Heading into the final week of Champions League group stage matches, we take a look at a few of the eye-catching talking points from what is always a thrilling round of games.
Irish Involvement and Group B
With Liverpool guaranteed first spot in Group B, they will undoubtedly field a weakened side against AC Milan tomorrow night. Consequently, Ireland’s Caoimhín Kelleher could in the frame for a start. It would be just the third appearance for Liverpool this season for the Corkonian, and his first in the Champions League.
A weakened Liverpool side plays nicely into the hands of AC Milan who need a victory to stand any chance of progressing to the knockout stages. With home advantage also in their favour and much more to play for, the bookies have the Italians in as favourites.
Both Porto and Atlético Madrid are guaranteed to advance should either side win. Atlético are level on points and in goal difference in head-to-head games with Milan, but are ahead in goals scored in head-to-head matches. A draw for Porto would see them through if Milan fail to win.
Can Barca Produce Some Champions League Magic?
In Group E, Barcelona need a result just shy of a miracle to make it to the last 16. Benfica are heavy favourites to defeat last placed Dynamo Kiev in their game on Wednesday, meaning Barca’s match up against Bayern Munich is a must win. This is due to Benfica leading the Spaniards in their head-to-head matches.
💡 Barcelona have never managed to win at Bayern Munich's home.
• Barça have recorded two draws and three defeats in Bavaria, although on two occasions they had the tie already secured.
• Xavi has been part of four out of the five games.#BayernBarça
Via: @mundodeportivo pic.twitter.com/Qz3tKVlaLA
— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) December 6, 2021
Barca will take comfort in knowing that Bayern can also afford to field a weakened side, and have nothing to play for other than to keep up their dominant recent Champions League record over Barcelona. However, such is the recent dominance of the Germans, it may have Barcelona spooked before a ball is even kicked. The Catalans will have to summon an heroic performance the likes of which we have not seen from this current outfit.
Group G is tight!
The weakest group in terms of quality has turned out to have one of the most intriguing final days lined up. This is due to all four teams being capable of qualifying for the knockout stages. On Wednesday, VfL Wolfsburg and Red Bull Salzburg are at home to Lille and Sevilla respectively, and a win for any of the four teams will send them through and their opponents crashing out.
Group G after five games in the 2021/22 Champions League:
🇫🇷 Lille (8 points)
🇦🇹 FC Salzburg (7 points)
🇪🇸 Sevilla (6 points)
🇩🇪 Wolfsburg (5 points)
All four teams still have a chance of reaching the Last 16. #UCL pic.twitter.com/6khfKCO9e2
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) November 23, 2021
Lille are top of the table meaning a draw is good enough for them. However, in the event of a three way tie on eight points with Salzburg and Wolfsburg, the French side would be the ones to lose out on head-to-head points.
Final matchday drama
Other places up for grabs include second place in Manchester United’s Group F. Atalanta are at home to Villareal on Wednesday evening, needing a victory to see them advance. A draw will be good enough for Villareal.
The likes of Bayern, Manchester City, and Liverpool will have a keen eye on Group D and Group H. Group D sees Real Madrid face off against Inter Milan tomorrow night, and a win for Inter will make Madrid one of the annual ‘second place teams to avoid in the last 16'. Likewise in Group H, a slip up from Chelsea against Zenit St. Petersburg could transform them into a formidable opponent for one of the top sides in the next round.
The battle for Champions League top scorer continues with Robert Lewandowski unsurprisingly leading the way with 9 goals. More surprisingly is the fact that Ajax’s Sébastian Haller is level with him. The 27 year old was bought earlier this year from West Ham and has put up an astonishing 53% goal conversion rate while averaging 2.04 goals per game. RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku is third with seven goals, and Mohamad Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo are tied fourth with six goals a piece.