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

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) the top spot in Group D between Real Madrid and Inter Milan; and (3) the third-place teams in Group A and Group B, which will be granted Europa League playoff tickets.

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 Time (ET) TV channels Stream
Group A PSG vs. Club Brugge 12:45 p.m. UniMas, TUDN fuboTV, Paramount+
Group A RB Leipzig vs. Man City 12:45 p.m. Galavision fuboTV, Paramount+
Group B AC Milan vs. Liverpool 3 p.m. TUDNxtra fuboTV, Paramount+
Group B Porto vs. Atletico Madrid 3 p.m. PrendeTV, Paramount+
Group C Borussia Dortmund vs. Besiktas 3 p.m. TUDNxtra fuboTV, Paramount+
Group C Ajax vs. Sporting CP 3 p.m. TUDNxtra fuboTV, Paramount+
Group D Real Madrid vs. Inter Milan 3 p.m. UniMas, TUDN fuboTV, Paramount+
Group D Shakhtar Donetsk vs. FC Sheriff 3 p.m. TUDNxtra fuboTV, Paramount+

Group A scenarios

Group A winner: Manchester City

Group A runner-up: Paris Saint-Germain

3rd Place (Europa League playoff): This is the only drama left in Group A. Third place will ultimately go to the team — RB Leipzig or Club Brugge — that earns the better result in its respective match on Tuesday. If both teams earn the same result and they’re still even on points at the end of the day, Leipzig clinches third and the Europa League playoff berth, based on goal difference (6-2) in the two matches against Brugge.

Group A standings

1. Manchester City (X) 12 5 4 1 0 17 8 +9
2. Paris Saint-Germain (X) 8 5 2 1 2 9 7 +2
3. RB Leipzig 4 5 1 3 1 13 13 0
4. Club Brugge 4 5 1 3 1 5 16 -11

Group B scenarios

Group B Winner: Liverpool

Group B runner-up: Porto, Milan or Atletico Madrid. It’s going to be a fun Tuesday, with all three battling it out for that final spot in the knockout rounds. Porto starts the day with a one-point lead on the other two, but it also must face a motivated Atletico in its group finale. It might actually work out for AC Milan to play at home against the Group B leader: Liverpool is expected to field a reserve team with nothing to play for but pride.

The only way the tiebreaker comes into play for second place is if both Milan and Atletico Madrid win and reach seven points. Since their head-to-head results would see them tied on points, goal difference and goals scored, the fourth tiebreaker would be required: overall goal difference in the group.

3rd Place (Europa League playoff): This might be seen as a nice consolation for one of the three teams, but Europa League competition might also be an unwelcome distraction from the chase for the title in their respective domestic leagues.

Here are the tiebreaker scenarios: Milan and Atletico could both lose or tie, remaining even on points in the bottom two spots. In that case, overall group goal difference would also be the tiebreaker used to determine the third-place finisher.

The only other potential tiebreaker scenario is Porto losing and AC Milan drawing. That would leave both on five points, and Porto would finish ahead of AC Milan on the first tiebreaker (points in matches between the teams, 4-1).

Group B standings

1. Liverpool (X) 15 5 5 0 0 15 5 +10
2. FC Porto 5 5 1 2 2 3 8 -5
3. AC Milan 4 5 1 3 1 5 7 -2
4. Atletico Madrid 4 5 1 3 1 4 7 -3

Group C scenarios

Group C winner: Ajax

Group C runner-up: Sporting CP

3rd Place (Europa League playoff): Borussia Dortmund

Yep, nothing to play for in Group C, except for group-stage prize money (which is greater in case of a win). Of course, Ajax would probably love to finish with a perfect record, and Ajax’s Sebastien Haller is also battling Robert Lewandowski for the top scorer crown.

MORE: Complete list of Champions League scoring leaders

Group C standings

1. Ajax (X) 15 5 5 0 0 16 3 +13
2. Sporting CP (X) 9 5 3 2 0 12 8 +4
3. Borussia Dortmund 6 5 2 3 0 5 11 -6
4. Besiktas JK 0 5 0 5 0 3 14 -11

Group D scenarios

Group D Winner: Real Madrid or Inter Milan. First place will be decided in a head-to-head matchup at the Estadio Bernabeu. Real Madrid has two results available (win or draw), while Inter Milan has to win to finish in the top spot.

Group D runner-up: For one of Real Madrid or Inter, second place will guarantee a significantly more difficult Round of 16 opponent.

3rd Place (Europa League playoff): FC Sheriff Tiraspol. The Moldovans’ European adventure is set to continue in the Europa League playoff. And that’s despite losing three straight group-stage matches after sensationally winning its first two.

MORE: Benzema to miss clash against Inter Milan

Group D standings

1. Real Madrid (X) 12 5 4 1 0 12 3 +9
2. Inter Milan (X) 10 5 3 1 1 8 3 +5
3. FC Sheriff 6 5 2 3 0 6 10 -4
4. Shakhtar Donetsk 1 5 0 4 1 1 11 -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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