It is crunch time in the Champions League as the fourth round of matches in this year’s group stages get underway. Here are five things to look out for.
Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund are the only two teams who have secured a maximum of nine points from their first three matches in the Champions League this season. As such, they are the teams closest to securing progression from their respective groups and would achieve that with victory in their matches against Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid respectively.
Juventus, Bayern Munich and FC Porto are also among the teams that stand a chance to qualify this week.
Crunch time in Group C
Liverpool, Napoli and Paris Saint Germain have lived up to the hype of their Group C so far, as they have produced some entertaining matches and results. The group remains delicately balanced, as only two points separate Liverpool in first and PSG in third. This week will go a long way in determining the eventual outlook of the group.
Victory for Liverpool over underdogs Crvena Zvezda would leave them on the brink of qualification, given the fact that points will definitely be dropped between Napoli and PSG. For either of those sides, defeat could be terminal.
Spurs on the brink
Tottenham are another big team who stand on the brink of elimination. Their cause was not helped by being drawn in the same group as Barcelona and Inter Milan, but in many ways they have also been architects of their own downfall. Had they beaten PSV Eindhoven in their last match for example, they would only be two points behind Inter and have a really good chance to go second after this week’s matches.
Instead, they threw away a lead to draw 2-2 and gain the only point they have so far. Failure to beat PSV again at Wembley would in all likelihood seal their fate and at best, doom them to the Europa League.
Wounded Atletico seek redress
It is not often that you hear that modern day Atletico Madrid were beaten 4-0. Under the guidance of manager Diego Simeone, they have gained a reputation for being one of the most – if not the most – defensively stout side in Europe. That is exactly the reason why Borussia Dortmund’s 4-0 win over the Rojiblancos two weeks ago was truly impressive.
The German side are enjoying a renaissance, domestically and in Europe. They are yet to lose a single match in 14 matches across all competitions. Atletico will be out to change that.
Henry’s search for first win continues
Thierry Henry must have known that he was not taking on an easy job when he was appointed manager of Monaco. Such reservations have been validated in his four-match stint so far, as he has failed to lead the team to victory in the Champions League and in Ligue 1. They host Club Brugge in the reverse of the fixture they drew 1-1 a fortnight ago.
With football management being the fickle profession it has become recently, Henry will be hoping to get that win before his position begins to come under scrutiny.