A preview of the key matches on Matchday 4 that will determine who qualifies to the second round.
Tuesday, 31 October
Group A: Levski Sofia v Werder Bremen
All eyes will be on the clash of champions at Camp Nou, but second spot could well be decided on Bremen’s ability to overcome Levski Sofia and post the necessary 3 points they need to put pressure on Barcelona. Bremen still have to play Barca away and Chelsea at home, so getting maximum points here (and hoping that Barca lose to Chelsea) is the only way they can have any chance of going through to the second round. Of course, they’ll still need some points from the next two games, but you would think that if they can’t beat Levski Sofia away, they will have trouble at Camp Nou.
Bremen’s domestic form is fairly good and they are a strong team so I’d expect them to win this one, setting up a mouth-watering match with Barcelona on 5th December which means the fate of these two teams could be decided on the last day.
Group B: Spartak Moscow v Inter Milan
Bayern have 3 clean sheets, a perfect 3-0 record and away wins against Sporting and Inter – they’re clear through.
But Inter, 1 point behind Sporting, need to win this game and hope Sporting lose in order to join Bayern in round 2. Their recent derby win over Milan will give them a boost, but at the end of the day Inter will have to step up their game or suffer an early, ignomious exit from the Champions League.
The big match is still Inter vs Sporting on 22nd November, but with Sporting playing Bayern away this is Inter’s chance to make up some lost ground and jostle themselves into a better position.
Win here, and beat Sporting on the 22nd, and Inter could go through (provided Sporting lose today to Bayern).
Both Liverpool and PSV Eindhoven are at 7 points, have home games and wins should see them qualify together for the second round. Unless Galatasaray can pull off a miracle away against PSV, this group is pretty much decided.
Valencia are almost through, and should beat Shakhtar Donetsk to confirm their progress. Roma go through if they beat Olympiakos, which will make the final game of the group (Roma v Valencia) more of a showpiece than anything critical.
Olympiakos will have to win away against Roma AND Valencia to stand a realistic chance of getting through. Not happening.
Wednesday, 01 November
Real Madrid beat Seaua 4-1 away last time around and in front of a home crowd (buoyed by their positive recent form) they should win again.
The good thing is that winning here means that Madrid are through (with Lyon, who ‘should’ beat Kiev) even if they lose the next two games, because their goal difference is fairly good and you don’t expect Steaua to beat Lyon at their home ground.
Lyon should win their match comfortably as well, but really, little excitement in this group.
Group F: Benfica v Celtic
Benfica vs Celtic will probably not mean much at the end of the group stages, but it will definitely be a testament to Celtic’s CL ambitions if they can beat Benfica and guarantee passage from this group.
Lose here, and then beating Copenhagen (away) becomes critical – a match Benfica drew.
United will go through with a win at Copenhagen – more Rooney goals?
Group G: Arsenal v CSKA Moscow
There was a lot of criticism towards the conditions and the ref for Arsenal’s defeat away to CSKA Moscow, but with the return leg being played at Ashburton Grove we will see what CSKA Moscow can really do. I predict Arsenal to try and blitzkreig them like they did with Reading, and god forbid the gloating if that happens.
Group G: Hamburg v Porto
Porto are fighting for an outside shot at the second spot, Hamburg are fighting for the 3rd spot and the UEFA cup place. Should be interesting, but I doubt that Porto will be able to keep Arsenal out of the 2nd round. If CSKA and Porto win though, then all bets are off.
Group H: AEK Athens v Lille
AEK are looking for their first win to help propel them upwards and get them a shot at qualification. With Milan to play and an away game against Anderlecht (which will probably decide 3rd/4th spots) to come, this is must win if AEK want anything out of this group.
Lille? A win will be enough to get them into second round, especially with Milan expected to beat Anderlecht (in order to secure their own passage as group winners).
I’ll follow up with goals and results from the matches, plus reviews and comments on the games I’ll get to watch (think Premiership). If you’re interested, you can also write about your club’s match, just write here in the comments, drop me a line or click the ‘write for soccerlens‘ link at the top of the page.