Preview: Last 16 berths on the cards in Champions League this week
The UEFA Champions League is half-way into its group stage schedule, and six European giants are in the fray to book their seat in the Round of 16. Sportsbet.io analyses the upcoming matchday of the continental competition.
Paris Saint-Germain vs Club Brugge | Real Madrid vs Galatasaray
Paris Saint-Germain, inflicted with a shock 2-1 loss by rock-bottom Dijon in Ligue 1 on Saturday, aim to secure early entry into the next round with a win over Club Brugge at the Parc des Princes. The latest meeting between the clubs saw PSG blank out the Belgian club 5-0, and the French champions are poised to preserve their unbeaten status in the group stage this term.
Second-placed Real Madrid will look to stay in proximity with PSG with a positive result against Galatasaray. Los Blancos played out a disappointing 0-0 draw with Real Betis, and Zinedine Zidane will demand the 13-time European champions play with a strong resolve in what is their 50th campaign in club football’s premier competition.
Qualification scenario: Paris will be through with a win, or with a draw if Galatasaray do not beat Madrid. Paris will be confirmed in the first place if they win and the other game is drawn.
Bayern München vs Olympiacos | Crvena Zvezda vs Tottenham Hotspur
Bayern, who recently parted ways with head coach Niko Kovac, have been the most prolific team in front of the goal and look to make it six wins from six against Olympiacos this midweek. The Bavarians have scored 13 goals in the group stage, and an optimistic result at home will see the Bundesliga champions secure a last 16 berth with two games to spare.
Having ran out 5-0 winners against Crvena at home, Tottenham travel to Belgrade where they have won, lost and drawn a fixture apiece. Mauricio Pochettino’s men are enduring a wretched form on the road and must register a win to stay alive in the competition where they finished as runners-up last season.
Qualification scenario: Bayern will be through with a win or with a draw if Spurs beat Crvena zvezda. Bayern will be confirmed in the first place if they win and the other match is drawn.
Lokomotiv Moskva vs Juventus | Bayer Leverkusen v Atlético Madrid
The road seems clear for Juventus and Atletico Madrid to progress onto the next stage, with victories in reverse fixtures against Lokomotiv Moskva and Bayer Leverkusen all but sealing their tickets. The Bianconeri, who rode on Paulo Dybala’s brace to edge past Lokomotiv, will look to put up a bold performance given their recent struggles to register emphatic and commanding results.
Atletico recorded their second straight 1-1 stalemate in the La Liga and Diego Simeone has urged his troop to prove their credentials as a possible Champions League title contender when they travel to Germany on Thursday. Alvaro Morata’s 78th-minute strike was the differentiating factor in the matchday three clash at the Wanda Metropolitano and he is once again tipped for a match-winning performance given Diego Costa’s dip in form.
Qualification scenario: Juventus will be through with a win. Atlético will be through if they win and Lokomotiv lose.
Napoli vs Salzburg | Liverpool vs Genk
Tournament favourites Napoli, who stood tall over Salzburg in the five-goal thriller in Austria, aim to spell more trouble for the visitors when they take the flight to Naples. Carlo Ancelotti’s men will take inspiration from last season’s meeting with Salzburg at the San Paolo Stadium, a 4-3 success in the last 16 of the 2018-19 Europa League, and the strike duo of Arkadiusz Milik and Dries Mertens will be primed to secure a last 16 berth for the Partenopei.
Reigning champions Liverpool, who kickstarted their latest campaign with a 4-1 win at Genk, are unbeaten at home in 23 UEFA games and Jurgen Klopp expects a strong attack-minded display from the Reds against the Belgians when they visit Anfield.
Qualification scenario: Napoli will be through if they win and Genk do not beat Liverpool.
Barcelona vs Slavia Praha | Borussia Dortmund vs Inter Milan
Barcelona are likely to finish first in Group F, and a win against Slavia Praha will place them in a favourable position to secure qualification onto the next matchday. The Blaugrana were off-colour in their previous European encounter and Ernesto Valverde needs a strong resolve from his players to avoid any further disappointments in what an error-driven campaign has been so far.
Inter Milan were clearly the better side in the home fixture against Borussia Dortmund and are well-placed to wreak havoc for Die Borussen who have won only two of their last eight Champions League matches. The Nerazzurri have won only two of their last 13 European away fixtures but based upon their form this season, we can see the curse being broken.
Qualification scenario: No teams can go through on Matchday four.
Words: William Paul