Why finishing second in Champions League group stage is bad news for Arsenal (and Liverpool and Manchester City)

The Gunners look certain to finish runners-up to Borussia Dortmund in Group D

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The Independent Online

Research shows that finishing top in the Champions League group stage plays a huge part in ensuring progress beyond the Round of 16.

Over the last 10 years in Europe's elite competition, only 28.75 per cent of teams that finished runners-up in their group managed to progress past the first round of the knock-out stage. The figure means finishing top gives a team a 71.25 per cent chance of progression to the quarter-finals.

The figures will be a serious concern for Arsenal, who blew any realistic chance of topping Group D this season.

The Gunners were 3-0 up against Anderlecht with half-an-hour to play last night but saw their Belgian opponents draw level with Aleksandar Mitrovic scoring a 90th minute equaliser.

The result means claiming top spot is now out of Arsene Wenger's side's hands, whilst victory would have meant beating Borussia Dortmund in their next game would have put them in control of the group.

A draw from one of their final two remaining matches will see Arsenal into the knock-out stage but the likelihood is that will be as far as they get.

With the group phase at the midway stage, many groups are taking shape with numerous winners all-but nailed on. Among the eight groups, the likely winners are Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Paris St Germain/Barcelona, Chelsea and FC Porto.

With the group winners playing the teams that finish second, Arsenal cannot be drawn against a fellow Premier League side in the next round and can't face Borussia Dortmund either due to them sharing a group. Yet that still leaves some incredibly difficult opponents.

Cristiano-Ronaldo.jpg
Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid are one of the sides Arsenal can face

 

Over the last 10 years, the Gunners have finished second five times and been knocked out in 60 per cent of the Round of 16 matches that followed. At least Wenger can point to the fact that their record as group winners is identical, having won their group five times in the last 10 years but losing three times in the Round of 16 afterwards.

Liverpool and Manchester City are mathematically incapable of winning their respective groups - although both can still scrape through with a strong finish. But as the figures show, the odds are against them progressing much further even if they do.

Additional research by Tom Bristow

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