Champions League Tuesday Preview: Group stage set to play out

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The group stage wraps up today and tomorrow, and with a number of groups still yet to be decided, a handful of teams have yet to learn their fate on whether they will go home early, or will continue on into the knockout phase.

In fact, only three of the eight groups are completely sealed up, with the others still holding places up for grabs. And even among those three that have been decided, only one of them also has the first and second spot decided.

So with that in mind, let’s dive into what takes place today, because it’s a wild one.

GROUP A

Altetico Madrid 12
Juventus 9
Olympiacos 6
Malmo 3

Juventus vs. Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid has already qualified for the knockout phase, but Juventus has not, and even the Italian club itself is unsure how to proceed. A two-goal victory against Atletico today would see them not only qualify, but leap the Spaniards into the top spot in the group. However, a loss coupled with an Olympiacos victory would see them miss out completely.

“We have to try and win by two goals,” said manager Massamiliano Allegri. “We want to win, advance and try to finish first.” But he’s not the only voice on that storied club. “You can believe in anything in life but I’m interested in advancing,” said Gianluigi Buffon. Hmm, might want to figure that one out before the match, guys.

Olympiacos vs. Malmo

The Swedes may not have a Champions League place to play for, but there’s still plenty on the line. The winner here can at the very least continue their European adventure in the Europa League with a third-place finish.

However, the Greeks have been outstanding at home in group stage play, undefeated so far with 1-goal wins over both Atletico and Juventus. Consequently, Malmo has been torched on the road, with 5-0 and 2-0 losses so far. It’s an uphill battle for the Swedish champions.

GROUP B

Real Madrid 15
Basel 6
Liverpool 4
Ludogorets Razgad 4

Liverpool vs Basel

All eyes in England will be fixated on Anfield, where Liverpool can make or break their Champions League season. It’s been a tumultuous year for Brendan Rodgers, but the ability to advance from a relatively straightfoward European group would be a feather in his cap and could give the club confidence going forth into the Premier League year.

Speaking of straightforward, that’s what this match is. Win, and you’re in. Lose, and you’re out. Currently two points back of the Swiss club for second, a draw does the Reds no good. Liverpool lost the reverse fixture in Switzerland 1-0.

If they fail to win, Liverpool might not even make it out into the Europa League spot either, if Ludogorets could somehow pick up a result in Spain. Either way, Brendan Rodgers and company have no excuses, and they have it all in front of them.

Real Madrid vs Ludogorets

The current La Liga leaders are nine points clear in first place and in no danger of falling out, so there’s a chance Carlo Ancelotti rests some of his stars. That could give Ludogorets a way in, and if they could pick up points, that would couple with a Liverpool loss or draw to see them into the Europa League spot. It’s a mountain to climb for sure, but the Bulgarian club has surprised before in this year’s competition.

GROUP C

Bayer Leverkusen 9
Monaco 8
Zenit St. Petersburg 7
Benfica 4

Monaco vs Zenit St. Petersburg

Nothing is sewn up in Group C, but this match is where it will all be decided. The task is simple: win in the French principality, and the victor goes through. Lose, and you put your fate in the hands of others. Monaco currently holds a one-point edge in the race for second, and they are at a slight advantage because a draw would send them through.

Monaco has had a head-scratching group stage, having scored just two goals but conceding just once. Zenit will have to break that incredible defensive record if they are to advance. The loser would drop to the Europa League, with both clubs out of the reach of Benfica.

Benfica vs Bayer Leverkusen

One of the few somewhat meaningless matches in play today.

Benfica has been eliminated from Europe, four points back of an advancing position and three points back of the Europa League spot. A pair of losses to Zenit means they are unable to catch that third spot as well, completely spilling them from the competition.

However, Bayer still has to decide whether they will take first or second place in the group, so points do still make a difference. A win would see them through to first, while a loss or draw would see them go into second (unless everyone picks up a point).

GROUP D

Borussia Dortmund 12
Arsenal 10
Anderlecht 5
Galatasaray 1

Galatasaray vs Arsenal

The teams advancing from Group D have long since been wrapped up, but the order has not. With a win in Turkey and a Dortmund loss, the Gunners would see their way to the top spot in the group.

Arsenal thumped Galatasaray 4-1 in London last time these clubs faced, but with Arsene Wenger facing some injury struggles, it’s likely we see a less-than-full-strength squad from him today.

Borussia Dortmund vs Anderlecht

Things have been horrific for Borussia Dortmund domestically, but as of now they lead Group D with four wins in five. A draw at home would see them home free into the top spot thanks to a superior goal differential, but we all know Jurgen Klopp and draws don’t exactly mix.

The Belgian side knows it will be dropping down to the Europa League win, lose, or draw.