AC Milan and Barcelona can wrap up their
Champions League group with two matches to spare and reduce
their much-anticipated meeting next month to a mere friendly if
both win their respective games on Tuesday.
Benfica, Real Madrid and Arsenal can also progress with wins
in this week's matches while Chelsea will virtually ensure their
presence in the last 16 if they take three points.
Bayern Munich's game at home to Napoli on Wednesday,
following their 1-1 draw earlier this month, is the pick of the
week's matches along with Real Madrid's visit to Olympique Lyon
the same evening.
After a few early surprises, the group stage is again in
danger of becoming a mere warm-up exercise for the big teams,
contradicting the cliche which says there are no easy games in
Even Manchester United, who started out with two draws in
Group C, could leave themselves with a relatively
straightforward task to qualify if they beat Romanian champions
Otelul Galati at home on Wednesday.
Apart from Benfica, the only surprise leaders in the eight
groups are Cypriots APOEL Nicosia, who host Europa League
champions Porto in Group G.
"We are happy to be top with five points. It's a big thing
for APOEL and Cyprus. We are not top of the group through luck
but we still know that everything can change with every match,"
coach Ivan Jovanovic said.
One point clear of Zenit St Petersburg and Porto, APOEL
could drop to third place if they lose and the Russians beat
Shakhtar Donetsk in the group's other game on Tuesday.
Bundesliga leaders Bayern dropped their first points of the
campaign at Napoli but are still two points clear of the
Champions League debutants at the top of Group A, where
Manchester City, a further point behind, visit Villarreal who
have yet to get off the mark.
That group is a stark contrast to Group H where AC Milan and
Barcelona have taken seven points each from three games while
BATE Borisov and Viktoria Plzen have one apiece.
Serie A champions Milan visit Belarusian champions BATE,
where Barcelona have already recorded a 5-0 win, while Pep
Guardiola's side visit Viktoria Plzen in Prague.
The Czech champions are unable to play at their own stadium
as it does not meet competition standards.
Further wins for the big two will guarantee their places in
the last 16 and reduce their meeting at San Siro on Nov. 23 to
one of academic interest.
However, due to the mathematical intricacies of the
Champions League, neither of the big two will qualify on Tuesday
should one of them lose.
Group D leaders Real Madrid, the only team with maximum
points from their three games, visit old rivals Olympique Lyon
needing a win to render their final two games meaningless.
Real have yet to concede a goal and another win for them
would also allow four-times European champions Ajax Amsterdam,
who like Lyon have four points, to take a big step towards the
last 16 by beating Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb, so far
without a point.
Benfica, twice European champions and five-times runners-up,
will be certain of qualifying from Group C if they repeat this
month's win over Swiss champions FC Basel at the Stadium of
It would also help Manchester United, who have five points
and could open up a four-point gap over Basel if, as expected,
they beat rank outsiders Otelul Galati, who have yet to collect
Arsenal, with seven points, are only one clear of Olympique
Marseille in Group F but the combination of remaining fixtures
means they will finish in the top two if they win on Tuesday.
In the same group, Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund,
arguably the most disappointing side so far with one point, host
Group E leaders Chelsea visit winless Genk, who they
thrashed 5-0 two weeks ago, and another win will send them
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