The Red and Blue halves of Manchester face nervy Matchday 6 fixtures in an effort to secure a berth in the knockout phase of this season’s Champions League. Trabzonspor are looking to upset the odds in Group B while Ajax and Lyon battle it out for a second round spot in Group D on what promises to be an evening of high drama writes Ger McCarthy.
Wednesday, 7th December
Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City face a huge task in claiming a second round berth in this season’s Champions League with a home win over already qualified Bayern Munich needed as well as Villarreal causing a shock in the other group matchup at home to Napoli. City were defeated 2-1 at the Stadio San Paulo on Matchday 5 in a result which saw the Premier League leaders drop to third in the Group A standings. Despite an undefeated run to the top of their domestic league the Citizens have failed to replicate that form in Europe and Napoli now look poised to grab the runners-up spot in Group A.
Bayern Munich travel to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening having surrendered top spot in the Bundesliga to Borussia Dortmund but already qualified for the knockout phase of the Champions League. Bayern remain undefeated in Group A thanks to the goals of ace striker Mario Gomez who has netted six times with Franck Ribery and the in-form Toni Kross contributing two each. The two sides previously met on Matchday 2 with Carlos Tevez grabbing the headlines for allegedly refusing to come on as a substitute for City on a night Bayern ran out easy 2-0 winners. Nothing less than a win will do for Mancini’s team on Wednesday and their chances look good with Munich likely to rest some of their regular starters.
The meeting of Napoli and Villarreal in the Stadio El Madrigal is pivotal for the Italians as they enjoy a one-point lead over Man City heading into the final night of group fixtures. The Serie A side easily accounted for Villarreal in the corresponding group fixture back on Matchday2 winning 2-0 thanks to goals from Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik. A similar result on Wednesday evening will secure Napoli’s passage to the knockout phase of the Champions League and with the Partenopei currently enjoying an unbeaten domestic run all signs point to an away victory at the expense of the Spaniards.
Group A Matchday 6 predictions: Manchester City 2 Bayern Munich 1, Villarreal 0 Napoli 1
The final night of fixtures from Group B offers the most interesting matchups of Matchday6 in the Champions League. Claudio Ranieri’s Inter Milan are already through as group winners but the other three Group B sides are all in with a chance of grabbing the runners-up spot.
Turkish side Trabzonspor are currently in second spot on 6 points with Ligue1 outfit Lille and CSKA Moscow tied on 5 points in third. Wednesday night’s clash between Lille and Trabzonspor in the Lille Metropole Stadium is a straight shoot-out for a place in the second round as the winners of the tie are guaranteed a knockout spot irrespective of the result between Inter and CSKA in Milan.
The Turks held Lille to a 1-1 draw on Matchday2 with Gustavo Colman’s converted penalty cancelling out Moussa Sow’s opener for the French team and Senol Gunes’ side have lost only once in Europe this season since replacing Fenerbache as their country’s Champions League representative. Halil Altıntop has been one of Trabzonspor’s most impressive players this season and will need to produce the goods against a resurgent Lille side that continued their excellent domestic run with a 3-2 victory to Ajaccio at the weekend.
Rudi Garcia’s side only two losses in this season’s Champions League were at the hands of group winners Inter and Lille will looks to top scorer Moussa Sow for goals and the midfield promptings of Joe Cole and Eden Hazard to overcome Trabzonspor for a place in the last sixtee.
The corresponding Group B Matchday 6 fixture sees CSKA Moscow travelling to the San Siro in search of their first away victory of the campaign that might steal the runners-up berth on the final night of the opening phase. A 2-0 home defeat to Lille on Matchday5 damaged Leonid Slutskis’ sides’ hopes of making the second round and now only an away win and draw between Lille and Trabzonspor will suffice for CSKA.
Group B Matchday 6 predictions: Lille 2 Trabzonspor 2, Inter Milan 1 CSKA Moscow 1
Benfica have already secured their place in the last sixteen so all eyes will be on the meeting of FC Basel and Manchester United on Wednesday evening as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side could yet miss out on the knockout phase for the first time since the 2005-06 campaign.
Benfica will secure top spot in Group C if the Portuguese defeat an Otelul Galati side with nothing to play for in the Estádio do Sport Lisboa on Wednesday night. Jorge Jesus has led his side to the summit of Group C following an undefeated run of two wins and three draws. Benfica’s excellent European run has been built on the back of some terrific defensive displays with the As Aguias (Eagles) conceding a paltry four goals to move within touching distance of top spot in Group C.
The reemergence of Pablo Aimar as a creative midfield force has propelled Benfica to the top of the table both at home and in Europe with the diminutive Argentinean contributing 11 goals from the centre of the park. The omens look good for the Portuguese league leaders and Benfica should secure a seeded position in the Champions League with a home win over Galati.
Manchester United have surprisingly struggled in the opening phase of this season’s Champions League recording only two wins from their five Group C fixtures. A disappointing 2-2 draw with Benfica at Old Trafford on Matchday5 handed the initiative back to the Portuguese side and United cannot afford another slip-up in the St. Jakob Park Stadium otherwise the Premier League giants will be making an early exit from the competition. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side struggled to a 3-3 draw at home to the Swiss side on Matchday2 with a last minute Danny Welbeck goal earning the home side a share of the spoils.
United’s domestic form remains patchy with a series of narrow 1-0 wins keeping the Old Trafford club within touching distance of Premier League leaders Manchester City. A draw will suffice for United but FC Basel know a victory on home soil in front of their passionate supporters would cement a place in the last sixteen for the current Swiss Super League leaders. Basel bounced back from a disappointing 2-0 defeat at home to Benfica on Matchday3 with a vital 3-2 victory away Otelul Galati on November 22nd. Heiko Vogel’s side possess a deadly twin strike-force of Alexander and Fabian Frei who have combined for 7 Champions League goals this term and are certain to test the United back four on what should be a fascinating evening in Switzerland.
Group C Matchday 6 predictions: Benfica 2 Otelul Galati 1, FC Basel 2 Manchester United 2
Real Madrid have already sewn up top spot in Group D following a perfect record of five straight victories so the only item remaining on the agenda is who will accompany the Spanish giants into the knockout phase. Ajax Amsterdam enjoy a three point lead over Ligue1 side Lyon heading into the final night’s action in Group D plus a superior goal difference of +3 compared to the French side’s -4. Only an unlikely turn of events will deny the Dutch Champions a place in the last sixteen with Madrid in Amsterdam and Lyon away to bottom of the table Dinamo Zagreb.
Jose Mourinho’s side can become the fifth club ever to finish the opening phase of the Champions League with a perfect record with an away win over Ajax but a point will rubber stamp the Dutch side’s passport to the second round so a cagy encounter is anticipated on Wednesday night. Dinamo have nothing to play for but pride and unless Lyon can record a massive victory in the Stadion Maksimir then the Ligue1 side will exit the competition and enter the latter stages of the Europa League.
Group D Matchday 6 predictions: Ajax 1 Real Madrid 1, Dinamo Zagreb 0 Lyon 2
Follow Ger on Twitter: @offcentrecircle