What to watch out for in the UEFA Champions League
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Atlético Madrid's bid for perfection, Lionel Messi's attempt to claim yet another record and Borussia Dortmund eyeing a new scoring mark are among the matchday six highlights.
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Group B's grand finale
Benfica may have lost a 3-0 lead at Beşiktaş and with it an immediate passage to the last 16, but the Portuguese champions still have their fate in their own hands. Rui Vitória's table toppers are confident they can beat Napoli in Lisbon – where they are undefeated since 12 February – and so make history for the club: it would be the first time Benfica have come through the group stage in consecutive seasons.
"Napoli are tough opponents but they're playing at our home against a team who are getting stronger by the day," noted Vitória, promising the visitors a tough time.
Benfica v Napoli
Atlético can join perfect club
Having taken maximum points from their first five Group D games, Atlético Madrid have the chance to earn a place among the teams who have won all six games in their UEFA Champions League section.
Two years ago Real Madrid became the first side to do it twice, having also won six out of six in 2011/12; AC Milan (1992/93), Paris Saint-Germain (1994/95), Spartak Moskva (1995/96) and Barcelona (2002/03) are the other clubs to have enjoyed a clean sweep, but how many have gone on to lift the trophy?
Bayern v Atlético
Messi two shy of group stage goal record
Lionel Messi has only appeared in four of Barcelona's five games in this season's competition, yet hat-tricks against Celtic and Manchester City have helped the Argentinian to nine goals, four more than any other player.
Messi is two short of matching Cristiano Ronaldo's group stage record and, with six goals at the Camp Nou already this term, Borussia Mönchengladbach have reason to be wary.
Barcelona v Mönchengladbach
Ludogorets eye Bulgarian first
Ludogorets can become the first Bulgarian side to advance from their UEFA Champions League group. A top-two spot is out of reach, but they will finish third – and secure UEFA Europa League football – if they match the result Basel achieve against Arsenal.
They can also become the first team to finish third with just two points. "We have grown up and we have improved as a squad compared to our first season in the group stage two years ago," said coach Georgi Dermendzhiev. "I have never doubted our quality; if fortune is kind to us, we will go through."
Paris v Ludogorets
Dortmund's Madrid goal
One shy of the record for most goals scored in a single UEFA Champions League group stage, Borussia Dortmund face their toughest assignment of the campaign when they visit Real Madrid.
Should the Bundesliga outfit – who have already qualified for the round of 16 – score at the Santiago Bernabéu, they will reach the 20-goal mark in their section, a feat managed by only three teams in the history of Europe's top club competition: Manchester United, Barcelona and, yes, Madrid themselves.
Real Madrid v Dortmund
Lyon's matter of life and death
With Paris and Monaco already through, France could have three clubs in the last 16 for the first time – first, though, Lyon have the small matter of needing to beat Sevilla by a two-goal margin to leapfrog the Liga side.
"Few thought we would still be alive ahead of the last game," said Lyon coach Bruno Genesio. "We now have a final to play and to win." Lyon warmed up their scoring boots on Wednesday, registering their biggest ever league away success, 6-0 against Nantes.
Lyon v Sevilla