The UEFA Champions League returns on Tuesday, 5 November and Wednesday 6 November, 2013 with a number of teams looking to sew up berths in the last 16.
Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona will all qualify with two games to spare if they win, while holders Bayern Munich can also join them providing CSKA Moscow do not win away against Manchester City.
Match of the day, 5 November, 2013: Juventus Vs Real Madrid:
Beaten 2-1 in Madrid, Juventus are still chasing their first win in Group B. The Italian champions bolstered their strike department during the summer but are struggling in front of goal, meaning they take on Los Merengues with a mere two points under their belts. In contrast, the visitors have looked irrepressible going forward and have found the net 12 times in their three outings, the joint highest total along with PSG.
Madrid’s defence is a different story altogether, however, and on Saturday they conceded two penalties to Rayo Vallecano in the space of two minutes. These two European giants have crossed paths 15 times in this competition down the years, and it is the home side that has tended to enjoy the upper hand, Juve winning five times on Italian soil and losing just once, back in 1962.
Other matches for Tuesday, 5 November in Group A:
Shakhtar Donetsk Vs Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad Vs Manchester United
Manchester United have not triumphed away at this level since beating Braga 3-1 on 7 November last year, but with Wayne Rooney in form they will be favourites to prevail against a Real Sociedad team stuck on zero points despite the talents of Mexican forward Carlos Vela.
As for Shakhtar Donetsk, they require victory after being handed a punishing 4-0 defeat by Leverkusen in Germany. Whichever of those two teams finishes their double-header in second spot will take a significant step towards the knockout phase.
Group B: Copenhagen vs Galatasaray
Buoyed by a draw in Turin earlier in the campaign, Galatasaray will be anxious for another strong away performance in Denmark, where they will be hoping experienced campaigners Didier Drogba, Wesley Sneijder and Felipe Melo can help them claim all three points. That would put the Turkish contenders in a healthy position, with Juve scheduled to visit Turkey in the final round of matches.
Group C: PSG Vs Anderlecht, Olympiakos Vs Benfica
Given that they succumbed 5-0 on home soil to the same opponents a fortnight ago, it is difficult to imagine Anderlecht’s young line-up preventing PSG’s star-studded squad from wrapping up qualification at the French capital.
And, for their part, Olympiakos boosted their prospects by drawing 1-1 away against Benfica in their previous outing, but the history books suggest the return encounter will be just as tight. The Portuguese side boast three victories from their meetings with Olympiakos compared to two wins for the Greeks, with two draws apiece.
Group D: Manchester City Vs CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen Vs Bayern Munich
Holders Bayern remain in excellent shape and have won their last four Champions League away fixtures, while in the domestic realm they have now gone 36 Bundesliga matches without defeat, equalling the record set between 1982 and 1983 by Hamburg. Josep Guardiola’s troops now stand on the verge of the last 16 and will need just a draw to seal their advance if Manchester City down CSKA Moscow in the other game.
Wednesday, 6 November, 2013 Matches
Group E: Basel Vs Steaua Bucharest, Chelsea Vs Schalke
Chelsea stumbled to a 2-0 reverse at Newcastle United on Saturday but remain in a strong position in Europe, having taken themselves top of their pool with a 3-0 success against Schalke last time out.
The Blues’ opening 2-1 loss to Basel has been consigned to memory and Jose Mourinho’s men will draw belief from their fine home record against German clubs at this level, having recorded six wins and a draw.
Meanwhile, Basel will be looking to move second when they host a Steaua side without a Champions League success in 20 matches, fresh from posting a 1-1 draw in Romania two weeks ago.
Group F: Borussia Dortmund Vs Arsenal, Napoli Vs Marseille
The three favourites in the ‘group of death’ find themselves locked together on six points at the halfway stage, but for Arsenal the pressure is undoubtedly rising. The north London outfit may be five points clear in the Premier League, but after losing 2-1 to Dortmund last time out they have just one match left at home, compared to two for both their rivals.
Dortmund will be high on confidence as well, having kept themselves on Bayern Munich’s tail in the Bundesliga with a spectacular 6-1 defeat of Stuttgart at the weekend, Robert Lewandowski helping himself to a hat-trick to raise his goal ratio this term to 0.82 strikes per match. As for Napoli, they have won their last four games thanks to their clinical finish and will be hopeful of seeing off a Marseille side low on confidence, particularly after beating Elie Baup’s men 2-1 in France.
Group G: Zenit St Petersburg Vs Porto, Atletico Madrid Vs Austria Vienna
Having defeated Austria Vienna 3-0 on home soil last time out, section leaders Atletico know that a second win against the same opponents would guarantee their progress. In third, meanwhile, Porto will need to impress on their travels if they hope to go through themselves, starting with Wednesday’s trip to Russia. Due to finish their campaign in Madrid, the two-time former winners are very much up against it, despite dominating their own domestic league.
Group H: Ajax Vs Celtic, Barcelona Vs AC Milan
Nothing is going right for Milan at the moment, with Massimiliano Allegri’s men lying 11th in Serie A, 19 points behind leaders Roma, after suffering their fifth loss of the season at the weekend. Knocked out of Europe by Barcelona for the last two years, the Rossoneri are desperate for a performance to properly kick-start their campaign but ought to expect another stiff test at the Camp Nou.
Meanwhile, Lionel Messi may not be firing on all cylinders for the Catalan club, yet midfield orchestrator Xavi Hernandez will undoubtedly be keen to leave his mark as he celebrates his 135th Champions League appearance. -Source: fifa.com.