Penultimate hurdle for last-16 hopefuls

Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Real Madrid are the only teams to have made sure of their places in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, which should ensure plenty of twists and turns on Matchday 5.

One of the most intriguing section finales looks to be in Group B, where only three points separate Lyon, Schalke and Benfica, with the Germans entertaining Les Gones on Wednesday. In two of the week’s other stand-out ties, Marseille visit the Russian capital as they renew their battle with Spartak Moscow for second place in Group F, while AC Milan will need to be on their guard at Auxerre if they are to stay on course in Group G. looks ahead to the upcoming action in Europe’s premier club competition.

The fixtures
Tuesday 23 November
Group E: Roma-Bayern Munich, Basel-Cluj
Group F: Spartak Moscow-Marseille, Chelsea-Zilina
Group G: Ajax-Real Madrid, Auxerre-AC Milan
Group H: Braga-Arsenal, Partizan-Shakhtar Donetsk

Wednesday 24 November
Group A: Inter Milan-Twente, Tottenham Hotspur-Werder Bremen
Group B: Schalke-Lyon, Hapoel Tel Aviv-Benfica
Group C: Rangers-Manchester United, Valencia-Bursaspor
Group D: Rubin Kazan-Copenhagen, Panathinaikos-Barcelona

Match of the day
Spartak Moscow-Marseille, Group F, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, 18.30 CET

Both sides are tied on six points going into this high-stakes meeting, although the Russians have the edge following their 1-0 win at the Stade Velodrome in September. A draw here would put them on the brink of the next round, particularly as they face also-rans Zilina in their final game, with l’OM taking on Chelsea, who have all but won the group.

Despite losing 3-1 to CSKA Moscow at the weekend, Spartak are hopeful their Brazilian star striker Welliton, the scorer of 18 goals in 23 games, can make the difference on Tuesday. Didier Deschamps’ side have come back well since tripping up against their forthcoming opponents at home, however, and have promised to take the game to their hosts. The Frenchmen also have a good record in their 12 meetings against Russian opposition, winning six of those games, losing four and drawing two.

The other matches
With four wins out of four, Bayern Munich are already home and dry in Group E and only need a point against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico to clinch first place. The Germans will be without the suspended Bastian Schweinsteiger, which is good news for the inconsistent Italians, who could yet be pipped to second place by Basel, the Swiss having a superior goal difference to Roma in the two meetings between the sides. Cluj, who lie bottom with three points, are not out of the running either.

The three teams behind Group G leaders Real Madrid are now scrapping it out for second. A point clear of Ajax in third, AC Milan hold the advantage ahead of their visit to Auxerre, who are still in the frame despite propping up the section. The Dutchmen, meanwhile, will be hoping Madrid will be saving themselves for next Monday’s league duel with Barcelona when they pay a visit to the Amsterdam ArenA.

Braga’s Group H campaign began in the worst possible fashion with a 6-0 drubbing at Arsenal, a result they now have the chance to avenge when the Gunners come visiting on Tuesday. A win for the Portuguese side, who have clambered back into contention with two victories, would take them level on points with the Londoners. Sandwiched between the two are Shakhtar Donetsk, who can take a significant stride towards the knockout phase if they win at pointless Partizan, who have failed to score so far.

Without a win in their last five games and now lying sixth in Serie A, nine points behind leaders AC Milan, reigning European and Italian champions Inter Milan would appear to have a crisis on their hands. Under-fire coach Rafael Benitez also has a long injury list to deal with as he sets about the task of overseeing victory against Twente. I Nerazzuri are two points clear of the Dutch outfit in Group A but can afford no further slip-ups, especially with pacesetters Tottenham Hotspur strongly fancied to follow-up Saturday’s dramatic comeback against Arsenal with victory over bottom side Werder Bremen.

Two points out front in Group B, Lyon will make sure of a place in the last 16 for the eighth time running if they win at Schalke. A point ahead of Benfica, who travel to Tel Aviv to take on luckless Hapoel, the Germans will be anxious to take something from the game, particularly with a testing trip to Lisbon to come in their final outing.

With second-placed Valencia at home to the section's bottom side Bursaspor, Rangers have little option but to beat leaders Manchester United at home if they are to stay in the hunt in Group C. The Gers’ task is all the more daunting for the fact that the English giants have not conceded a goal so far.

Barcelona and Copenhagen have been dominating proceedings in Group D and only need a point apiece from their respective trips to Panathinaikos and Rubin Kazan to secure their places in the next round.

Player to watch
Having taken his time to adjust to life in the Bundesliga, a rejuvenated Raul has just scored his first hat-trick for the Gelsenkirchen club and is now looking to push past Fillippo Inzaghi as the top marksman in Europe’s leading club competition. "My body is a machine and it thrives on competition,” said the veteran Spanish striker..

The stat
23 - The number of Champions League goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo, who needs two more to overtake Luis Figo as the highest-scoring Portuguese player in the competition. The Real Madrid man is seven behind Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, his rival in next week’s clásico, who is just one short of former Barça idol Rivaldo.

What they said
“The last time I played fit? Maybe five years, maybe more, I can’t really remember. I’m 30 next month and I’ve got to start looking after myself,” Chelsea centre-half John Terry discusses his injury problems.

Have your say
Hailing from the smallest city of all 32 Champions League participants, can Auxerre belie their underdog status and inflict defeat on the mighty AC Milan?