Champions League: Is finishing top still the best route to the quarter-finals?

Champions League: Is finishing top still the best route to the quarter-finals?

After a few shock results, does finishing first in your group guarantee you an easier draw in the last 16 this season?

After match day five, 12 teams have been confirmed for the last 16 in the Champions League. With four spots left up for grabs and several teams still in with a chance of finishing top of their group, we’ve taken a look at whether this season finishing second could be a better route to the quarter-finals.

Arsenal have made a habit of finishing second in their group but they have failed to progress further than the last 16 since 2009/10. They look destined to be runners-up again and if the groups stay how they are, a potential tie against Monaco, Napoli or Borussia Dortmund could be on the cards. While Barcelona, Atletico and Juventus would represent difficult ties, Arsenal would also avoid two of the favourites for the competition, in Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

With Bayern Munich and Real Madrid set to finish second, they are still two of the favourites to win this season's competition at 4/1 and 6/1 respectively. Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund are both set to finish above them in their groups but at 8/1 and 14/1 to win the tournament, the bookies clearly think that won't have too much of a detrimental affect on their European campaigns.

Since 2003/4 the teams who qualify top have a better ratio of qualifying to the quarter-finals. The only season that the runners-up had a better record was in 2007/08. That could change this year though with so many of the bigger teams looking likely to finish second in their groups.

Below is a handy table to show how many group winners have advanced from the last 16 in that period.

Year Winners Advanced
2003/04 6
2004/05 5
2005/06 7
2006/07 6
2007/08 3
2008/09 5
2009/10 4
20010/11 6
20011/12 6
20012/13 6
20013/14 8
20014/15 6
20015/16 6