The UEFA Champions League group stage concludes Wednesday with the final round of matches in Group E to H and there are still three places up for grabs as well as three berths in the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League for finishing third.
The identity of the top and bottom teams is known – FC Bayern München's head-to-head goal difference with AS Roma means the second-placed side cannot surpass them, and likewise CFR 1907 Cluj cannot overtake FC Basel 1893 in third. Hence all the interest is on the runners-up spot. With a three-point advantage over Basel, Roma – on nine points – hold the initiative as they visit CFR knowing a draw will secure progress. Basel, by contrast, must win at Bayern and hope Roma lose – in which case they would overhaul them via superior head-to-head goal difference.
The standings were set in stone on Matchday 5. Olympique de Marseille's 3-0 success at FC Spartak Moskva, who had beaten them 1-0 in France, took them three points ahead of the Russian side and confirmed second place behind Chelsea FC, who clinched first place by beating MŠK Žilina 2-1. The Slovakian side will aim for a first point against UEFA Europa League-bound Spartak while Marseille play Chelsea.
Real Madrid CF and AC Milan have made first and second places their own which leaves AFC Ajax and AJ Auxerre to vie for UEFA Europa League entry. Ajax lead the French team by a point so will stay third provided they secure as many points at Milan than Auxerre manage from their trip to Madrid. If Ajax lose and Auxerre draw, the clubs will be level on points and, given their identical head-to-head record, Auxerre will advance on goal difference.
The only section where both last-16 tickets remain available: Shakhtar, who need a point to guarantee reaching the knockout stages for the first time, sit three points clear of both Arsenal and newcomers Braga, with the Gunners second on head-to-head. A three-way tie at the summit is possible should leaders Shakhtar lose at home to Braga and second-placed Arsenal beat point-less FK Partizan in London.
In that event the first determining factor would not apply: the trio would all hold equal points from the head-to-heads between themselves, so qualification would come down to goal difference in the matches between the three, then away goals scored in them (Arsenal would almost certainly come top in that reckoning and Braga would need to beat Shakhtar by four to come second). In two-way head-to-head, Arsenal have superiority over both Shakhtar and Braga. On Matchday 2 Shakhtar won 3-0 at Braga so to finish top the Portuguese debutants must better that scoreline and hope Arsenal do not win, in which case they would need a four-goal success to pip the Ukrainian side.
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