spot in the knockout rounds in Group B; (2) first place in Group D between Real Madrid and Inter Milan; and (3) the third-place team in Group B, which will be granted a Europa League playoff ticket.

If two or more teams are even on points in any of the groups, the first tiebreakers are: (1) points in matches among tied teams, (2) goal difference in matches among tied teams, and (3) goals scored in matches among tied teams. The complete list of tiebreakers follows at the bottom of this post.

MORE: Champions League draw date, seeds and rules

Tuesday’s schedule and the group scenarios follow:

Group Matches  
Group A PSG 4, Club Brugge 1 Highlights
Group A RB Leipzig 2, Man City 1 Highlights
Group B AC Milan 1, Liverpool 2  
Group B Porto 1, Atletico Madrid 3  
Group C B. Dortmund 5, Besiktas 0  
Group C Ajax 4, Sporting CP 2  
Group D Real Madrid 2, Inter Milan 0  
Group D Shakhtar Donetsk 1, FC Sheriff 1  

Group A scenarios

Group A winner: Manchester City

Group A runner-up: Paris Saint-Germain

3rd Place (Europa League playoff): This was the only drama left in Group A entering the final matchday. RB Leipzig won its group finale against Man City (2-1), while Club Brugge lost to PSG (4-1). That combination of those results hands Leipzig third place and a Europa League playoff berth. 

Group A final standings

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1. Manchester City (X) 12 6 4 2 0 18 10 +8
2. Paris Saint-Germain (X) 11 6 3 1 2 13 8 +5
3. RB Leipzig 7 6 2 3 1 15 14 +1
4. Club Brugge 4 6 1 4 1 6 20 -14

Group B scenarios

Group B Winner: Liverpool

Group B runner-up: The other knockout round berth in Group B was up for grabs with the other three teams in the running. Although Porto entered the final day with a one-point lead on the other two, it was last-place Atletico Madrid which pulled off the big result by beating Porto 3-1 on the road to vault into second place. 

AC Milan couldn’t take advantage of a Liverpool team fielding several reserve players: Although the Italian side took the lead, it succumbed to a 2-1 loss at home to finish in last place. Meanwhile, Liverpool closes out the group stage with a perfect record.

3rd Place (Europa League playoff): This third-place finish will be scant consolation for Porto, which saw qualification to the knockouts slip through its grasp with the home loss to Atletico Madrid.

Group B final standings

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1. Liverpool (X) 18 6 6 0 0 17 6 +11
2. Atletico Madrid (X) 7 6 2 3 1 7 8 -1
3. FC Porto  5 6 1 3 2 4 11 -7
4. AC Milan 4 6 1 4 1 6 9 -3

Group C scenarios

Group C winner: Ajax

Group C runner-up: Sporting CP

3rd Place (Europa League playoff): Borussia Dortmund

There was nothing to play for in Group C, except for group-stage prize money (which is always greater in case of a win). Dortmund closed out its participation with an emphatic 5-0 win, while Ajax finished with a perfect record, with Ajax’s Sebastien Haller jumping ahead of Robert Lewandowski in the top scorer race.

MORE: Complete list of Champions League scoring leaders

Group C final standings

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1. Ajax (X) 18 6 6 0 0 20 5 +15
2. Sporting CP (X) 9 6 3 3 0 14 12 +2
3. Borussia Dortmund 9 6 3 3 0 10 11 -1
4. Besiktas JK 0 6 0 6 0 3 19 -16

Group D scenarios

Group D Winner: Real Madrid started the day in first place and stayed there after a 2-0 home win over Inter Milan. 

Group D runner-up: Inter Milan had to win at the Estadio Bernabeu to finish top. As it stands, the Italians settle for second place.

3rd Place (Europa League playoff): FC Sheriff Tiraspol. The Moldovans’ European adventure is set to continue in the Europa League playoffs. It closed out a memorable first group-stage participation in the Champions League with a road draw vs. Shakhtar.

Group D final standings

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1. Real Madrid (X) 15 6 5 1 0 14 3 +11
2. Inter Milan (X) 10 6 3 2 1 8 5 -3
3. FC Sheriff Tiraspol 7 6 2 3 1 7 11 -4
4. Shakhtar Donetsk 2 6 0 4 2 2 12 -10

Champions League Group Stage Tiebreakers

The full list of UEFA Champions League group stage tiebreakers follow below:

  1. points obtained in group matches played among teams in question
  2. superior goal difference from group matches played among teams in question
  3. goals scored in group matches played among teams in question
  4. superior goal difference in all group matches
  5. goals scored in all group matches
  6. away goals scored in all group matches
  7. wins in all group matches
  8. away wins in all group matches
  9. disciplinary points total based only on yellow and red cards
  10. UEFA club coefficient

One twist to the tiebreaker rules: If there are three or more teams deadlocked on points and tiebreakers Nos. 1-3 help to separate one or more of those teams, then tiebreakers Nos. 1-3 are reapplied to any remaining teams that are still tied before moving on to Nos. 4-10.

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