Wednesday night’s action in the Champions League could see all four current group leaders Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Arsenal all progress to the knockout phase of the competition writes Ger McCarthy.
Bayern Munich are in Romania on Wednesday to take on FC Cluj knowing a fourth consecutive Champions League victory will qualify the Bavarians for the knockout phase of the tournament. Munich were pushed all the way on Matchday 3 with Cluj losing by the odd goal in five in Germany suggesting another difficult task awaits last season’s Champions League runners-up. Elsewhere in Group E AS Roma travel to Switzerland to face FC Basel with both sides currently locked on three points apiece. The Swiss outfit caused one of the biggest upsets of the 2010-2011competition by recording a shock 3-1 victory in the Stadio Olimpico on Matchday 3 thanks to Alexander Frei and Samuel Inkoom strikes. The return fixture in the St. Jakob Park Stadium represents an excellent opportunity for Basel to solidify the runners-up spot in the group if they can inflict a second consecutive defeat on the Italians.
Bayern Munich will earn their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a fourth consecutive Group E win at the expense of FC Cluj and FC Basel will move into second spot in the standings with a home win over AS Roma.
Three consecutive wins, eight goals scored and only one conceded has seen Chelsea power to the top of the Group F table. Spartak Moscow are the visitors to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night but face an in-form Chelsea side currently five points clear at the summit of the Premier League and looking dead certs to make it through to the last 16 of the Champions League. Chelsea defeated Spartak in Moscow on Matchday 3 with Yuri Zhirkov amongst the goals and another solid defensive performance should see the Pensioners through. MSK Zilina welcomes Marseille to Slovakia still in search of their first points in the competition. The French outfit recorded a narrow 1-0 win over Zilina in the Stade Velodrome last time out will be hoping for a similar result on Wednesday and join Spartak in second place.
Chelsea should breeze into the knockout phase of the competition with victory at home to Spartak Moscow while an away win over MSK Zilina should see Marseille move into joint-second in Group F.
No doubting the glamour tie of Matchday 4 is the Group G clash between former European Champions AC Milan and Real Madrid at the San Siro. Jose Mourinho’s side currently enjoy a perfect record and sit top of Group G with five goals scored and none conceded including a 2-0 win over Milan on Matchday 3 courtesy of Ronaldo and Ozil strikes. Milan enter Wednesday’s tie on the back of a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to Juventus in Serie A and will look to their lone Champions League goal scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic to add to his tally of three goals in an effort to halt the Real Madrid juggernaut. Ajax will be hoping Milan slip up as an away win at Auxerre will elevate Martin Jol’s side into second place. Ajax’s maiden Champions League victory of the campaign occurred on Matchday 3 at the expense of the French side with De Zeeuw and Suarez netting in a 2-1 victory.
AC Milan and Real Madrid will draw in the San Siro but that point will be enough to see Mourinho’s charges retain top spot. Ajax’s win at Auxerre will put the Dutch side firmly in the driving seat to secure the runners-up spot in Group G.
Arsenal’s perfect record in Group H looks like continuing at the expense of Shaktar Donetsk in the Ukraine on Wednesday evening. The Gunners have been in scintillating form thus far easily dispatching Braga and Partizan Belgrade in their opening matches. A 5-1 demolition of Shaktar on Matchday 3 suggests Arsene Wenger’s side are primed for a long run in the latter stages of the competition with the likes of Fabregas, Wilshire and Chamakh in irresistible form. Portuguese side Braga can join Shaktar in joint second place if they overcome Partizan Belgrade on Wednesday night. Braga secured a 2-0 victory over the Serbian outfit on Matchday 3 with Lima and Matheus getting on the scoresheet. Belgrade has yet to register a point and a fourth consecutive loss would end their 2010-2011 campaign.
Arsenal will make it four wins out of four at the expense of Shaktar Donetsk in the Ukraine and qualify for the knockout stage with two rounds remaining. Partizan Belgrade will earn their first points of the campaign with a draw at home to Braga.
Ger McCarthy is author of the book entitled ‘Off Centre Circle’ about a lifetime spent playing amateur football in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.