With the Champions League group stages nearing the end, what does the knockout round after Christmas hold for the teams still involved?

In group A, Bayern Munich have already qualified for the round of 32, and Atletico Madrid currently occupy second, but Salzburg could overtake them on the final day. So far, Bayern have faced no real troubles in defending their title, even with some of the injures faced by the Germans so far. Atletico will be hoping for a result next week, as they play challengers RB Salzburg, and whoever wins will go through.

LISBON, PORTUGAL – AUGUST 23: Manuel Neuer, captain of FC Bayern Munich lifts the UEFA Champions League Trophy. Photo by Miguel A. Lopes/Pool via Getty Images)

Borussia Monchengladbach have been the surprise package of the competition so far, leading a group of Real Madrid, who have disappointed, and Internazionale, who can’t seem to find the form of last season. Sitting in second thanks in part to two shock wins over Los Blancos, is Shaktar Donetsk. The Ukrainian champions have certainly not struggled, but could still fall out of Europe all together, depending what happens on the final day.

Group C is all done and dusted now, with Manchester City and Porto both going through to the next stage. Will this be the season the Citizens finally win the champions league they covet so much?

Liverpool have already won their group, but Atalanta and Ajax will go head to head for runners up. That could be one of the most exciting games, so if you aren’t sure which one to watch, Group D may be a good bet, as previous champions Ajax take on relative new boys Atalanta.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – MAY 24: AJAX AMSTERDAM – AC MAILAND 1:0, Wien; Champions League Finale 1995 in Wien; AJAX AMSTERDAM CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SIEGER 1995 mit Pokal (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

On the blue side of London, Chelsea have already secured qualification the the next stage of the Champions League, alongside Sevilla. Nothing can change in group E, so managers may give some chances to those fringe players, which could mean Olivier Giroud could add to his 4 goals midweek.

In group F, Borussia Dortmund have seen themselves through, but Lazio and Club Brugge will face off for the final spot, and a chance at European glory. The loser on Tuesday will go into the europa league though, so there is still a chance for both sides.

Group G would look like the most boring group in the tournament, if it weren’t likely for us to see Messi’s Barcelona take on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus in the last game of the group. Barcelona have been poor domestically this season, but have not struggled so far in the Champions League.

And last but not least, possibly the most exciting group left is currently a three way tie for top between PSG, Manchester United and RB Leipzig. all three teams are on 9 points, with the Red Devils playing Leipzig for a guaranteed spot to go further in the competition.

So, what does this hold for the knockout stages? Well, there have been some shock results, some underperforming teams, and some surprising scores, the champions league looks exciting, and so does its sister competition the Europa League, given some of the talent that could drop down into Europes secondary competition.

The next stage of the competition could show some of the trends we have seen so far, in that playing away or at home doesn’t have an advantage or disadvantage, as fans are not back in many stadiums across Europe so far. This means we could see teams like Monchengladbach go far, as they are currently playing some great football, in Europe and domestically.

MONCHENGLADBACH, GERMANY – AUGUST 16: The fans of Gladbach wave flags during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and Hertha BSC Berlin at the Borussia Park on August 16, 2009 in Monchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

It still looks like one of the favourites will win, but could we see a shock in this unprecedented season?

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By Sam Hutchison

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