Paul Higham – Sportinglife Columnist
Heading into the second half of the group stages we look at the latest standings, qualification permutations and group verdicts in the Champions League.
Eight teams can book their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with two games to spare this week, but the permutations are far from straightforward as we enter crunch time in the group stages.
The standings have taken shape after the first half of fixtures and as we begin the second half of the group stages Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, Ajax, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Juventus all have a chance to clinch their qualification this week.
- 4/1 Man City
- 9/2 Barcelona
- 11/2 Juventus
- 8/1 Bayern Munich
- 9/1 Liverpool
Tottenham are one of the biggest teams on the verge of being dumped out of the competition as they need a minor miracle to make it through now after picking up one point from three games – although it has been done before.
Here’s how we stand after three of the six group stage fixtures…
- Borussia Dortmund 9pts
- Atletico Madrid 6pts
- Monaco 1pt
- Club Brugge 1pt
Fixtures: Monaco v Club Brugge Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund
- Dortmund will win the group with a win.
- Atletico will go through with a win if the other game is a draw.
- Monaco can’t qualify if they fail to win and Atletico win.
- Club Brugge can’t qualify if they fail to win and Atletico win.
Atletico will want revenge for a 4-0 thumping in Dortmund last time out, which equalled their worst ever result in this competition. It was also the worst result in Diego Simeone’s 391 games in charge and you can bet your house he’ll be demanding revenge. Those two have this group all locked up though with Thierry Henry’s Monaco taken to finish third.
- Barcelona 9pts
- Inter 6pts
- Tottenham 1pt
- PSV 1pt
Fixtures: Inter v Barcelona, Tottenham v PSV Eindhoven
- Barcelona will be through as group winners with a win.
- Inter will be through with a win, if PSV draw with Tottenham.
- Spurs can’t qualify if they don’t win and Inter beat Barcelona.
- PSV can’t qualify if they don’t win and Inter beat Barcelona.
It’s last chance saloon time for Spurs, and PSV for that matter, although it’s not totally a lost cause as seven teams have made it through after gaining just a point from their first three games since the new format was introduced in 2003. It would still take an epic collapse from Inter though and getting something from another game with Barcelona so it doesn’t look like that fairytale will come true this year.
- Liverpool 6pts
- Napoli 5pts
- PSG 4pts
- Red Star Belgrade 1pt
Fixtures: Red Star v Liverpool, Napoli v Paris Saint-Germain
- Red Star Belgrade can’t qualify if they lose and Napoli win.
Verdict: Liverpool & Napoli to qualify at 5/4
Not much to be decided in matchday four in one of the more competitive groups, although Liverpool can take a big step towards qualification with a win in Belgrade. It’s a tough away day in Serbia though followed by two games against two quality opposition, so nothing is guaranteed in this group – where PSG’a game in Naples could be a belter.
- Porto 7pts
- Schalke 5pts
- Galatasaray 4pts
- Lokomotiv Moscow 0pts
Fixtures: Schalke (5) v Galatasaray (4), Porto (7) v Lokomotiv Moskva (0)
- Lokomotiv can’t qualify if they lose and there’s a winner in the other game OR if they draw and Schalke win.
As it stands will most likely be as it finishes here with unbeaten Porto and Schalke expected to win at home on Tuesday to pull away from the other two. The main battle here looks to be for top spot in the group when they meet in matchday five in Portugal.
- Ajax 7pts
- Bayern Munich 7pts
- Benfica 3pts
- AEK Athens 0pts
Fixtures: Benfica v Ajax, Bayern Munich v AEK Athens
- Ajax will qualify with a win
- Bayern will qualify with a win and Benfica lose.
- Benfica can’t qualify if they lose and Bayern win.
- AEK can’t qualify if they lose, or if they draw and Ajax avoid defeat.
Ajax have matched Bayern so far but a trip to Lisbon and Athens is a tough assignment before they host the German giants in the final game. Even though the possible top spot decider is in Amsterdam you’ve got to think Bayern will be too strong when it comes down to it and you couldn’t even rule out Benfica making a late run but Ajax have points in the bank and can hang on for second.
- Man City 6pts
- Lyon 5pts
- Hoffenheim 2pts
- Shakhtar Donetsk 2pts
Fixtures: Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon v Hoffenheim
- Manchester City will qualify with a win and Hoffenheim loss.
- Hoffenheim can’t qualify if they lose and Man City win.
Verdict: Straight forecast Man City & Lyon
Lyon sprung that shock at City and remain unbeaten but they could only manage two draws since then while City have back-to-back wins to lead the way. Pep Guardiola’s side could easily qualify on Wednesday given Hoffenheim are away at Lyon and they should also have enough to claim the group.
- Real Madrid 6pts
- Roma 6pts
- CSKA Moscow 4pts
- Viktoria Plzen 1pt
Fixtures: CSKA Moscow v Roma, Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid
- Plzen can’t qualify if they lose and Roma win.
This may look done and dusted in terms of qualification but Roma need to be careful heading to Russia as CSKA managed to beat Real Madrid in Moscow in this competition. Real still look primed to make it through the group stages for the 22nd time in a row and the group could be decided in Rome in the penultimate game – don’t rule out the Italians pipping them at the post.
- Juventus 9pts
- Man Utd 4pts
- Valencia 2pts
- Young Boys 1pts
Fixtures: Valencia v Young Boys, Juventus v Manchester United
- Juventus will win the group if they win; and will qualify if they avoid defeat.
Valencia’s draw with Young Boys was a body blow to their hopes but they should make amends with a win on Wednesday and hope Juventus beat United again. Valencia have Juve again to play so if it goes to form they’ll need to beat United at home to make it through.