Matters of footballing life and death will be resolved on UEFA Champions League matchday five, with Manchester City FC and APOEL FC eager to prove their last-16 credentials.
Real Madrid CF, AC Milan and FC Barcelona are already certain of their place in the round of 16 draw, to be staged in Nyon on 16 December, and fellow European heavyweights Arsenal FC, Manchester United FC, FC Bayern München and FC Internazionale Milano can all confirm their places on matchday five. However, footballing romantics will be hoping that the likes of APOEL FC and Trabzonspor AŞ can hang on to their dream, too.
City's Naples dream
In the big game in Group A, Roberto Mancini's Manchester City FC visit SSC Napoli in what looks to be a straight knockout tie. Napoli can draw strength from not just their 1-1 draw in Manchester on matchday one, but their formidable recent home record in Europe; since returning to continental competition after 13 years in 2008, they are unbeaten in ten matches. The last foreign team to prevail in Naples were Eintracht Frankfurt in December 1994.
Trabzponspor rematch for Inter
Inter lost 1-0 to Trabzonspor on matchday one, with Ondřej Čelůstka hitting a late goal for the Turkish side, but will look to make amends away from home. The Serie A outfit can take some comfort from the history books; the teams met in the 1983/84 UEFA Cup first round, with Inter losing the first leg in Trabzon 1-0 but progressing with a 2-0 win at home. Trabzonspor boss Şenol Güneş played in goal for the Black Sea club in both legs.
Red Devils close
United will look to book their passage to the knockout stage for the sixth season running at home against SL Benfica, who held them to a 1-1 draw in Lisbon on matchday one. Benfica come to Old Trafford with some ominous cards stacked against them; United's home record in ten games against Portuguese sides reads W8 D2 L0. The visitors, however, have yet to lose on their travels in Europe this season, and Óscar Cardozo – their scorer against United last time out – scored six further goals in four matches against English sides in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League.
Ballack v Chelsea
Bayer 04 Leverkusen will look to deny Chelsea FC progress to the last 16 for a ninth successive season. The focus will once more be on midfielder Michael Ballack, who won a league title and three FA Cups in a four-year spell at Stamford Bridge, which ended with his return to the BayArena in summer 2010. "Emotionally this will certainly be a special match for me," said the midfielder before his side lost 2-0 at his old stamping ground on matchday one. He would love to make this next meeting even more special with a win.
APOEL's Zenit summit
FC Zenit St Petersburg lost 2-1 in Nicosia on matchday one and will look to avoid an even more freakish result when Ivan Jovanović's APOEL come to the Petrovsky Stadium for the rematch. It looks like a mismatch on paper, but the Cypriot club are the only unbeaten side in Group G, and could potentially become the first side from the Mediterranean island
to reach the UEFA Champions League knockout phase with a draw in Russia. Sure, Zenit have won their last nine continental home games, but who says there will not be magic in the air?