TheHardTackle looks at what football fans can lookout for in the exciting Champions League’s last group stage match as teams hang by the thread, all hoping to progress further.
Group of Death, indeed.
Group F will reach its dramatic climax when its teams take on each other. With a difference of three points, Napoli and Arsenal , are both firmly in the qualifying equation but Borussia Dortmund too, at nine points, are in the mix and the match in France will also be closely observed by Napoli and Arsenal supporters. Rafa Benitez’ Napoli has to win if they want to progress further and they can only count on a draw if Dortmund loses. In case of an Italian and German victory, there would be three teams level at twelve points. In that event, the precise scorelines between the three teams will decide which two teams progress further and which team’s dream of European glory comes to an end. The Group of Death is surely living up to its hype and it would be very interesting to find out which two teams will finally advance to the knockouts.
Basel looks to extend their unbeaten run on travels this season
After a disappointing last minute loss to Stoke, Chelsea are at least sure of heading in the right direction in the Champions League. Schalke and Basel will meet in a sumptuous encounter to decide who will take the second qualifying place in Group E alongside Chelsea. Basel’s victory against what looked like a hapless Chelsea has given them some sort of breathing space over their opposition. The victory, in a match where Ivanovic’s singular performance was criticized by many, has given the Swiss club a one-point advantage over their opponents. This has enabled them with the liberty of progressing along the side they beat, even with a draw. The Bundesliga side, however, has to defeat Basel at home to move along with Chelsea to the knockout stage. Though Schalke have the home advantage, Basel has not lost in an away match this season in all competitions, their two losses have both been at home. While a draw will be enough for Basel, Schalke has to win. Schalke got the better of the two sides in the previous meeting of the two clubs where Julian Draxler scored a superb half volley in a 1-0 victory for the German club in Switzerland.
Not another end of Porto’s dreams in Spanish soil
Porto will not have the fondest memories of playing in Spain. In the 2012-13 edition of the CL, they had won against Málaga 1-0 at home with a goal from Moutinho. Porto, however lost to the Spanish side-1 in the second leg of the round-of-16 and was knocked out of the competition as strikes from Roque Santa Cruz and Isco overcame the defeat the Spanish club suffered in Portugal. The Portuguese club will be hoping Spain doesn’t remain a jinx as they come to Madrid with determination and will want to change things after procuring a disappointing draw at the hands of Austria Wien last time out. But things aren’t coming so easy for the Portuguese club as there remains another catch for Paulo Fonseca’s side. They require second placed Zenit to slip up against Austria Wien in form of a loss or even a draw, only then can they go alongside Simeone’s Atletico to the knockouts. The Portuguese fans will be praying for the Austrians to do the same to the Russians as was done to them in the last match.
Kaká the man to help his club move to the knockouts; Is San Siro de Boer’s lucky ground?
Ajax and AC Milan are going to find themselves in a very interesting clash where the winner will head to the knockout stage. Ajax must hope that AC Milan is coach Frank de Boer’s lucky opposition. The manager saw Ajax defeat the Italian club 2-0 in Milan’s home in his very first match as the coach of the Dutch club Demy de Zeeuw and Toby Alderweireld netted the ball for the Dutch club. Statistically, Milan have a superior home record against the Dutch club where in 11 matches, they have managed to win 7 times and drawn once. Bojan Krkić, who is on loan to Ajax from Barcelona, will feature against the club he was loaned out to last season. Massimo Allegri’s Milan will want to get this win and move alongside Barcelona to the knockout stage and the man to watch out would be Kaká. The player has returned to his former form since returning to Milan and will want to help his club move further along in the competition.
Pelligrini looks to finally beat Guardiola
Pellegrini will be looking for his first victory over Guardiola, who as Barcelona coach did not lose to Pellegrini’s Villarreal, Real Madrid and Málaga sides and as the new Bayern coach has not lost to Pellegrini’s City in the one time they have faced each other. In a clash which is just a formality as both the teams will progress regardless of any result, the match would be just one where Pellegrini will want his team to avenge all the losses he has secured against Guardiola and will want to finally defeat the Spaniard.