At least second-place Madrid is so far clear of fifth in La Liga to be almost sure of qualifying for next season’s Champions League. Not so, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool. Nor AC Milan, Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt and Club Brugge. None is currently on track to qualify for next season’s competition. For Liverpool and Chelsea, European champions in 2019 and 2021, actually winning another final on June 10 in Istanbul might be their best chance of being in the group-stage draw in August. That should be worth about 100 million euros ($107 million) in UEFA prize money. That cash now looks almost essential to Chelsea after a season of lavish transfer spending signed off by American owner Todd Boehly.
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PSG was unbeaten entering 2023 then lost three in the league and is out of the French Cup. Bayern still leads the Bundesliga after restarting with three straight draws. TEAMS IN SLUMPSA Champions League adage is the team you draw after the group stage is not always the one you meet in February. When the last-16 draw was made on Nov. 7, Real Madrid was the unbeaten Spanish league leader paired with an already inconsistent Liverpool. Madrid has now lost three of eight and let Barcelona take a dominating lead.
It adds up to plenty of drama even before soccer’s most prized club competition resumes with a stellar game between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. A rematch of the 2020 final won by Bayern pairs two powers that helped stop the Super League in 2021 by refusing to join it. What it was not expected to have at Parc des Princes were the goalscorer and goalkeeper with the best records from the group stage. Mbappé, who scored seven goals across five different Champions League games in the fall, was set to miss most of February with a thigh injury. He made a surprise return to training on Sunday.
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