Safe and Sound: the Manchester sides secure their places in the knockout stage of the Champions League

It was a good day for the Premier League as two of the four English teams in the competition made their way through to the knockout stage of the Champions League with one game left to play in the group. City and United will be keen to hear who they’re to face when the draw for the round of 16 on the 17th of December is made.

It is the red side of Manchester celebrating a win today, something of a rarity considering how impressive City have been domestically this season. Yet, United fans will just be content and nothing more as it was only thanks to Fellaini’s 91st minute strike that his side luckily grabbed all three points. Italian giants Juventus also did United a huge favour in beating Valencia 1-0, a result which helped the reds cement themselves in second place 5 points clear of the Spanish side. Given that Mourinho and his side were unable to beat Valencia at Old Trafford in their first game of the competition, they will be thankful that they do not have to visit La Mestalla desperately requiring any sort of result.

Whilst they will be pleased to have escaped a group which looked to potentially cause them some difficulty when the draw was made, Man United will not be totally comfortable aware that they will almost certainly face a strong side in the next round. Juventus are currently two points clear at the top of the group and have to face Young Boys in their final game, a side that is winless in this competition only earning a single point. Anything other than a loss for the Swiss champions would be nothing short of a miracle. Regardless of this result, a trip to Spain to face Valencia will not be easy in itself even though the Spanish side have nothing more than pride to play for. There’s no guarantee that United will win this game to put the pressure on Juventus leaving them almost certain to finish second. It doesn’t look good for Mourinho and his men who will inevitably be hoping for a draw against either of the group D sides Porto or Schalke. It would be hard to see a struggling United side progressing beyond the round of 16 if they were to meet any of the other group winners.

Despite still being top of the group, the blue side of Manchester would have been hoping for a better result than a 2-2 draw away to French side Lyon tonight. However, Man City have all but guaranteed first place in the group thanks to their superior goal difference; Lyon will need to make up an 8 goal deficit if they wish to overtake the Premier League leaders. This and the fact that tonight’s result could have been much worse for City fans, with their side 2-1 down with only 9 minutes to go, will leave them happy to be in their current position. A first place finish for City would give them the possibility of facing number of teams they would expect to beat but, like United, they will not feel entirely comfortable. There are plenty of foreign giants who could yet finish second in their groups including Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Roma for example. Even if he weren’t to face one of these sides, Guardiola will be wary of the less feared teams having only lost and drawn to Lyon, results which would see them leaving the competition had they faced them in the knockout stage. Thus, no match in the Champion’s League is an easy match.

Both Manchester sides will keeping a watchful eye on the action of Wednesday night looking as the other English teams, Liverpool and Tottenham, attempt to enhance their hopes of reaching the knockout stage. A sense of comfort and lack of pressure is something exclusive to Manchester at this point. The other two sides find themselves in very precarious positions within their ‘groups of death’. They are both desperately needing to win if they want to hold on to any real hope of progressing, not a simple task given the opposition they are facing. Spurs are at home to Inter Milan whilst Liverpool travel to PSG.

Two English sides are already guaranteed to be playing Knockout football against some of the best teams in the world this year. Will they be joined by two more or will any hope of European bragging rights be exclusive to Manchester this season?

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