Matchday 5 of the Champions League sees both Manchester United and Manchester City facing must win games to enhance their chances of making the knockout phase of this season’s competition. The Group D meeting of Lyon and Ajax is the standout fixture of the Tuesday night schedule with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan also in with a chance of progressing to the last sixteen writes Ger McCarthy.
Tuesday, 22nd November
Manchester City faces the onerous task of travelling to Naples on Matchday5 of the Champions League looking to inflict a first home European defeat on Napoli in ten games. Roberto Mancini’s side remain top of the Premier League following a lightening start to the 2012 campaign which has yielded an astonishing 39 goals but were struggling in Europe until back to back victories over Villarreal reignited their hopes of making the last sixteen.
Napoli have dropped off the title race in Serie A of late with surprise defeats to Parma and Catania hurting the Neapolitans efforts to keep pace with Juventus, Udinese and Lazio at the top. The form of Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamisk remains crucial to the Italian’s hopes of making the knockout phase of the competition with a narrow 3-2 loss at Bayern on Matchday four setting up their must win encounter with Manchester City.
City go into Tuesday night’s fixture two points ahead of Napoli with only two rounds of fixtures remaining and the English club will qualify for the next phase if they can record an away win. A draw will also suit Mancini’s side but would then possibly require a victory at home to Bayern in the final group match. The onus is on Napoli to take the game to City and record a home victory that would put the Serie A side in the driving seat heading into Matchday6. A fascinating night at the Stadio San Paolo awaits.
The other Group A fixture on Matchday5 sees top of the table Bayern Munich hosting bottom placed Villarreal at the Fusball Arena in Munich. The permutations are simple for the Bundesliga club where a victory over their struggling Spanish opponents would seal a place in the draw for the knockout phase on December 16.
Munich’s only blemish of an otherwise perfect Group A campaign came in the 1-1 draw at Napoli on Matchday3 but Jupp Heynckes side have otherwise been in scintillating form and gained 10 points from a possible 12. Mario Gomez’s 5 goals has helped Bayern to the top of the standings and the recent upturn in form of Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery suggests the Bundesliga giants will prove too strong for a Villarreal squad decimated by injuries and on a four game European losing streak.
Group A Matchday 5 predictions: Napoli 2 Manchester City 2, Bayern Munich 4 Villarreal 0
Inter Milan head into their Matchday5 encounter away to Trabzonspor in Turkey knowing a victory will win Group B should CSKA Moscow fail to defeat Lille on the same evening. The corresponding fixture from Matchday1 ended in a shock 1-0 victory for the Turks at the San Siro and accelerated the departure of manager Gian Piero Gasperini. His replacement Claudio Ranieri has steadied the ship somewhat, but failure to emerge from the opening phase of the Champions League and the rumour mill would begin turning once again around the Italian club.
Inter won three Champions League games in succession following their surprise loss on Matchday1 and the goals has been evenly spread amongst the likes of Giampaolo Pazzini, Diego Milito and Mauro Zarate. The Nerazzurri’s domestic form is of greatest concern to their dedicated supporters right now with Inter currently languishing just above the relegation zone in Serie A. Securing a second round European berth would allow Ranieri the opportunity to focus on moving up the table in Italy before the knockout phase begins in February.
CSKA Moscow hosts Lige 1 side Lille in the second Group B fixture of Matchday5 in the Luzhniki Stadion with the home side knowing a victory would put them in pole position to grab the runners-up spot in Group B. The visiting French side are still searching for their maiden Champions League win of 2011-12 having drawn two of their four matches to date. Transfer rumours surrounding star player Eden Hazard has not helped the buildup to the Moscow encounter but Rudi Garcia’s side remain in title contention back in France and are just three points behind the front-runners PSG and Montpellier.
CSKA are on the verge of making it through to the second round thanks to the goals of Seydou Doumbia whose four strikes have elevated the Moscow club into knockout phase contention. The corresponding fixture against Lille ended in a 2-2 draw on Matchday1 suggesting Tuesday night’s encounter will be another entertaining affair.
Group B Matchday 5 predictions: Trabzonspor1 Inter Milan 2, CSKA Moscow 3 Lille 1
The top two Group C sides cross swords at Old Trafford on Tuesday night with Manchester United’s meeting with Benfica pivotal to both club’s aspirations of finishing top of the standings. The other Group C fixture sees FC Basel and Otelul Galati clashing in Bucharest with the Swiss side still in contention to make the second round.
Sir Alex Ferguson leads his Manchester United side into battle against a Benfica outfit that held the reigning Premier League Champions to a 1-1 draw in Portugal back on September 14. The Red Devils’ European performances have been patchy this season with a 3-3 draw at home to Basel preceding two hard fought victories over Galati. Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck are top of United’s Champions League goal scoring charts with two apiece and United will hope to wrap up their progression to the last sixteen for the sixth year in a row in front of a packed Old Trafford on Tuesday evening.
Nothing less than a victory for FC Basel will suffice away to Otelul Galati if Heiko Vogel’s side is to maintain their slim hope of making the second round. The two sides clashed on Matchday1 with Basel running out narrow 2-1 winners thanks to goals from Fabian Frei and a last minute Alexander Frei penalty suggesting the Otelul will prove difficult opponents once again on Tuesday night.
Group C Matchday5 predictions: Manchester United 3 Benfica 2, Otelul Galati 1 FC Basel 2.
With first place in Group D already secured by a rampant Real Madrid the attention now turns to who will accompany Jose Mourinho’s men into the last sixteen of the competition. The meeting of third placed Lyon and second placed Ajax is therefore the most important game taking place in Europe on Matchday4.
The two sides drew 0-0 in the Amsterdam Arena back in September and the Dutch side head into the crucial Group D encounter three points ahead of Lyon with just one round of games remaining. Lyon’s solitary Champions League victory came at home to bottom of the table Dinamo Zagreb on Matchday3 but a much improved performance is vital if Coach Remi Garde’s side are to draw level with Ajax in second place. The Ligue 1 club’s main issue is in front of goal where Lyon has only registered a paltry two strike thus far.
Ajax enters Tuesday night’s encounter having boosted their goals for column with a one-sided 4-0 trouncing of Zagreb last time out. The consistent performances of Christian Eriksen have attracted the attention of scouts from top football clubs all over the world and if the Dane can repeat his previous displays on Matchday5 then Ajax can secure the runners-up berth ahead of their final group fixture at home to an already qualified Real Madrid on Matchday 6.
Real host bottom of the table Dinamo Zagreb in the other Group D fixture on Tuesday night and with the Spaniards already through to the second round a carnival atmosphere is expected at the Santiago Bernabeu. A solitary Angel DiMaria strike proved sufficient to earn Madrid their opening victory in this year’s competition back on Matchady1 away to Dinamo Zagreb. It could be a long night for the visitors on Tuesday evening considering Dinamo has yet to score a goal let alone claim a single point in this year’s Champions League.
Group D Matchday5 predictions: Lyon 1 Ajax 2, Real Madrid 4 Dinamo Zagreb 0.
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