With eight places in the last 16 still up for grabs, which Champions League games should you be keeping your eye on?
Article top media content
The UEFA Champions League group stage concludes on Matchday 6 with half of the places in the round of 16 still hanging in the balance; here are four of the games that will have a huge say on qualification.
What are the big games this week?
Tuesday: Salzburg v Liverpool
In ten words: Holders in peril as Haaland closes in on full house
The last time the holders failed to make it through the group stage was 2012/13, and Liverpool will be desperate to escape the fate suffered by Premier League rivals Chelsea. To do so, they must avoid defeat against a Salzburg side that struck eight times in their first two home matches, as well as three at Anfield on Matchday 2. Stopping Erling Braut Haaland from scoring in every group game would go a long way towards achieving that result. "They are the world's best team," said the Norway striker, "but we know we are good at home, and if we are at our top level, we have a chance."
Tuesday: Ajax v Valencia
In ten words: Three into two won't go but Ajax only need draw.
- Chelsea will be through if they win at home to LOSC, so most people expect one of these sides to miss out. Ajax are in the box seat having won 3-0 in the reverse fixture and only need a point to progress, but will they get caught between two stools if they look for a draw and temper their attacking instincts? "We'll definitely play to win," said coach Erik ten Hag. "You can't go out to try to get a draw. Maybe towards the end of the game, you can try to play for a point, but not at the start."
Wednesday: Shakhtar Donetsk v Atalanta
In ten words: Will hosts continue their quirkly qualification routine against improving Italians?
- History is on Shakhtar's side as they chase the win that will guarantee their last 16 place. In eight previous group stage quests, they have qualified four times but then each time failed to get through in the following campaign – so last season's third-place showing might work in their favour here. However, four points from two games have kept Atalanta in contention and Marten de Roon believes they can complete a dramatic turnaround after losing their opening three matches. "After the first three games we looked like a bit of a joke," admitted the midfielder. "But we showed [by beating Dinamo Zagreb on Matchday 5] that we belong at this level."
Wednesday: Atlético Madrid v Lokomotiv Moskva
In ten words: Atlético must rediscover form and clinical edge to avoid elimination
- Atlético Madrid had not lost more than once in a group campaign since 2019/10, but back-to-back defeats by Leverkusen and Juventus have ended that run and put qualification in doubt. A victory over Lokomotiv would still see them through, though the Russian team have already won in Germany and led for a long while in Turin in their previous away fixtures. Koke insists Diego Simeone's men will come good, however, when it really counts. "We are playing well and not winning," said the midfielder. "We need to carry on working: that's our strength. We're creating chances but need to be better in the box."