Champions League scenarios: What Liverpool, Chelsea, Inter Milan and others need to advance to knockout stage

The Champions League group stage concludes this week, and we will know the 16 teams that move on to fight for the title in the knockout stage. Eight spots have already been clinched, but just as many are still up for grabs ahead of the decisive Matchday 6. Here is everything you need to know about who has clinched, what the scenarios are and how the tiebreakers work.

Teams that have clinched

Group winners:

  • PSG (Group A)
  • Bayern Munich (Group B)
  • Manchester City (Group C)
  • Juventus (Group D)
  • Barcelona (Group F)

Group runners-up:

  • Real Madrid (Group A)
  • Tottenham (Group B)

Qualified (position TBD):

  • RB Leipzig

Tiebreaker rules

The first tiebreaker in UCL isn't the same used in most competitions. It comes down to head-to-head points in the Champions League, opposed to goal difference in the Premier League and elsewhere.

For example, if Ajax and Valencia draw and Chelsea draws Lille, that will see Ajax win the group and Valencia and Chelsea finish tied with nine points. In this scenario, Valencia would go through on head-to-head points. Valencia beat and tied Chelsea (four points) in their two group stage matchups.

If the teams take the same amount of points from the games between them, head-to-head goal difference will be used. If that's also equal, it then goes to goals scored head-to-head and then away goals scored head-to-head. That last one may come into play for Liverpool this week.


Group A: Nothing to be decided with PSG winning the group and Real Madrid finishing second.

Group B: Nothing to be decided with Bayern Munich winning the group and Tottenham finishing second.

Group C: Manchester City has won the group, while Shakhtar Donetsk (six points), Dinamo Zagreb (five points) and Atalanta (four points) fight for the second spot.

  • Shakhtar Donestk advances with a win over Atalanta. The club can also advance with a draw as long as Dinamo Zagreb doesn't beat Manchester City.
  • Dinamo Zagreb advances with a win over Manchester City as long as Shakhtar Donetsk doesn't beat Atalanta. 
  • Atalanta has to beat Shakhtar and needs Dinamo Zagreb to lose or draw against Manchester City.

Group D: Juventus has won the group. Atletico Madrid (seven points) and Bayer Leverkusen (six points) are fighting for the last spot.

  • Atletico Madrid advances with a win over Lokomotiv Moscow on Wednesday and/or a loss or draw by Bayer Leverkusen. Atleti owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Bayer thanks to away goals.
  • Leverkusen must beat Juventus and Atletico Madrid must fail to beat Lokomotiv Moscow for the German side to go through. 

Group E: Liverpool (10 points), Napoli (nine points) and Red Bull Salzburg (seven points) are all in contention for the two spots.

  • Liverpool advances with just a draw against Red Bull Salzburg, while the Reds could still advance with a loss as long as Napoli doesn't beat Genk. A Liverpool loss by two goals or more combined with a win from Napoli over Genk would see the Reds crash out of the competition. There is also a way for Liverpool to lose by just one goal and get knocked out or move on depending on the goals scored (more below).
  • A win for Napoli against Genk gets the team through. A draw or loss would be enough as long as Liverpool beats Red Bull Salzburg. 
  • Red Bull Salzburg has to beat Liverpool to have any chance of advancing. RB Salzburg only needs a one-goal win to do it as long as the score is 1-0, 2-1 or 3-2. That's because they would be level on head-to-head points, goal differential and goals scored vs. Liverpool. That would drop it down to the fourth tiebreaker of away goals head-to-head. Red Bull Salzburg currently has a plus-three advantage after scoring three times at Anfield in a 4-3 loss earlier in the season. So basically, if the club wins by a goal and doesn't concede three, it advances and the reigning champs could be heading home.
  • In a crazy scenario, Liverpool will be eliminated if it loses by one and doesn't score three, combined with a Napoli win over Genk. So if Liverpool loses 5-4, the Reds would advance because of more away goals scored versus Red Bull Salzburg.

Group F: Barcelona has won the group, while Inter Milan (seven points) and Borussia Dortmund (seven points) fight for second place. Inter has the tiebreaker over Dortmund. They each beat each other at home to tie on head-to-head points, while Inter has a plus-one differential against Dortmund. Inter beat Dortmund 2-0 at home, and Dortmund beat Inter 3-2 at home. 

  • Inter will advance with a win over Barcelona, while it also advances if it matches Dortmund's result. If they both win, draw or lose, Inter is through.
  • Dortmund has to get a better result than Inter to advance. If Dortmund beats Slavia Prauge and Inter fails to beat Barca, Dortmund is through.

Group G: RB Leipzig (10 points) is through, while Zenit (seven points) and Lyon (seven points) can still win the group or finish in second. In the most simple terms:

  • RB Leipzig wins the group with just a draw at Lyon. 
  • Zenit has the head-to-head advantage over Lyon, so a win against Benfica or matching Lyon's result will be enough to advance.
  • Lyon has to win at Leipzig and needs Zenit to lose or draw against Benfica. 

Group H: Ajax is in first place (10 points), while Valencia (eight points) is in second and Chelsea (eight points) is in third. It's a crazy group because Ajax has the head-to-head advantage over Valencia, which has it over Chelsea, which has it over Ajax. But thankfully all three can't be tied on points, so it's pretty straight forward. Chelsea faces Lille while Ajax hosts Valencia on Tuesday.

  • Ajax advances with a win or draw against Valencia. Ajax can advance with a loss as long as Chelsea doesn't beat Lille. 
  • Valencia is through with a win. Valencia advances with a draw if Chelsea draws or a loss if Chelsea also loses. 
  • Chelsea is through with a win. Chelsea is through with a draw if Valencia loses to Ajax. 

You can watch this week's action on fuboTV (Try for free). 

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CBS Sports Writer

Roger Gonzalez is an award-winning writer based in Virginia that has covered pro soccer from Europe's top clubs to Argentina's first division. Roger started out his pro soccer writing career with Full Bio

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