After some interesting results in the previous group stage games on Matchday 5, Champions’ League Matchday 6 promises to bring us more of the same. Here’s what’s happening on Day 1 of Matchday 6.
FC Twente Enschede vs Tottenham Hotspur
FC Twente are already out of contention to reach the knockout stage. With only pride to play for, FC Twente will be eager to avenge the first leg’s crashing 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Londoners. Twente will be without key attacker Bryan Ruiz, their top scorer in last season, due to a knee injury. A confident victory over De Graafschap in the weekend, thanks to Theo Janssen’s brace, has earned the Dutch outfit joint top spot in the Eredivisie, alongside PSV. The momentum is right for Michel Preud’homme’s team to bow out with a good show.
Tottenham has had a fairytale run in their debut so far. Claiming top spot despite the presence of the defending Champions speaks volumes about their abilities. They are the joint top scorers in this tournament so far. Having already qualified for the next round, the Londoners will try their best to keep their pole position intact with a victory over FC Twente. Van der Vaart and Kaboul will miss this tie due to injury. With London Derby coming up in the next weekend, it will be interesting to see the team Harry Redknapp fields with an eye to seal the top spot.
Werder Bremen vs FC Internazionale Milano
Werder Bremen is currently placed at the bottom of group A and irrespective of the result of tomorrow’s game they will finish fourth only. Their misery continued in Bundesliga with a goal less draw against Wolfsburg over the weekend. They currently stand at 11th place in the league, 21 points adrift of the summit. Though ace striker Claudio Pizarro and defender Silvestre are back from respective injury lay offs, Thomas Schaaf may not play them as they have a tricky fixture coming up against league leaders Borussia Dortmund in the coming weekend. Schaaf’s men will look to end their campaign on a high by avenging their first leg defeat at the hands of the Italian Champions.
Inter’s misery continues in their domestic front as the defending champions slumped to their fourth defeat of the season. A 3-1 defeat against Lazio pushed Benitez’s men to sixth spot in Serie A. Benitez will, however, expect his men to bounce back from the defeat to ensure a victory over their German counterparts and hope to regain top spot in the group provided Spurs falter agaisnt Twente. Inter will be without Cesar, Maicon and Coutinho and Samuels is already out for the season. Inter will start favorites to win this clash.
Olympique Lyonnais vs Hapoel Tel-Aviv
Lyon is currently placed at second place in group B with nine points, a point adrift of the pace setters Schalke. They have practically qualified for the next round as closest compeitors Benfica are three points behind the French team. Lyon faces Hapoel Tel Aviv to keep their hopes of earning pole position in the group. Lyon has done well in the home games in this competition with two victories and two clean sheets. They are firm favourites to clinch this tie.
The Israeli outfit have done well despite being pitted against top clubs from Germany and France. Although they are placed at the bottom of the group, if they win at Lyon and Benfica lose to Schalke at home, Tel-Aviv will qualify for the Europa League. It is easier said than done though, as Tel-Aviv has not enjoyed a smooth run on the road. They have scored only once in two games and have conceded five goals. With an eye for Europa League qualification, they will throw everything at Lyon.
Benfica vs FC Schalke
Benfica has had a forgettable campaign in Europe this time around. Following a 3-0 whipping at the hands of Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Benfica became third favourites to qualify to the knockout stage from this group. Though Benfica are on a three match winning streak in their domestic league, they have lost three of their last four European fixtures. Mathematically they can still qualify for the next round. But they will have to win by a huge margin over pace setters Schalke and Lyon will have to lose against Tel-Aviv at home. Benfica will have to be careful as a loss might push them out of Europa League as well.
Schalke are on top of Group B and have qualified for the knockout stage, following a huge victory over Lyon in their last European fixture. Schalke have not lost a game since the opening night in Champions League. Domestically they have largely been anonymous. Last week a catastrophic 5-0 defeat against Kaiserslautern did well to wake them up from slumber as the German outfit came back all guns blazing against the German champions Bayern Munich to win the contest by 2-0. Schalke has played Portuguese teams away from home on three occasions and on each occasion they have been victorious. They start as favourites to win this game and stay on top of group B.
Manchester United FC vs Valencia FC
Manchester United take on Valencia at Old Trafford in the battle of top spot. United are currently at the top of the table and are three points clear of second placed Valencia. Even a draw will ensure that they finish atop. United are yet to concede a goal in the champions league and if they manage to keep a clean sheet against Valencia, they will be the first team not to have conceded a goal in the group stage of the tournament. United have two huge games ( vs Arsenal at home and vs Chelsea at Stamford Bridge) coming up in the next two weekends. Sir Alex Ferguson has reiterated the importance of finishing top of the group as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich are all leading their groups and United would not want to face any of those teams this early in the competition.
Valencia has already qualified for the knockout stage. A victory against United will help them regain top spot in the group. Valencia has done well in Champions’ League this season and they have scored 14 goals in this campaign. Valencia have lost their weekend fixture against Real Madrid by 2-0. They are also going to miss out on first two goal keepers Cesar Sanchez and Miguel Moya. Defenders David Navarro and Jeremy Mathieu will also miss the tie due to injuries. This could be the game of the night as Valencia would want to avenge the first leg defeat at Mestalla.
Bursaspor vs Rangers FC
Bursaspor had a debut to forget in European competition. The draw itself made it tough for them by pitting them against the likes of Valencia and Manchester United. Bursaspor have lost all their games in group C. They have conceded 15 goals in the process, scoring only once. The Green Crocodiles have won only three games in their last 14 outings in all competitions. İbrahim Öztürk and Ali Tandoğan both could miss this tie due to injury. Ertugrul Saglam’s team will play for their pride, in front of their home crowd and will look forward to earn their first points ever in this tournament.
Their Scottish counterparts have qualified for the last 32 in Europa League. A loss to United in the last game took away their last chance to qualify for the knockout stage. Manager Walter Smith has some serious fitness issues as Maurice Edu, Saša Papac, Andrew Little, Kyle Lafferty, Kirk Broadfoot and Andy Webster are all out injured. James Beattie could be back to play up front. Walter Smith would like to end the Champions League campaign on a high by winning against the whipping boys of the group. Rangers have not played a single game since matchday 5. Their last two domestic fixtures were postponed due to adverse weather. Smith also has a score to settle against the Turkish outfit,
“In 1974/75 I came to Bursa for a Cup Winners’ Cup match as a Dundee United player. We lost 1-0 but this time we want a better result, a victory.”
FC Barcelona vs FK Rubin Kazan
Barcelona have already qualified for the knockout stage and would like to rest several first team members for this game. A humongous victory over Real Madrid in El Classico helped them go on top in Spanish Primera Liga. They followed it up with a victory over Osasuna in the last game, thanks to Messi’s double strike. La Pulga may also start from the bench for this game. Though Guardiola would like to rest several players, Barcelona will be eager to erase the ghost of last year, in this fixture as the hosts lost to Rubin at Camp Nou.
Rubin Kazan are currently at third place, one point behind second placed Copenhagen. In order to secure knockout stage qualification, Kazan must beat Barcelona. They have tasted the rarest commodities of beating Barcelona at Camp Nou. With Obafemi Martins and Carlos Eduardo in the side, Rubin will try to hit Barcelona on the counter. Even if they fail to win this game, they have qualified for the last 32 stage in Europa League.
FC Copenhagen vs Panathinaikos
The Danish champions are on second spot. They have been playing well of late. A 3-0 victory over title contenders FC Midtjylland has given them a seven point breather at the top of Danish Superliga. Copenhagen will have to win this match to ensure that they qualify for the knockout stage. Nearest rivals Rubin Kazan will play Barcelona, away from home and are unlikely to cause another upset. Copenhagen have some injury worries. Solvi Ottesen, Martin Bergvold and Morten Nordstrand will miss this tie.
Panathinaikos are at the bottom of the group with only two points. In five games they have conceded 10 goals and scored only once. Panathinaikos will play for their pride and could very well prove a spoilsport to Copenhagen’s chances of making it to the knockout stage. In their last meeting in Europe, Panathinaikos came out triumphant, thanks to their former striker Dame N’doye, who will be playing against them tomorrow. Panathinaikos too has some injury concerns. Sidney Govou, Cedric Kante and Giourkas Seitaridis are all set to miss this encounter.