UEFA Champions League

Big guns aiming to fire again

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona duels for the ball with Kolbeinn Sigthorsson of AFC Ajax during a UEFA Champions League Group F match between FC Barcelona and AFC Ajax
© Getty Images

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League matches could well end with five teams advancing to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, with Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Chelsea and Porto all looking to qualify with two games to spare.

Having won their first three games, the Germans need only a draw to progress, while PSG must beat APOEL and hope that Ajax do not spring a shock against Barça, who will clinch their place in the last 16 if they win in Amsterdam and the Cypriots fail to land a surprise victory at the Parc des Princes.

The situation is exactly the same for Chelsea and Porto, who will advance if they win their respective games in Maribor and Bilbao and Schalke and Shakhtar take three points against Sporting CP and Bate Borisov respectively.

Wednesday’s fixtures*Group E
*Bayern Munich-Roma
Manchester City-CSKA Moscow

*Group F
*Ajax-Barcelona
Paris Saint-Germain-APOEL Nicosia

Group G
Sporting CP-Schalke 04
Maribor-Chelsea

*Group H
*Shakhtar Donetsk-BATE Borisov
Athletic Bilbao-Porto

Match of the dayAjax-Barcelona, Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam
*Barcelona’s impressive early-season momentum has come to a grinding halt in recent weeks, the Catalans having collected a solitary point in their last three league games. Celta Vigo provided the latest stumbling block for Luis Enrique’s side, snatching a 1-0 win at the Camp Nou on Saturday. The introduction of Luis Suarez into the *Barça
 attack has not proved as smooth as hoped, with the front three he now forms with Neymar and Lionel Messi forcing the side to adopt a system that has yet to click.

Enrique’s men also have problems at the back, where Gerard Pique is some way short of his best form, while the midfield lacks its usual focus whenever Xavi is not around to orchestrate things. Wednesday’s meeting is the latest reunion between Frank de Boer and Enrique, who is one week the Dutchman’s senior. The two were team-mates at Barça for three seasons.

ElsewhereBeaten 3-2 by Juventus, 7-1 by Bayern and 2-0 by Napoli in their last three games, Roma will be anxious to rise to the occasion when they visit Munich.

Chelsea’s trip to Maribor will see 36-year-old Didier Drogba make another Champions League outing, with the Ivorian deputising for the injured Diego Costa and Loic Remy. “He’s an example to others,” said Blues coach Jose Mourinho.

Did you know?
Roma coach Rudi Garcia must be sick of the sight of Bayern Munich. The Bavarians thumped I Giallorossi 7-1 a fortnight ago, a familiar experience for Garcia, who was in charge at Lille when they lost 6-1 to Bayern back in November 2012.

On Wednesday Ajax will become the first Dutch side to play 100 games in Europe’s premier club competition. Their record to date is 38 wins, 28 draws and 33 defeats. The next Dutch club with most European Cup/Champions League appearances is PSV Eindhoven with 90.

On this dayOn 5 November 1986, Porto eased to a 3-0 win over Karvina of Czechoslovakia in the second round of the European Cup. The Portuguese went on to beat Brondby and Dynamo Kiev before overcoming Bayern Munich in the final in Vienna.

The stat 7 - The number of players who have scored Bayern Munich’s nine goals in the competition so far this season. Chelsea lie just behind them with six players having scored their eight goals.

Player to watchTwo weeks agoLuiz Adriano de Souza da Silva became only the second player in the history of the Champions League to score five goals in a single match, pulling off the feat in Shakhtar’s 7-0 demolition of Bate Borisov to emulate Messi. The Brazilian striker was formerly with Internacional of Porto Alegre and helped them win the FIFA Club World Cup in 2006.

What they said"You always have to show respect to your opponents but that doesn't mean you need to fear them. We showed last year (against Barcelona) that we can play against top teams. I want to see confidence from my team," Frank De Boer, Ajax coach.

Have your sayWhere should Lionel Messi play now that Luis Suarez has joined the Barcelona attack?

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