After playing the fourth round of fixtures in the group stage of European competitions, several clubs have already sealed progression to the knockouts.
Elsewhere, there were some massive results at international and domestic levels. We will review some of those in this edition of This Week In Football.
🏆 UEFA Women’s World Cup Qualification: Scotland 0-1 Ireland
The finals of the UEFA Women’s World Cup qualification play-offs were held in midweek, with six sides vying for three tickets to Australia and New Zealand.
In an inter-British isles battle, Scotland faced Ireland. The home side had participated in the previous World Cup, whereas Ireland were yet to feature in the tournament. The two teams were quite close in the FIFA rankings, with just a couple of spots between them.
Scotland were quite clearly the dominant side in this fixture, as they kept the clear majority of possession and created several good chances. The best of the lot saw Real Madrid star Caroline Weir step up to take a penalty, but her effort was saved.
At the other end in the second half, Irish substitute Amber Barrett scored the opening goal in the 72nd minute with effectively her first touch in the game.
The visitors were able to hold on after that, securing not just their first-ever World Cup qualification but also their first-ever participation in a major tournament.
Elsewhere, Portugal got the better of the ten women of Iceland in extra time, while Wales suffered heartbreak against Switzerland when they were just seconds away from a penalty shoot-out.
🏆 UEFA Champions League: Atlético Madrid 2-0 Club Brugge
Several teams secured progression to the knockout stage on the fourth matchday of the Champions League, and among them were defending Belgian champions Club Brugge.
They had three wins from three games before this week having beaten Bayer Leverkusen in their season-opener, put four past Porto and got the better of Atlético Madrid at home in the reverse fixture by a two-goal margin.
As all the other sides had dropped points against one another, a draw was all Brugge needed to book a berth in the round of 16.
Atlético came to this match with uncharacteristic attacking intentions because they knew that a win would be needed for them to be in a promising position heading into the last two rounds of fixtures, so they absolutely pummeled the away side’s goal. The final shots tally read 21-5 in their favour, and they created five big chances.
Unfortunately for them, ex-Liverpool man Simon Mignolet decided they shall not pass, as he delivered a historic goalkeeping performance to earn a point for his side.
With that, Brugge secured their first-ever appearance in the Champions League knockout phase at the tenth time of asking, becoming just the second Belgian club to make it past the group stage in the process.
🏆 Europa League: Nantes 0-4 Freiburg
In just their second-ever Europa League campaign, Freiburg have secured progression to the knockout phase, and in some style.
The Breisgau-based club had only four European victories to their name in their 118-year history before this season, but they have doubled that tally now to put themselves in a great position to directly qualify for the round of 16.
Their big win over French cup holders Nantes preserved their 100% in the Europa League this season, so they could need just one more point to win their group.
Things are not looking so good for Nantes, who will need to Qarabağ in their next fixture and hope that the Azerbaijani side drop points against Freiburg on the final matchday for them to have a chance of finishing second.
They might even be knocked out of European football altogether by Olympiacos, who are just two points behind them and will host them on the last day of the group stage.
🏆 Europa Conference League: Žalgiris Vilnius 2-1 Pyunik
The Europa Conference League continues to provide us with great storylines. This week, it was Žalgiris Vilnius’ turn to become the first club representing their nation to win a group stage match in a continental competition, having previously become the first Lithuanian club to qualify for a European competition.
They did so by defeating Armenian champions Pyunik, who had won two of their three Europa Conference League matches before this one, including the reverse fixture in Yerevan.
Žalgiris delivered a great performance on home soil, where two first-half goals were enough for them to secure three crucial points.
That was a big result for the Lithuanian champions, who remain last with four points but within touching distance of group leaders Basel, who have seven. Anything could still be possible in Group H.
🇦🇷 Argentina: Atlético Tucumán 1-1 Rosario Central
On Sunday, Atlético Tucumán were on top of the Liga Professional table with a two-point lead over Boca Juniors, who did have a game in hand. In just five days, that gap has flipped to three points in the other direction, even though the extra game has not been played.
Tucumán suffered their fourth defeat of the league season on Tuesday night when third-placed Racing Club beat them 2-0 in Buenos Aires. That was a huge dent to their title hopes, but they seem almost completely crushed now after their 1-1 draw with Rosario Central.
Facundo Buonanotte’s stunning effort from range left the hosts trailing after 25 minutes, and even though they thought they had equalised before half-time, VAR ruled that goal out. Maestro Puch Ignacio eventually made it 1-1 with five minutes of normal time left to play, but a draw was not good enough for his side.
They were given a golden opportunity to do better in the last minute of normal time when Ramiro Carrera stepped up to take a VAR-awarded penalty, but his effort was saved.
With that, Atlético Tucumán’s chances of a first-ever league title, which were pretty high when they had a nine-point lead over Boca midway through the season, are all but dusted.
👀 What To Watch Next:
There are big clashes across Europe this weekend, and here are the picks of the bunch:
🇧🇪 Belgium: Anderlecht vs Club Brugge (Saturday,17:30 GMT)
Club Brugge will face a tough test in the league as they will participate in Belgium’s version of De Topper, as they will take on arch-rivals Anderlecht. There are six points between the sides, but the visitors, who are placed further up the table, are already eight points behind league leaders Royal Antwerp.
🇪🇸 Spain: Real Madrid vs Barcelona (Sunday, 15:15 GMT)
It is time for the 2022/23 season’s first Clásico in Spain, where Barcelona will travel to Madrid with the two sides level on points at the top of the table. Read our preview of the match here.
🏴 England: Liverpool vs Manchester City (Sunday, 16:30 GMT)
The Premier League’s defending champions will be visiting Anfield to face an injury-ravaged Liverpool side who will have a double-digit points deficit to their rivals regardless of the result of this match.
🇫🇷 France: Paris Saint-Germain vs Olympique Marseille (Sunday, 19:45 GMT)
Le Classique is set to be the headline act of Ligue 1 this weekend, as the Parc de Princes will welcome Olympique Marseille, who are three points behind PSG in the table. Should the hosts drop points, Lorient could stay at the top of the table for over a week if they beat Reims on Saturday.
Stats courtesy Transfermarkt, Opta via FotMob and The Analyst, and Transfermarkt.
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