After some interesting results in the previous group stage games on Matchday 4, Matchday 5 promises to bring us more of the same. Here’s what’s happening on Day 1 of Matchday 5.
Group – E
AS Roma V FC Bayern Munich
After losing against FC Basel at home, it seemed that Roma’s chances of making it to the knockout stage has already been dashed. But Ranieri’s men came back strongly with a win over FC Basel away from home to give them a three point lead over nearest rivals and a stand in the second spot in the group. Roma has been playing well of late and Ranieri would hope that his team’s domestic resurgence, which includes an eight match unbeaten streak in all competitions, to continue at the continental stage as well. A victory over the weekend against Udinese helped them moved to third place in the Serie A. A victory over group leaders Bayern would be enough to take them to the next round, provided Basel and Cluj play out a draw.
Their opponents, the pacesetters from Bavaria, have already qualified for the knockout stage winning all four games in the group stage. It comes as a surprise as to how Bayern keep winning in the Champions League despite coming off from some morose domestic run in the last couple of months. After playing out a draw over the weeekend, in a game that they should have won against Leverkusen, Bayern stands at eighth place in the German league after the first 13 rounds, 14 points off from the summit. In their last meeting, Bayern got the better of Roma, thanks to a peach of a goal by Thomas Mueller. In six away games this season, Bayern have won only once and have a goal difference of -3. Considering the form Roma are in, they might just get the better of their German counterpart to cement their position in the group.
FC Basel V CFR Cluj
FC Basel gave themselves a surprise chance to qualify for the next round when they demolished Roma in the Italian capital. But things turned upside down for them in the first game of the return leg, when they lost to Roma at their own backyard. They also lost their pole position in the domestic league over the weekend by playing out a draw. In the last five games in all competitions, they have won only once. To make matters worse, they have lost two of their last three home games, a result which does not bode well for their upcoming game – as Cluj have already got the better of Basel in the first leg.
Cluj are placed at third spot in the group having earned equal points as that of Basel’s. The Romanian team was blanked in their latest European outing by Bayern. They are not doing well domestically either, standing on eighth place, 10 points away from the league leaders. They are on a two match unbeaten streak in away games. Due to incompetent defensive organization, the team has leaked ten goals in four matches. But a victory over their swiss counterparts in the first leg might act as a positive catalyst for their matchday 5 preparations.
Group – F
Spartak Moskva V Olympiue de Marseille
The nine-time Russian Champions have not enjoyed a good run in the domestic league this season. They are presently at fourth spot in Russian Premier League with only one game to spare, which more or less wrote their chances off to participate in the next edition of Champions League. A loss to arch rivals CSKA Moscow over the weekend heaped more insult to their season. Though Spartak have won only once in their last five games, their home record has been good coming into the game with a three game unbeaten streak. Having won against Marseille away from home, Spartak would be desperate to win this game for not only making solid grounds to reach the next round, but also to avenge their semifinal loss at the hands of the French side in the 1990-1991 season.
Marseille has been relishing a late surge of form in both European and domestic leagues. They currently stands third in group F, but are equal on points with second placed Spartak. On domestic front, they are placed at fifth spot, but only two points away from the top. Their away form has been good of late, having won three of their last four away excursions including a 7-0 victory over the whipping boys of the goup – Zilina. In the next game, they’ll have to face Chelsea – while Spartak will play Zilina; which makes this tie a very important one for the French side.
Chelsea FC V MŠK Žilina
The Premier League giants have already qualified for the knockout stage, winning all four of their games so far. But current form of the team coupled with injury crisis – the team does not look as good morally, as it was during the early stages of the competition. Chelsea are still on top in their domestic league but the team has lost three of their last four Premier League games. They have lost to Birmingham City after 30 years and have lost two back to back Premier League games after 165 matches. With important team members already ruled out and defensive duo of Alex and Zhirkov not fully fit, Chelsea might just involve few of their young prodigies’ experience of a European night. Didier Drogba might get a start to get proper conditioning.
Zilina, on the other hand will be playing for pride. The Slovak League pacesetters are already out of the tournament. After the heavy pounding they received at the hands of Marseille, that too at home, their coach Pavel Hapal apologized to the fans,
“To be honest, I did not want to come to the press conference after the match. Our performance today was very, very weak. I would like to apologise in this way to our fans.”
Nobody expects Zilina to win this match. However the form in which Chelsea are currently in, Zilina might have an outside chance of earn their first European points.
Group – G
Ajax Amsterdam V Real Madrid
Ajax are currently struggling at third spot in the group, a point adrift the second placed Milan. This game is very important for the Dutch side. A win will provide a stepping stone for them to reach the next round. Ajax are not enjoying a good domestic season. They are currently at fourth position, six points off from PSV Eindhoven at the top. They lost three of their last five games, including a defeat at the hands of Auxerre in the last European game. They lost to Real Madrid in the opening game of the group in the first leg and the way Martin Jol’ s team is currently playing, they do not look like packing a serious punch on the rampant Spanish side.
Real Madrid, under the tutelage of Jose Mourinho, have been in flying form. The nine time European champions are still undefeated in both domestic and European league. They stand at the top of La Liga, a point ahead of bitter rivals Barcelona, as well as in the Champions League. They have won four of their last five outings in all competitions. Twice in the last three matches, they have scored five goals, most recently against Bilbao over the weekend. Real Madrid have won comfortably against Ajax in the first leg. Although Khedira and Higuain are set to miss the clash through injuries, Real Madrid are still favourites to win the game and qualify for the next round.
Auxerre V AC Milan
Auxerre are currently placed at the bottom of Group G, one point behind third placed Ajax. Their European quest started off badly, as the French outfit went on to lose all of their first leg matches. Their domestic run was not helping them either. But a recent surge of form has seen the team through their first victory in the group against Ajax. They kept the momentum alive and including the the Ajax match, they have not lost a single game in the last five outings. Their position in the domestic front has also improved, moving on to the ninth spot and only five points off the summit. A victory over Milan could see them get past both Milan and Ajax to move to second spot from this group. Auxerre will be without midfielder Steeven Langil in this game.
Milan are currently at second place in the group and are by no means safe in their position. Milan have been in relentless form over the past one month, making it to the top of Serie A in the process. After drawing with Real Madrid, a game which they could have won, they managed to win their last four Serie A outings. This includes a derby victory over Inter and a hard-earned victory over Fiorentina over the weekend. Key player Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored for the Rossoneri in each of the last three games. Ibrahimovic has also scored a brace against Auxerre in the first leg. Even though Pato and Inzaghi will miss this tie due to injury, with the current run of form Milan look good enough to ensure one more step towards the knockout stage.
Group – H
Sporting Club de Braga V Arsenal
After back to back victories over Partizan in the last two European encounters, Braga has been able to put their Champions League quest back on track. Despite losing their first two group games, they currently stand at third place with six points, three points adrift of both league leaders Arsenal and second placed Shakhtar. Braga have not been in good form in Portuguese League. Last year’s runners up are currently struggling at tenth spot. A weekend loss to Victoria Guimaraes have not done any good to their confidence prior to their game against Arsenal, the team that obliterated them in their first ever appearance in Europe. A win will keep their hopes alive to reach the knockout stage.
Arsenal are currently placed at the top of the group. After winning their first three games Arsenal lost their return leg game against Shakhtar. Currently placed at third place in Premier League, Arsenal suffered a huge setback prior to their match preparation against Braga, losing to Tottenham in the North London derby over the weekend. If they lose this match they’ll be tied with Braga on points. Both teams are coming fresh from losses and we could be in for a thriller of a match.
Partizan Belgrade V Shakhtar Donetsk
After losing all the matches so far, Partizan sit at the bottom of the group with zero points. Even though they are leading the Jelen Superliga, Partizans were unable to translate their domestic dominance into the European competition. Partizan have won four of their last five games in all competitions. After the debacle thus far in Champions League, Partizan will only play for their pride now and could cost any one of the sides a chance to qualify for the knockout stage.
As for Shakhtar, they are enjoying a rich run of form in the recent past. Presently they are placed at second position in the group but are tied on points with Arsenal. A victory could put them in good position to qualify for the next round. For a club that have won all of its past five games in all competitions, including three consecutive victories in away fixtures, Shakhtar are expected to win this encounter despite a stiff competition from their Serbian counterparts.