Knockout stage in sight
Seven clubs will be looking to book early tickets to the UEFA Champions League knockout phase on Tuesday and Wednesday as Europe's finest reconvene for the fourth round of matches in the group stage.
Porto, Schalke, Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk must all win to confirm their passage, while Barcelona, Manchester United and Malaga can settle for a draw and still advance to the last 16. Seven teams remain unbeaten at this stage, but only Porto, Malaga, Barcelona and United can pride themselves on having triumphed in all three contests so far.
FIFA.com now takes a closer look at what is at stake for all 32 hopefuls on Matchday 4.
The big match
Chelsea-Shakhtar Donetsk, Group E, Stamford Bridge, London
Revenge will be Chelsea's objective when Shakhtar come calling as the reigning champions require a win to stay on track and hold off Juventus, whom they visit next time out. Victory would represent the Blues' 100th in the Champions League, and they go into the match boasting a fine record, having never lost two games during a single group stage and remaining unbeaten at home since succumbing to Manchester United in April 2011. Their Ukrainian rivals can look forward to their 50th outing at this level with confidence, though, and will again rely on the players who have served them so well up until now. The Pitmen have utilised just 14 players so far – fewer than all the other group stage sides – and that figure includes their six gifted Brazilians, who have struck eight of the club's last ten goals.
The other games
Tuesday 6 November 2012
Paris Saint-Germain-Dinamo Zagreb
Porto will need to be effective in front of goal if they are to claim the win that would send them through to the knockout stage, particularly as Dynamo have scored at least once in their last 11 Champions League home games. Like the Portuguese club, PSG are also in a strong position as they gear up to meet Dinamo Zagreb – the only team along with Lille on zero points – but Carlo Ancelotti's men must bounce back after suffering their first home reverse this season on Saturday.
Nine points shy of Manchester United in the Premier League, Arsenal are suffering on the domestic scene and could also do with a return to form in Europe if they are to stay ahead of Olympiakos. The Gunners have only lost home and away to the same opponents once before – against Deportivo La Coruna in 2001 – but are clearly lacking an attacking edge since the departure of Robin van Persie. They are rarely at their best on German soil either, recording six losses and three draws in 12 trips. Schalke are fully focused on taking the three points that would seal their berth in the last 16, meanwhile, as they perhaps betrayed in Saturday's 3-2 reverse at Hoffenheim.
Milan appear to have a little more colour in their cheeks after Stephan El Shaarawy inspired them to a 5-1 dismantling of Chievo on Saturday, and they may need to hit similar heights if they are to dispatch Malaga. I Rossoneri have not won any of their last eight meetings with Spanish sides, while Malaga have not conceded a single goal in their five European fixtures this term. That said, Manuel Pellegrini's side were certainly less than impressive when they slipped to their first home defeat of the season against modest visitors Rayo Vallecano. For their part, Zenit travel to Belgium, where Anderlecht are still chasing a first Champions League home win since 2003.
Real Madrid-Borussia Dortmund
Bottom of the group with a single point, City seem to have lost much of their Premier League momentum as well after drawing 0-0 with West Ham United at the weekend. The English champions can settle for nothing short of victory to keep their wavering qualification dream alive, but can point to a record of just two defeats in 39 European home games if they find themselves in need of additional motivation. As for Madrid, they are anxious to regain control of the notorious 'group of death' after losing in Germany two weeks ago, while Dortmund plan to deny them an eighth consecutive victory at the Estadio Bernabeu.
Wednesday 7 November
Juve's 3-1 defeat by Inter Milan on Saturday represented their first Serie A reverse in 49 games and 18 months, and they will need to recover from that psychological blow quickly before Nordsjaelland pitch up in Turin. Incredibly, I Bianconeri have drawn their last nine Champions League contests, and they are understandably desperate to end that sequence.
Fortified by wins in each of their last eight Champions League home encounters, Bayern look to have the easiest task of the group's three joint leaders as they prepare to face still point-less Lille. The mission facing BATE is anything but straightforward, meanwhile, after they followed up two opening wins with a crushing home loss to Valencia last time around. Now scheduled for the return game in Spain, the Belarusian side can expect a stern examination from in-form opponents who downed Atletico Madrid 2-0 at the weekend.
Missing suspended duo Luisao and Nemanja Matic, Benfica cannot afford another slip-up and require victory against Spartak to keep themselves in the running. Any other result would spell certain elimination for the Portuguese giants with two matches still to play. Barcelona will be aiming to seal their qualification, in contrast, but must cope with a number of injuries in defence, not to mention Sergio Busquets' suspension. Those absences ought to feed Celtic's belief, as should the fact that the Glasgow outfit have lost just two of their last 21 home games.
Having put in a fine performance at Old Trafford last time out, Braga will be hungry to topple United on home soil, but their English rivals are sure to arrive high on confidence following recent Premier League wins against Arsenal and Chelsea. As for the section's surprise package Cluj, they have taken four points from their two away trips so far and will need similar efficiency at home if they are to consolidate second spot.
Player to watch
Along with Cristiano Ronaldo, Schalke's Dutch marksman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is the only player to have found the net in each of his team's first three group outings. He has buried 11 of Schalke's last 18 goals in Europe and boasts a total haul of 71 strikes in 86 games since joining the German club in 2010. Unsurprisingly, a number of sides are keeping close tabs on the devastating finisher, whose contract is set to expire this season.
22 of the 130 goals scored in the first three rounds of games were notched by Brazilian players, equalling the record tally racked up last season – also by Brazilians. Second on the list are the Spanish, who have struck 13 times, while, in third, Portuguese players have racked up ten goals.
What they said
"We're currently 'growing' little by little. We now await the visit of Malaga, which will be the decisive match," Massimiliano Allegri, AC Milan coach.
Have your say
Can Manchester City still qualify for the last 16?