Novelty Mayhem: Why This Week’s Champions League Matches Are Unusually Important

“The boring truth about the Champions League group stages is that the big teams pretty much always move through. It’s briefly exciting when Champions League play starts up every September, but games don’t really get that tense until the knockout stages. Cinderellas from smaller leagues get a nice fat check, six group-stage games against Europe’s elite, and a patronizing pat on the head as they head back to Switzerland, Greece, or Slovenia. Well, usually, anyway. This year, the final day of the group stages offers something different: the chance for a whole bunch of minnows to overcome big-four giants and give the knockout rounds some geographic diversity that’s been missing the last few seasons.” Grantland

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