UEFA Champions League

Tension in the air as last 16 looms

Real Madrid players celebrate after scoring a goal
© AFP

There will be no holding back during the first instalment of the fifth (and penultimate) round of UEFA Champions League group-stage fixtures on Tuesday, with several contenders looking to sew up one of the ten spots in the knockout phase that remain up for grabs. Only six sides have already qualified: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Porto.

Leaving aside Group E, in which Bayern are ruling over the rest - excitement is guaranteed in the battle for top spot, and with it the prize of playing the return leg in the last 16 on home turf.

Tuesday's fixtures*Group E
*CSKA Moscow-Roma
Manchester City-Bayern Munich 

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

*Group G
*Schalke 04-Chelsea
Sporting CP-Maribor

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

Match of the day*Manchester City-Bayern Munich, Group E, City of Manchester Stadium
*After being upset 2-1 by CSKA Moscow and held to a 1-1 draw by Roma in their previous home fixtures, Manchester City once again find their hopes of qualification on a knife-edge, needing to beat Bayern Munich and then triumph in Rome to pull off a miracle. The English Premier League champions have failed to progress from their group in two of their three campaigns in the competition and have not won a European match in front of their own fans since beating Viktoria Plzen on 27 November 2013. To compound matters, Fernandinho and Yaya Toure – the latter scored City's winner in Saturday's edgy 2-1 victory over Swansea – are both suspended. Bayern, meanwhile, have nothing to play for, having already qualified and secured top spot. Nevertheless, Pep Guardiola, whose side's 4-0 thrashing of Hoffenheim at the weekend was their 16th consecutive German Bundesliga game without defeat, is not the type to let his guard down.

ElsewhereBidding to put a fly in City's ointment in Group E are CSKA Moscow and Roma, who are locked on four points and have the same goal difference (-4). However, Rudi Garcia's men routed the Moscow giants 5-1 in the Eternal City and victory in Russia would seal the Giallorossi's place in the next round, provided Bayern are not defeated in Manchester. The Italians also have another advantage over Tuesday's opponents: they have their two matches against the runaway group winners over and done with (having been beaten soundly on both occasions), while CSKA still have a daunting trip to Bavaria to come.

Mathematically speaking, all four teams in Group G can still qualify and there are a number of possible permutations, though only Chelsea have their fate entirely in their own hands. The only unbeaten side in the group, the Londoners can book their place in the last 16 with a win or a high-scoring draw (at least 2-2) away to Schalke.

Shakhtar Donetsk are well positioned to wrap up second place in Group H, needing only a point against Athletic Bilbao, who are still searching for their first victory, to clinch qualification.

Did you know?
Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are the only sides left with a 100 per cent record in this season's competition, having won their first four matches. Just five clubs have managed a clean sweep of victories all the way through the group stage: AC Milan (1992/93), PSG (1994/95), Spartak Moscow (1995/96), Barcelona (2002/03) and Real Madrid (2011/12).

The stat 42 – The number of Champions League goals registered by Swedish giant Zlatan Ibrahimovic, currently joint-ninth in the competition's all-time scoring charts alongside Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero. However, Ibra's position is under Real threat from Karim Benzema, who boasts an extremely impressive haul of 41 goals in just 67 tournament appearances for Lyon and now Los Blancos. The PSG star, meanwhile, has taken 112 matches at six different clubs to reach his tally.

On this dayBack on 25 November 2009, CSKA Moscow rekindled their qualification chances by putting Wolfsburg to the sword, Tomas Necid and Milos Krasic cancelling out Edin Dzeko's opener. The Russians would go on to make it through their group thanks to a 2-1 victory over Besiktas in Turkey in the last round of fixtures and subsequently advanced to the quarter-finals, where they were beaten 1-0 home and away by eventual champions Inter Milan.

Player to watch
Côte d'Ivoire sharpshooter Seydou Doumbiais a constant menace for CSKA Moscow, where he has chalked up 80 goals in 121 appearances since joining the club in 2010. Named the Russian Premier League Player of the Year in 2011, the 26-year-old deserves great credit for having fought back to top form after suffering a spinal injury in August 2012. His ten Champions League goals for CSKA make him the tournament's leading marksman from a Russian club.

What they said
"We're ambitious in the Champions League and so we want to try to finish top of our group. That's PSG's current goal, but we know that Barcelona will be aiming for the same thing," –* *Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc.

Have your sayCan Manchester City beat Bayern Munich? Simply click ‘Add your comment’ to share your view with fellow fans, remembering to keep your posts clean, respectful, on-topic and in English.

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