The Champions League group phase had earned a reputation for being all too predictable in recent seasons. Yet ahead of the final round of fixtures for this year’s opening round, some big teams are in real peril of failing to make it into the knockout phase. For several others, there is still the prize of winning their group and ensuring a Round-of-16 match against a second-placed side up for grabs.
Here’s a rundown of what’s at stake in each of the eight groups.
1. Real Madrid – 13 points
2. Paris Saint-Germain – 10 points
3. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3 points
4. Malmo – 3 points
This section has been a two-way fight from very early on, and, indeed, is the only group where the top two and their order are sewn up going into the final game. Thanks to a three-point advantage over Paris Saint-Germain and taking four points from two games against the French champions, Real Madrid are guaranteed to finish top, regardless of what happens when they host Malmo on Tuesday. There is something to play for in the group, though, with Malmo and Shakhtar Donetsk, who visit PSG, vying for third spot and a place in the Europa League. Shakhtar’s head-to-head superiority against Malmo gives them the edge.
1. Wolfsburg – 9 points
2. Manchester United – 8 points
3. PSV Eindhoven – 7 points
4. CSKA Moscow – 4 points
PSV Eindhoven may be in third place, but they are in perhaps the strongest position to make the last 16. If the Dutch champions can beat basement dwellers CSKA Moscow at home, they will progress. CSKA could still grab a Europa League spot with a win, but they are already out of contention of moving on in the Champions League. Meanwhile, Wolfsburg and Manchester United will go head-to-head in Germany. Both could go through, but only if PSV fail to do the business. A point for Wolfsburg will be enough to guarantee their progress, while Manchester United will require all three, should PSV claim victory.
1. Atlético Madrid – 10 points
2. Benfica – 10 points
3. Galatasaray – 4 points
4. Astana – 3 points
The big game in Group C will be in Lisbon, where Benfica and Atlético will face off for top spot. Benfica are firmly in the driving seat thanks to their 2-1 win in Madrid in September, leaving Atlético needing to at least reverse that result in order to go through as a group winner. On the same night in Turkey, Galatasaray will seek to secure a point against Kazakhstan’s Astana in order to ensure European games into the new year, in the Europa League.
1. Juventus – 11 points
2. Manchester City – 9 points
3. Borussia Monchengladbach – 5 points
4. Sevilla – 3 points
Juventus’ 1-0 victory over Manchester City two weeks ago means the Italian champions are in control of top spot. A point at bottom-placed Sevilla will be enough to ensure last season’s losing finalists move on as group winners. A defeat would open the door for Manchester City, if they can grab a home win against a Borussia Monchengladbach side fresh from a 3-1 win over Bayern Munich. Gladbach need a victory to be sure of holding off Sevilla for the Europa League berth, with the Spanish side holding the head-to-head advantage.
1. Barcelona – 13 points
2. Roma – 5 points
3. Bayer Leverkusen – 5 points
4. Bate Borisov – 4 points
Barcelona have surged into the distance to wrap up top spot by a huge margin, but second place remains firmly up for grabs. Roma suffered a chastening 6-1 loss to Barcelona last time out, yet they remain in pole position to advance alongside the Champions League holders. With a head-to-head edge over Bayer Leverkusen, Roma just need to match Leverkusen’s result at home to Barcelona, when they host Bate Borisov. But the Belarussians can sneak in themselves, if they claim a victory in Rome and Leverkusen fail to beat Barcelona.
1. Bayern Munich – 12 points
2. Olympiakos – 9 points
3. Arsenal – 6 points
4. Dinamo Zagreb – 3 points
Semifinalists for the last four years, Bayern Munich are guaranteed to go through to the knockout phase as group winners, while Dinamo Zagreb, who will host Bayern on Wednesday, will definitely finish bottom. The battle for second place, however, will go to the wire. Arsenal will travel to take on Olympiakos, needing to overturn the Greek champions’ 3-2 win at the Emirates Stadium in September in order to avoid missing out on a place in the Champions League knockout phase for the first the first time in 16 years. Either a two-goal victory or a one-goal win scoring at least three goals will be required for the Premier League side.
1. Chelsea – 10 points
2. FC Porto – 10 points
3. Dynamo Kiev – 8 points
4. Maccabi Tel Aviv – 0 points
Maccabi Tel Aviv will finish bottom, but that is all that is known heading into the final round of fixtures. In the big game, Chelsea will host Porto, when a win for either team will see them top the group, with the loser being eliminated if Dynamo Kiev gets a win at home to Maccabi. If there is a draw, coupled with a win for Dynamo, then things begin to get complicated. On that basis, with all three teams level on 11 points, it will go down to goal difference in matches between the trio. That would mean Dynamo finishing top, Chelsea second and Porto third.
1. Zenit St Petersburg – 15 points
2. Gent – 7 points
3. Valencia – 6 points
4. Lyon – 1 point
The only team to claim maximum points from their first five matches, Andre Villas-Boas’ Zenit side have long since wrapped up top spot in Group H. But the battle is still on for the runners-up berth. Belgian champions Gent have the advantage and just need to match Valencia’s result at home to Lyon when they host Zenit. Valencia require a victory over the French strugglers to have a chance of progressing.