The UEFA Champions League group stage ends this week with just three knockout places up for grabs but plenty to be resolved in terms of who will advance as section winners and who will continue in the UEFA Cup.
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The curtain falls on the UEFA Champions League group stage this week, with just three places up for grabs in the last 16 but a whole host of issues yet to be resolved in terms of who will advance as section winners and who will collect the consolation of a UEFA Cup berth.
Two points separate the top three sides, with only CFR 1907 Cluj out of contention and certain of finishing bottom. The Romanian club will have just pride to play for at Chelsea FC on Tuesday, while their opponents will be certain of progress with a win. The English outfit can even go through with a defeat, providing FC Girondins de Bordeaux do not triumph away against leaders AS Roma. The Serie A side can also lose and go through if Chelsea fail to prevail, while Bordeaux need all three points to advance.
Already qualified, frontrunners FC Internazionale Milano will look to seal top spot by winning away against fourth-placed Werder Bremen, who need victory to have any hope of claiming the UEFA Cup berth. Even that would be denied them if Anorthosis Famagusta FC come out on top at Panathinaikos FC, a result that would take the Cypriot side through to the last 16 in their debut campaign. A draw would qualify the hosts, on the other hand, but they need to win to have any chance of finishing first.
All placings have been resolved in Group C, with FC Barcelona confirmed as group winners and looking to extend their tally to 16 points at home against FC Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday. The Ukrainian side clinched third spot and a place in the UEFA Cup by overcoming basement side FC Basel 1893 5-0 last time out, and the Swiss titleholders will now be hoping to post their first win of the campaign at home against second-placed Sporting Clube de Portugal.
Club Atlético de Madrid and Liverpool FC are certain of advancing, but who goes through as section winners remains to be seen. With both sides boasting eleven points apiece, the Spanish outfit currently lead the way with a goal difference superior by just one, and they will look to press home that advantage away against Olympique de Marseille, for whom victory would confirm a UEFA Cup place. Liverpool visit PSV Eindhoven, meanwhile, with the Dutch club needing to better Marseille's result to finish third.
European champions Manchester United FC hold the whip hand in the section, having already sealed their progress and leading fellow qualified side Villarreal CF on goal difference. United host UEFA Cup-bound Aalborg BK on Wednesday, knowing victory would move them forward as section winners unless Villarreal can win at fourth-placed Celtic FC by two goals more than the holders.
Olympique Lyonnais and FC Bayern München may already be looking forward to launching their assaults on the knockout phase, but the matter of who will progress in first place needs to be settled in France on Wednesday. Victory for the hosts or a goalless draw would keep Lyon on top, while any other scoreline would send Bayern through as section winners. Further back, FC Steaua Bucureşti must see off visitors ACF Fiorentina to deny the Italian side their grip on the UEFA Cup spot.
Leaders Arsenal FC travel to FC Porto in pursuit of the point that would keep them ahead of their Portuguese rivals in the standings, with both sides already through whatever happens. Meanwhile, basement outfit Fenerbahçe SK need to triumph at FC Dynamo Kyiv to earn a transfer to the UEFA Cup.
Leaders Juventus enjoy a two-point advantage over Real Madrid CF in addition to a superior head-to-head record, meaning they need only draw with visitors FC BATE Borisov to secure top spot at the expense of the Spanish champions. Madrid must overcome visitors FC Zenit St. Petersburg to have any chance of leapfrogging Juve, while their opponents travel safe in the knowledge they are assured a berth in the UEFA Cup – the competition they won last term.