Big guns justify their billing
The UEFA Champions League group stage has reached its conclusion for another year, and once again England and Spain are proving to be the competition's dominant forces. Together they will provide half of the teams in the first knockout round, with Premier League sides Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool joining La Liga outfits Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Villarreal.
Not far behind with three representatives is Italy (Inter Milan, Juventus and Roma), while Portugal boast both Porto and Sporting in the last 16. Germany, France and Greece provide one team each, in the shape of Bayern Munich, Lyon and Panathinaikos.
Meanwhile, the eight clubs transferring to the UEFA Cup hail from six countries overall: France (Marseille, Bordeaux), Ukraine (Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Kiev), Germany (Werder Bremen), Denmark (Aalborg), Italy (Fiorentina) and Russia (Zenit St Petersburg).
The draw for the first knockout round will take place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon on 19 December.
Match of the day
Lyon 2-3 Bayern Munich
Goals: Sidney Govou 52, Karim Benzema 68 (Lyon); Miroslav Klose 11, 37, Franck Ribery 34 (Bayern)
With Franck Ribery involved in every menace they mustered, Bayern Munich handed out a lesson in footballing pragmatism during a first-half in which the home side sorely missed Brazilian stalwarts Cris and Juninho Pernambucano. It was a different story after the restart, as the serial French champions dragged themselves back into the encounter, but despite a raft of chances and complete dominance, they could only score twice and had to accept second place in Group F behind their conquerors.
Surprise of the day
Manchester United 2-2 Aalborg
Goals: Carlos Tevez 3, Wayne Rooney 52 (Manchester United); Michael Jakobsen 31, Jeppe Curth 45+2 (Aalborg)
The stakes were minimal at Old Trafford but the atmosphere was superb, as United ended their group duties with an entertaining, high-quality encounter. The European champions were by far the most threatening of the two protagonists, while their Danish visitors managed to bury their chances and even led after converting their only two openings in the first 45 minutes. Wayne Rooney levelled the scores soon after the break, but Aalborg stayed firm after that and fully deserve their berth in the UEFA Cup.
The other matches
Villarreal were consigned to second spot in Group E after slumping to a 2-0 defeat to Celtic in Glasgow. The Spanish side played with ten men for an hour and could not hold out against opponents hungry to make a point on their last outing in Europe this term.
In Group F, Fiorentina wrapped up their passage to the UEFA Cup by registering a 1-0 victory over Steaua Bucharest in Romania, where Alberto Gilardino conjured up the game's only effort.
Bruno Alves and Lisandro Lopez guaranteed first place in Group G for Porto as they made sure of a comfortable 2-0 triumph over a youthful Arsenal line-up. Elsewhere, Finland's Roman Eremenko sent Dinamo Kiev through to the UEFA Cup with the decisive goal in a 1-0 win over Fenerbahce.
Juande Ramos celebrated his first match in charge of Real Madrid with a victory, as Raul struck twice in a 3-0 success against fellow Group H opponents Zenit. In the same section, a young Juventus side were held to a goalless draw on home soil by BATE Borisov, but the result was enough to keep the Serie A giants at the summit.
19 - The number of games Manchester United have now contested without defeat in the Champions League, with their run consisting of 11 wins and eight draws. That impressive sequence represents a tournament record, shared with Bayern Munich and Ajax.
Goal of the night
Celtic 2-0 Villarreal
Aiden McGeady 45+2 (2-0)
Irish international Aiden McGeady collected the ball in the centre circle and advanced unchallenged to the edge of the area, where he unleashed a thunderous shot with his left foot that gave goalkeeper Sebastien Viera no chance.
What they said
"It's a good result that helps the morale of the team. I liked the players' attitude a lot, even if they were quite tired. You can't compare this match with the ones that came before [I took over]," Juande Ramos, new Real Madrid coach.
Have your say
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