A pair of teams are hoping to atone for egregious and potentially deadly mistakes in the previous round as they gear up for reverse fixtures in today’s Champions League action.
Here is a small preview of each game:
Manchester City vs CSKA Moscow
Fresh off their Manchester derby victory, Man City will remain home to host CSKA Moscow hoping to repair the damage done in the waning minutes of the reverse fixture. Last time out, City blew a 2-0 lead late in the match and are now in dire need of a win. With half the group stage completed, City are on the outside looking in towards a knockout round spot, and with a match against Bayern Munich still remaining, they must take advantage of any slip up by Roma today against the Germans.
An in-form Sergio Aguero will be key, as he has five goals in three matches against CSKA Moscow in his career. City will be without injured Frank Lampard or Aleksander Kolarov, and David Silva is out with a long-term problem, but defender Eliquiem Mangala is expected to be ready for the match. CSKA see Alan Dzagoev return after his suspension.
Bayern Munich vs Roma
Challenging Juventus for the top of the Serie A table, the Italians were on the precipice of announcing themselves on a European stage a few weeks ago. Instead, they tumbled head first down the rocky cliffs into the ocean below as Bayern clobbered them 7-1 in the Italian capital. Now, Roma must travel to Germany with the knowledge that a win for Bayern would see them clinch a place in the knockout stage. At least the Italians are relatively healthy, unlike Pep Guardiola’s side who must contend again without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez, or Holger Badstuber.
Ajax vs Barcelona
Luis Suarez is still searching for his Barcelona spark as he returns to the club where he announced himself as a world class player. However, the biggest question mark for Barcelona will be Andres Iniesta, who is struggling with a calf problem and could be forced to make way for Sergio Roberto in the midfield.
If Barcelona wins and PSG can beat APOEL, it would wrap up Group F and seal Ajax’s fate. The Dutch club must not lose if it wants to keep its hopes alive for the knockout round.
Maribor vs Chelsea
Chelsea can secure a place in the knockout round with a win on the road in Slovenia. They will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of their U19 team, who beat the Slovenians 7-0 this morning in the UEFA Champions Youth League.
It’s not out of the question, as the Blues stomped Maribor 6-0 at Stamford Bridge 2 weeks ago and will have Diego Costa, although Jose Mourinho may look to rest him given the weaker opponent. Loic Remy is out, so that would mean Didier Drogba would again get the start.
Sporting CP vs Schalke
The Germans can also wrap up a knockout round place with a win on the road in Portugal. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting bagged a controversial penalty in stoppage time to beat Sporting in Veltins-Arena last time out, a massive result for Schalke to keep Sporting winless in the group stage. However, should the result swing the other way this time around, it would very much muddy Group G. Schalke will be without Julian Draxler this time around, as the Germans are slammed with the injury bug, also likely missing Jefferson Farfan, Joel Matip, and Sead Kolisanic.
Paris Saint-Germain vs APOEL
PSG can seal up a place in the knockout round with a win and an Ajax loss/draw, but they’ll be wary of their Cyprus opponents. They needed an 87th minute winner from Edinson Cavani on the road in the reverse fixture to secure a win, and they remain without Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has been missing since September 24 with an injury. Oddly enough, PSG has won both its Champions League matches without him. They’ll also be without talented winger Marco Verratti, but otherwise the hosts will be healthy.
Athletic Bilbao vs. Porto
Group H’s leader and bottomdweller will enter play today looking to stake a claim. The Portuguese are unbeaten in Champions League play, and they’ll take on a defensive Athletic Bilbao side without its leading scorer Artiz Aduriz in what looks to be somewhat of a foregone conclusion. Then again, there’s really no such thing in this competition.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs BATE Borisov
The middle of Group H is still very much up for grabs, surprisingly, as BATE Borisov is still clinging to its win over Bilbao a bit over a month ago. They were stomped by Shakhtar last time out, however, and they’ll need to pick up the pieces today on the road if they want any shot at shocking the world and making the knockout round. Despite that 7-0 blowout to the Ukranians, they’re just two points back of 2nd place, so a win today would put them in the driver’s seat.