Football Features

Atletico Madrid join Juventus as Europe’s top five leagues dominate Champions League last-16

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:19, 11 December 2019

Juventus and Atletico Madrid have confirmed their places in the last-16 of the Champions League, contributing to a new record for the competition.

For the first time ever, the last-16 of the Champions League is made up completely out of teams from Europe’s top five leagues – with a total of 54 nations being represented in this season’s competition including the preliminary rounds.

After Ajax, Red Bull Salzburg and Benfica’s failures to reach the last-16 on Tuesday, the onus fell on Dinamo Zagreb or Shakhtar Donestk to fly the flag for the lesser leagues, but they both bowed out in the early kick-offs.

By the time Group D’s matched kicked off, the unwanted record had been settled, it was just the case of which team would complete the bunch – Bayer Leverkusen or Atletico Madrid.

Atletico’s 2-0 win over Lokomotiv Moscow confirmed there would be four La Liga sides in the last-16, the joint-most of any division alongside the Premier League. The Bundesliga and Serie A both boast three while Ligue 1 have two.

Simeone chasing Wenger and Ferguson: Key stats as Juventus and Atletico complete big-league dominance…

  • Juventus conceded 13 shots in the first half against Bayer Leverkusen, their most since the 2015 semi-final second leg against Real Madrid
  • Atletico Madrid have kept back-to-back clean sheets in all competitions having previously going seven games without one.
  • Both of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Champions League goals this season have come against Bayer Leverkusen.
  • Only Arsene Wenger (14) and Sir Alex Ferguson (8) have qualified from the Champions League group stage with the same club more times since 2003/04 than Diego Simeone (6).
  • Juventus equalled their highest points tally in the Champions League group stage of 16, previously recorded in 1996/97 and 2004/05.

What next for Juventus and Atletico?

Over the past few seasons, finishing top of your Champions League group hasn’t always guaranteed a favourable draw in the last-16. And despite Juventus finishing Group D unbeaten, ending with a 2-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen, the reigning Serie A champions could potentially draw tough opposition.

Unable to face Atletico or other Italian teams, Juventus have five options open to them for Monday’s draw. Maurizio Sarri’s men could face one of Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur, Borussia Dortmund, Lyon or Chelsea. A Cristiano Ronaldo derby against the 13-time European Cup winners or a swift return for Sarri to Stamford Bridge are the standout possibilities, but all five options would make for good games.

As for Atletico, they are also restricted to five possibilities being unable to face Juventus to Spanish opposition. But things look quite a bit harder on paper than if they had managed to win the group. Atletico could face Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Liverpool or RB Leipzig. The latter would arguably be the most favourable of the ties, though Die Roten Bullen should not be underestimated.

Any Europa League hope for Leverkusen?

Bayer Leverkusen’s defeat at the hands of Juventus condemned them to third, dropping Peter Bosz’s side into the last-32 of the Europa League. Although the final make-up of that knockout phase is yet to be decided, there are already some potential tough games.

As one of the four worst third-placed teams in the Champions League, Bayer Leverkusen will be unseeded for the draw and could face the likes of Celtic, Espanyol, Sevilla, Ajax, Salzburg, Inter Milan or Benfica.

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Player in focus: Cristiano Ronaldo

Although Juventus had already secured top spot in Group D prior to Wednesday’s match so had very little to play for, except for pride after their defeat to Lazio at the weekend.

However, one player who would have wanted to perform more than most is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar has made the Champions League his own throughout his career, scoring more goals in the competition than any other player. But things just haven’t clicked so far this season with one goal in the opening five games.

And it looked like being more of the same against Bayer Leverkusen as Ronaldo struggled to hurt the German’s defence looking frustrated and off the pace in Maurizio Sarri’s system. That was until Paulo Dybala got in behind the defence to play a fast ball across the area for Ronaldo to tap in.

The rest of today’s Champions League action

  • Dinamo Zagreb 1-4 Man City: Gabriel Jesus scored his second career Champions League hat-trick and Phil Foden rounded off the win as Man City ended the group stage unbeaten for the first time.
  • Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Atalanta: Seven points from their final three group games saw Atalanta reach the Champions League knockout stages in their first ever seaosn in the competition, against all odds.
  • Bayern Munich 3-1 Tottenham: Bayern Munich became the first German club to win all six games of their Champions League group, and the seventh overall thanks to goals from Kingsley Coman, Thomas Muller and Philippe Coutinho.
  • Club Brugge 1-3 Real Madrid: Zinedine Zidane’s rotated side ensured they ended the group with a win after a nervy first-half with Rodrygo, Vinicius and Luka Modric all scoring.
  • Olympiacos 1-0 Red Star Belgrade: Olympiacos scored late on to secure their spot in the last-32 of the Europa League.
  • PSG 5-0 Galatasaray: Kylian Mbappe and Neymar both scored and recorded two assists as PSG romped past Galatasaray to finish the group on 16 points.