A wrap-up of this year’s Nextgen Series group stage matches. Technically the group stage is yet to finish as there is still one game to go and it’s a nothing game. Provided Ajax don’t beat Chelsea 12-0, these are the teams who’ve made it to the last 16.
Group 1: Barcelona, Anderlecht.
Group 2: Paris St. Germain, Juventus.
Group 3: CSKA, Ajax.
Group 4: Sporting Lisbon, Aston Villa.
Group 5: Inter Milan, Rosenborg.
Group 6: Olympiacos, Arsenal.
Best placed runners up: PSV, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool.
The top scorers in the group stage were: Viktor Fischer (Ajax), Coulthirst and Pritchard (Tottenham) with 4 goals each.
Sporting Lisbon, Paris St. Germain and CSKA won more games than any other team. Though Sporting and PSG have won their groups it was rather not a convincing performance from them and going forward to the knock out stages they will surely find it difficult to overcome their opponents.
Inter Milan were already safely through to the next round before their final game against Liverpool so the Italians had a chance to rest their star players , most notably Garritano. And Liverpool grabbed the opportunity with both hands beating them 4-1 but still Inter look very strong. They are the current champions and have only lost a couple of games in all competitions this season. Even without Stramaccioni at the helm, Inter will be considered as strong contenders.
Barcelona will be another major contender. Though the Catalans were turned over by Tottenham earlier in the tournament, when on form they are incredibly tough to beat. With Samper holding the middle of the pitch and bags of pace on the attack, they will be an opponent feared by every side.
Juventus are the only team who went the entire group stage undefeated, picking up 3 wins and 3 draws, so it’s difficult to overlook them. They have three big talents in Magnusson, Bonatini and Padovan, so look out for the bianconeri in the knock out stages.
Ajax was considered as the main contenders to win this season’s NextGen Series but with striker Viktor Fischer making the step up to the first team I may have to reevaluate that. In fairness to Fischer, though, he’s far too good to be playing with the youths. Despite only playing 2 out of the 6 games, he’s still the tournament’s joint top scorer. Madness, yet Ajax looks may go all the way.
A surprise package this season could be Tottenham. The North London club has got bags of potential in attack with Pritchard, Coulthirst and Coulibaly and will give even the toughest of teams a real run for their money as Barcelona found out. If they do make it to the knock out stages, Spurs could be the under dogs to watch-out for.
The format for the knockout stages:
Format: 16 teams from Group stage contest the winner in a knockout format.
8th Finals: 16 teams are drawn into 8 pairs. Winners are decided over one leg, with extra time and penalties if score is level after regular time. Hosting is determined by the draw.
Quarter-finals: 8 teams are drawn into 4 pairs. Winners are decided over one leg, with extra time and penalties if score is level after regular time. Hosting is determined by the draw.
Semi-finals: 4 teams are drawn into 2 pairs. Winners are decided over one leg, with extra time and penalties if score is level after regular time. The Semi-finals and Final matches are played at a neutral venues at a tournament in one of the countries of the participating teams.
Final: The two Semi-finals winners meet each other with the winner becoming 2012/2013 The NextGen Series winner. Winner is decided over one leg, with extra time and penalties if score is level after regular time.