Team: Club Atlético de Madrid
Atlético are back in the UEFA Champions League after a four-year absence but it feels like they have never been away. They ended the group stage unbeaten, a matchday five draw at FC Zenit the only blot on their copy book, but by then they had already clinched a last-16 spot. They finished fully ten points clear in Group G; for the others, Diego Simeone's exciting brand of attacking play was too probing, their bedrock of a solid defence impervious. They know what they are doing in the knockout stages, too: Atlético have not been clicking their heels since group stage elimination in 2009/10 – they have been winning the UEFA Europa League. Twice.
Player: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF)
At times this season Ronaldo has been unplayable. He opened with a hat-trick at Galatasaray AŞ which set the tone for a dominant campaign as the gleaming Koh-i-Noor in Madrid's garlanded attacking crown. He scored in each of his five appearances as the Merengues ran away with Group B, in the process becoming the first player to notch nine in a group stage. The 12-goal leading marksman last term, he has found the net 28 times in his last 23 matches in the competition, registering 57 times in all. Not bad considering it took the Portugal forward 27 games to get off the mark.
Goal: Zlatan Ibrahimović
RSC Anderlecht 0-5 Paris Saint-Germain, 23 October
A night off on matchday six denied Ibrahimović the opportunity to keep pace with Ronaldo; the Swedish international had scored eight in the first five matchdays, and one more would have equalled the new group stage record. However, the third of his four strikes in the 5-0 mauling of Anderlecht on matchday three may have set some kind of record for velocity: his drive from 25 metres could have knocked a hole in the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium had the net not intervened. "The third goal was my favourite," Ibrahimović conceded afterwards. "I shot from distance and timed it very well and it went in. It felt like a very hard shot."
"He likes having the ball, playing football, passes ... it's like an orchestra. But it's a silent song, yeah? I like heavy metal."
Jürgen Klopp, pretending to play the violin, uses a musical analogy to compare the style of his Borussia Dortmund squad with that of Group F rivals Arsenal FC.
FC Bayern München's 3-1 success at PFC CSKA Moskva on matchday five completed an unprecedented ten-game winning run in the UEFA Champions League, surpassing FC Barcelona's nine-match streak in 2002/03. The fifth win in that golden sequence was the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League final – Bayern's last under Jupp Heynckes – but Josep Guardiola proved a worthy successor."Ten wins in a row proves we are a great side," noted winger Arjen Robben. Guardiola added: "There are no excuses at a club like Bayern – you always have to play well." However, their impeccable standards slipped with a 3-2 Group D home loss to Manchester City FC on matchday six.
Shock factor: FC Basel 1893
The Swiss title holders landed in London for matchday one burdened by the heavyweight baggage of a torrid record on English soil: ten games, zero wins. Another figure stacked against Murat Yakin's side was 29, the number of group stage matches opponents Chelsea FC were unbeaten at home. Few therefore foresaw a 2-1 Basel win, second-half goals from Mohamed Salah and Marco Streller overturning Oscar's masterful finish. Fewer still foresaw them doing it again when the team met in Basel two months later. Yet it was not enough for a last-16 spot.
Save: Fraser Forster (Celtic FC)
Celtic failed to repeat their 2012/13 group stage triumph against Barcelona on matchday two, losing 1-0 in Glasgow, but goalkeeper Fraser Forster emerged with huge credit, saving his ten-man side on numerous occasions. "Their goalkeeper had a great game," shrugged Pedro Rodríguez afterwards. His crowning achievement was a double stop in the 88th minute to deny first Neymar and then Alexis Sánchez – the look of disbelief on the latter's face spoke volumes.
Contrasting fortunes: SSC Napoli and FC Zenit
The fates threw a curveball at two clubs in the group stage; Zenit dodged it, but it hit Napoli full in the face as they became the first team in the tournament's history to miss out on the knockout phase with a 12-point tally – losing out on head-to-head record when Group F rivals Arsenal and Dortmund also posted the same total. "To win four games out of six and be eliminated is not something that happens often," sighed forward Gonzalo Higuaín. All the more galling, then, that Zenit scraped through as Group G runners-up with a lowest-ever successful haul of six points.
On and on and on: Ryan Giggs (Manchester United FC)
Now one of a tiny band of outfield players to have savoured UEFA Champions League football after their 40th birthdays, Giggs set two new marks this autumn. This is his record 19th season in Europe's top club competition; and on matchday two he reached a milestone 145th UEFA Champions League appearance – breaking Raúl González's record of 144. "There is no secret [to my longevity] – you just have to work hard," said Giggs, who ends 2013 having played 148 UEFA Champions League matches. "To overtake someone like Raúl, who is a legend in the game, is pleasing."
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