The race for the Champions League knockout stages

It is tight at the top of Group H in the Champions League with four of the six rounds of games played.

Following the drama at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night and a 4-1 win for Valencia at home to Lille at the same time, Chelsea are tied on points with the Spanish side and the team we shared eight goals with this week – Ajax.

Lille, who let a 1-0 lead slip to lose last night in the Mestalla, can no longer qualify for the knockout stage of this season’s Champions League. Even if they won their remaining two games to join other teams on seven points, UEFA’s tiebreaker method would count against them.

So it is three teams fighting it out for two places and with Chelsea having won 1-0 in Amsterdam before last night’s 4-4 draw, we have the better record in head-to-head results against Ajax in this group, meaning should we end the group stage on the same points as the Dutch side, we would be placed above them in the table regardless of overall goal difference.

Our first chance to guarantee our place in the Last-16 stage however is by ensuring we finish above Valencia, our next Champions League opponents. Having lost 1-0 at home against the La Liga club on Matchday One, we need to win in Spain in three weeks’ time by at least two goals to qualify that night. Such a result would ensure Valencia at best would tie with Chelsea on points but could not beat us on the head-to-head. Victory for Valencia that night qualifies them. A draw would leave qualification in our hands on Matchday Six.

Ajax that night play away in Lille and even a win then would not be quite enough to put them through with a game to go.

The team from northern France are our final group-stage opponents on 10 December at Stamford Bridge. Ajax too finish at home when they host Valencia and the final occupants of the top two places could be decided on that night.

Champions League Group H fixtures and results

It is worth noting when looking at the Group H table that UEFA only apply the head-to-head criteria when all the games have been played. Should three teams finish on the same points then the head-to-head comparison is made using all the games played between those sides.

The full UEFA regulations for equality of points at the group stage are below.

Vote here for who you think will finish top of our group and who will miss out of the top two…

Equality of points – group stage

If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following criteria are applied in the order given to determine their rankings:
a. higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question;
b. superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question;
c. higher number of goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question;
d. higher number of away goals scored in the group matches played among the teams in question;
e. if, after having applied criteria a) to d), teams still have an equal ranking, criteria a) to d) are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the remaining teams to determine their final rankings.
If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria f) to l) apply in the order given to the two or more teams still equal;
f. superior goal difference in all group matches;
g. higher number of goals scored in all group matches;
h. higher number of away goals scored in all group matches;
i. higher number of wins in all group matches;
j. higher number of away wins in all group matches;
k. lower disciplinary points total based only on yellow and red cards received in all group matches (red card = 3 points, yellow card = 1 point, expulsion for two yellow cards in one match = 3 points);
l. higher club coefficient