There is a whole lot riding on Wednesday night’s Champions League matches, with three more clubs able to book their place in the knockout stages.
So what are the permutations for each of the eight groups across tonight’s game and next week’s fixtures… and in some cases, why might it be better to AVOID reaching top spot and instead plump for second?
Bayern are one of the teams already through, but there is still plenty to play for in some groups
Fixtures – December 9: Bayern (13 points) vs Lokomotiv Moscow (3), Salzburg (4) vs Atletico (6)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, European champions Bayern have already booked their place in the knockout stages as group winners, but it’s still all to play for between Atletico Madrid and Salzburg, while Lokomotiv Moscow cannot make it through.
Therefore, Atletico travelling to Austria to face Salzburg is a huge game. If they avoid defeat, they’ll go through, and if they lose they will head into the Europa League.
Salzburg, meanwhile, will go through if they beat Atletico, will finish third if they draw and Lokomotiv don’t beat Bayern.
Atletico Madrid conceded late against Bayern yesterday, meaning they still need a result
Fixtures – December 9: Real Madrid (7) vs Borussia Monchengladbach (8), Inter (5) vs Shakhtar (7)
It’s looking very precarious for two huge clubs in Real Madrid and Inter Milan, with both teetering on the edge and very much in with a chance of crashing out on their final matchday on December 9.
Real host group leaders Borussia Monchengladbach, and they’ll go through if they win, or if they draw and Inter beat Shakhtar. Here’s where it gets slightly more complicated, though… they will WIN the group if they win and Shakhtar don’t… but they could also finish FOURTH if they and Shakhtar both lose. All to play for.
Inter, meanwhile, will go through if they win against Shakhtar and Madrid lose to Monchengladbach. If they don’t win, though, it’s a guaranteed fourth-placed finish and Antonio Conte is very much at risk of losing his job.
Real Madrid are teetering on the brink of going out of the Champions League after latest loss
Fixtures – December 9: Olympiacos (3) vs Porto (10), Man City (13) vs Marseille (3)
It’s a very simple one down in Group C, where Manchester City are guaranteed to go through as winners, while Porto are already through as runners-up.
Ahead of the last round of fixtures, all that’s really left to play for is a Europa League spot between Olympiacos and Marseille. Essentially, the Greek side will nick it as long as Marseille don’t pick up more points than they do, due to their head-to-head away goals superiority. Simple!
Man City only drew at Porto yesterday but they are still through as the winners of Group C
Fixtures – December 9: Ajax (7) vs Atalanta (8), Midtjylland (1) vs Liverpool (12)
There’s a fair amount already tied up down in Group D too, with Liverpool safe and sound as winners of the foursome. It’s then a straight shootout between Ajax and Atalanta, who play each other in a mouthwatering tie in Amsterdam.
If Ajax win, they take second spot… if Atalanta win, it’s theirs. It’s advantage Atalanta, though, given that a draw will take them through as they’re a point ahead going into the match. Midtjylland, I’m afraid to say, can’t get off rock bottom.
Liverpool how won their group but it’s all to play for between Ajax and Atalanta below them
Fixtures – TONIGHT: Krasnodar (1) vs Rennes (1), Sevilla (10) vs Chelsea (10)
Let’s move on to the groups that have two rounds of fixtures remaining, both tonight and then next Tuesday. Some excellent symmetry here too, with Krasnodar and Rennes both on a single point, and Sevilla and Chelsea both on 10.
Both of the latter sides are safely through with two games to go, and it’s essentially a straight shootout for top spot. Here’s where it gets interesting though. Results in other groups have shown that a fair few top teams may not win their groups, so there’s a school of thought that these sides may not actually want to win their group.
Take Group B for example… there’s a chance that Borussia Monchengladbach will top the table, with Real Madrid or Inter Milan going through in second, and a side like Chelsea would surely rather face the Germans than go up against the traditional giants on the other side of the draw. It will be intriguing to see what happens next.
There is an argument to say that Chelsea may be better off finishing second in their group
Fixtures – TONIGHT: Borussia Dortmund (9) vs Lazio (8), Club Brugge (4) vs Zenit (1)
Oh boy, this is another big one. Dortmund face Lazio tonight, one point ahead of their rivals and knowing that they can go through if they avoid defeat. Regardless of results in their game, they can also proceed if Club Brugge don’t beat Zenit.
For the Germans though, it’ll be all eyes on the victory, and if they can manage it then they’ll be guaranteed top spot. Lazio, meanwhile, will go through if they beat Dortmund (and then it’ll be all eyes on top spot for them!), or if Club Brugge lose to Zenit.
Brugge, essentially, need to hope that they win and Lazio lose, and then it’ll come down to the final matchday. It’s also all to play for in terms of the Europa League spot gained for finishing third.
Borussia Dortmund can confirm their place in the knockout stages as early as tonight
Fixtures – TONIGHT: Ferencvaros (1) vs Barcelona (12), Juve (9) vs Dynamo Kiev (1)
Another simple one down in Group G after the opening four games. As you would perhaps expect, both Barcelona and Juventus are safely packing their bags and heading to the knockout stages, while Ferencvaros and Dynamo Kiev are left to scrap it out for the Europa League.
Barcelona can secure top spot if they beat Ferencvaros tonight and Juve don’t beat Dynamo, or if they draw and Juve lose.
Third place can’t be decided tonight and will instead come down to the final day, next Tuesday.
It’s been far from plain sailing for Ronald Koeman in LaLiga but Barcelona are flying in Europe
Fixtures – TONIGHT: Istanbul Başakşehir (3) vs Leipzig (6), Man United (9) vs PSG (6)
Still very much all to play for in an intriguing Group H, but Manchester United will be very glad to know that they can avoid all sorts of dramas if they win tonight. A victory against PSG at Old Trafford, coupled with Leipzig failing to pick up maximum points in Turkey, would secure them top spot. Also, if United draw and Leipzig lose, that’ll be enough too.
Istanbul Basaksehir, meanwhile, can’t go through without a victory tonight, and there could be a very interesting situation on the cards if Istanbul beat Leipzig and United beat PSG.
That’d leave United well ahead on 12, with the other three teams all on six points and vying for one spot in the last 16 on the final matchday next Tuesday.