Decisive duels to shape last-16 line-up
Former European champions Juventus, Benfica and Celtic as well as current holders Chelsea, Galatasaray and Cluj will vie for the three remaining tickets for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The triumvirate of successful sides will join Porto, Paris St Germain, Schalke, Arsenal, Malaga, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester United in the draw for the Round of 16.
The draw will take place in Nyon, Switzerland, on Thursday 20 December, with pool winners set to be paired with second-placed teams from a different group and a different national association. Spain will be the best represented country in the knockout stages, with all four of its teams already guaranteed to advance.
FIFA.com weighs up the stakes involved on Matchday 6, the final instalment of group-phase fixtures.
The big match
Shakhtar Donetsk-Juventus, Group E, Donbass Arena, Donetsk
The permutations related to this top-of-the-table clash are straightforward: Shakhtar, who have already qualified, will win Group E in the event of a draw, a result which would also enable Juventus to secure a spot in the last 16. If the Turin giants were to claim all three points, it would be they who would top the section.
The carrot of first place provides some semblance of hope for Chelsea fans, who require La Vecchia Signora, unbeaten in 15 European matches since March 2010, to lose in order to snatch the runners-up spot from under their noses - assuming they themselves beat Nordsjaelland.
Shakhtar and Juventus played out a 1-1 draw in Italy in October, and both currently lead their respective national leagues. Each will be missing a key player on Wednesday evening, with Luiz Adriano and Claudio Marchisio suspended for the decisive encounter.
Although the statistics do not favour Donetsk, whose record against Italian sides comprises 11 losses, two draws and just four victories, the Ukrainians, who have qualified for the Round of 16 for only the second time in the club’s history, have avoided defeat in their last three duels with Serie A representatives.
The other games
Tuesday 4 December 2012
Dinamo Zagreb-Dynamo Kiev
Paris St Germain-Porto
Porto, who beat Paris St Germain 1-0 at home earlier in the campaign, go into the corresponding away fixture at Parc des Princes knowing that a share of the spoils will be enough to win Group A. PSG, meanwhile, must overcome their Portuguese opponents to achieve the same feat.
Despite registering some spectacular signings over the summer, the French outfit’s recent domestic form has been patchy. PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti was unable to hide his anger following his charges’ 2-1 reverse in Nice on Saturday, a result that saw the Parisians slip five points behind Ligue 1 pace-setters Lyon. Porto presently enjoy a loftier league position, topping the Portuguese table on goal difference.
Elsewhere in the group, Dynamo Kiev are sure to finish third and have therefore already earned a place in the UEFA Europa League.
With Schalke and Arsenal having safely booked their passage to the next round and Olympiacos certain to play in the Europa League, the only unresolved issue in Group B is the identity of the team that finishes top. The Germans travel to Montpellier aware that even a defeat could still see them claim first place if Arsenal fail to win in Greece.
The match comes at an awkward time for the Gunners, who lost 2-0 at home to Swansea at the weekend and consequently find themselves in tenth spot in the Premier League, 15 points behind leaders Manchester United.
AC Milan-Zenit St Petersburg
Malaga and AC Milan already have first and second place wrapped up in Group C, with the only unanswered question revolving around whether Anderlecht or Zenit, who both play away on the night, capture third place and a berth in the Europa League.
Borussia Dortmund-Manchester City
Group winners Borussia Dortmund and second-placed Real Madrid are the last teams standing in the much-publicised ‘group of death’. In order to avoid the embarrassment of the wooden spoon, English champions Manchester City must win in Dortmund and hope that Ajax fail to pull off a surprise win in Madrid.
Wednesday 5 December 2012
The fate of 2011/2012 Champions League winners Chelsea is no longer in their own hands. In addition to requiring a home victory, the Blues must cross their fingers and hope that Juventus lose in Ukraine. Rafa Benitez’s men, who suffered a shock 3-1 defeat by West Ham over the weekend, will need to regain some of the form they showed towards the end of last season if they are to down Nordsjaelland.
Bayern Munich-BATE Boris
Bayern and Valencia are assured of finishing in the top two places, while BATE Borisov will drop into the Europa League. The Germans, who boast the same number of points as Los Che, enjoy a head-to-head advantage that will see them win the pool if they match or better the Spaniards’ result.
Barcelona are sure to emerge victorious from the section, while Benfica, level on points with Celtic but above them by virtue of their superior head-to-head record, will join the Catalans in the draw for the next round if they obtain an identical or better result than the Scottish side.
Manchester United will move on to the Round of 16 as group winners. Both Galatasaray and Cluj can still obtain second spot, but the Turks know that a win in Portugal will see them through irrespective of the Romanians’ scoreline in Manchester.
Galatasaray will be hoping for another strong performance from Burak Yilmaz, who has already found the net five times for the Turkish team in the Champions League this season. The imposing front man scored the only goal of Gala’s impressive 1-0 victory over Manchester United, a hat-trick in their 3-1 win in Cluj, and the equaliser in the 1-1 home draw versus the same opponents. Having signed for the Istanbul club over the summer, Yilmaz has also bagged 14 goals in 17 league matches.
5 – the number of goals registered by the four joint leading scorers from the group stage, namely Brazilian winger Alan (Braga), Turkish striker Burak Yilmaz (Galatasaray), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) and Lionel Messi (Barcelona), who has also racked up three assists in the process.
What they said
“We’ve always stated that our main goal was to qualify, although we’d like to win the group. We know that a point will be enough, but we’d love to come back from Paris with all three,” Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho.
Have your say
Which three teams will secure the remaining qualifying slots?