Manchester United became the first English team to be eliminated from this years Champions League last night after their loss to German outfit Wolfsburg. They may not be the only English team to fall at the final hurdle as Chelsea and Arsenal could still miss out with unfavourable results this evening.
Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Zenit St Petersburg are all assured of their qualification so can rest easy. Dinamo Zagreb, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Lyon will all be saying farewell to this years competition before a ball is even kicked as qualification is now beyond them.
Last night spewed up twists and turns in dramatic style, will tonight’s action be similarly dramatic?
GROUP E: BARCELONA THROUGH BUT WHO WILL FOLLOW?
Already qualified: Barcelona
Can still qualify: Roma, Bayer Leverkusen, BATE Borisov
Fixtures: Bayer Leverkusen v Barcelona, Roma v BATE Borisov.
Even with an injury to talisman Lionel Messi, holders Barcelona have smashed their way through the group, sewing up top spot easily with Luis Suarez scoring five goals in five games. Opponents Leverkusen need to beat Barca and hope that Roma do not win at home to BATE Borisov to take second spot.
Conversely, Roma will definitely progress with a victory. BATE will go through if they win and Leverkusen don’t.
GROUP F: ARSENAL ON THE BRINK OF ELIMINATION!
Already qualified: Bayern Munich
Can still qualify: Olympiakos, Arsenal
Out of contention: Dinamo Zagreb
Fixtures: Olympiakos v Arsenal, Dinamo Zagreb v Bayern Munich.
Bayern Munich shrugged off a 2-0 defeat at the Emirates to make it through to the last 16 easily and have won definitely won Group F heading into the last group game.
The question is, can Arsenal join them? The Gunners can qualify in second place with a better head-to-head record than Olympiakos. They need a win in Athens that ‘beats’ Olympiakos’ 3-2 win in London in September. For example 2-0, 4-2 – though as a 3-2 win would also be good enough for Arsenal to go through on overall goal difference, in practice they would go through with any win apart from 1-0 or 2-1. Expect an entertaining match.
Qualifications is now beyond Dinamo Zagreb so their game with Bayern merely completes the formalities.
GROUP G: WILL CHELSEA’S SEASON GO FROM BAD TO WORSE?
Already qualified: Nobody
Can still qualify: Porto, Chelsea, Dynamo Kiev
Out of contention: Maccabi Tel Aviv
Fixtures: Chelsea v Porto, Dynamo Kiev v Maccabi Tel Aviv
Chelsea’s fate in Group G is still in their own hands – they need just a point from their meeting with Porto at Stamford Bridge to secure a place in the last 16.
The winner of that match will top the group.
Dynamo Kiev – who face whipping boys Maccabi Tel Aviv – will be sure of a place in the last 16 with a win thanks to a superior head-to-head record against Porto.
If Kiev win and Chelsea and Porto draw, all three teams will finish on 11 points. Their fate would then be decided by their three-way head-to-head record – with their group results against each other converted into a mini-league – and it would be Porto who finish third and head into the Europa League.
GROUP H: CAN NEV GET VALENCIA THROUGH?
Already qualified: Zenit St Petersburg
Can still qualify: Gent, Valencia
Out of contention: Lyon
Fixtures: Gent v Zenit, Valencia v Lyon
Former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas has dominated Group H, with his Zenit St Petersburg side holding the only 100% record in the competition. Zenit have long since secured top spot in the table – but can Gary Neville steer Valencia through?
Neville, 40, will become the first English manager to take part in the Champions League group stages since Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham reached the quarter-finals in 2011 when he takes charge for the home match against Lyon on Wednesday.
The stakes could hardly be higher. Win, and Neville’s new team will reach the last 16 – providing that Gent do not beat Zenit at home.
A draw is no good for Neville, even if Gent lose, as the Belgians hold the upper hand in their head-to-head record.