It’s crunch time in the UEFA Champions League this week, with several qualifying positions for the round of 16 up for grabs. Here’s a selection of the biggest games before the knockout stages begin:
Bayern Munich v Paris – 6:45am (AEDT), Wednesday, December 6 @ Allianz Arena, Munich
Bayern come into this game needing to defeat the free-scoring Paris-SG by four goals to finish top of the group. The last time these two met, however, it was PSG that gave Bayern a 3-0 whipping, which shortly after spelt the end of Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure in charge.
And boy oh boy, haven’t things turned around since – with club legend Jupp Heynckes at the helm, Bayern haven’t missed a beat, returning to their fearsome best.
Brazilian superstar Neymar has so far given Paris-SG value for money, with the world’s most expensive player on the verge of becoming the first player to score in all six group games if he gets on the scoresheet in Munich.
Score prediction: Bayern Munich 3-1 Paris
📽 @lewy_official: “It will be a different game to the one we played in Paris.” 💪
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) December 4, 2017
Manchester United v CSKA Moscow – 6:45am (AEDT), Wednesday, December 6 @ Old Trafford, Manchester
Despite cruising along throughout the group stage, United will be safely through, even if CSKA can come up in Manchester. If CSKA Moscow pull off the upset and, as expected, FC Basel defeat the winless Benfica – then all three teams will be on 12 points. In that case, Basel will go through unless CSKA win by more than three goals.
United have had key French midfielder, Paul Pogba, starting to pick up from where he left off before injury. Meanwhile, left-back Ashley Young has been in sparkling form of late, and will be dangerous once more when taking free-kicks or running down the flank.
However, the pressure on striker Romelu Lukaku has intensified as the goals have dried up – having only collected one in his last eight appearances domestically. Zlatan Ibrahimović is available again and is expected to feature for the Red Devils.
Score prediction: 2-2 draw
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 4, 2017
Chelsea v Atletico Madrid – 6:45am (AEDT), Wednesday, December 6 @ Stamford Bridge, London
There is still a chance for Atletico to make the last 16, after waking up on Matchday 5 with a 2-0 win over AS Roma to give themselves a chance. If Atletico win and Qarabaq draw with Roma, then they are through.
Chelsea, however, have rediscovered their touch of late. Winger Eden Hazard has reannounced himself to the world to join the debate as one of the world’s best, and Spanish maestro Cesc Fabregas has provided the class in midfield.
Chelsea still need to win to ensure top spot in Group C, though, so don’t expect them to take it easy.
Score prediction: Chelsea 1-2 Atletico
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 4, 2017
Liverpool v Spartak Moscow – 6:45am (AEDT), Thursday, December 7 @ Anfield, Liverpool
This game is set to be a cracking winner-takes-all knockout. On Matchday 5 Liverpool incredibly surrendered a 3-0 lead in Seville, and Spartak missed out on capitalising by letting in a 90th-minute equaliser against Maribou, the stage is set for one of those famous European nights at Anfield.
Liverpool have been having problems in guarding the centre of midfield, with captain Jordan Henderson lacking the grit required in tackling and guarding space when on defensive duties. This exposes his side given Liverpool don’t have many midfielders that can track back as hard as they push forward when attacking.
Manager Jurgen Klopp attempted to change this by switching to a 3-5-2 formation on the weekend, mindful of his side’s weaknesses.
With Liverpool’s lack of defensive confidence well known, Spartak will always feel like they’re in the game. If Liverpool fail to qualify, though, it has the potential to derail their entire season before Christmas.
Score prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Spartak
— baloguN bioduN (@Baloobogero) November 1, 2017