Preview: Benfica and AZ Alkmaar meet for the first time in an official match
Benfica’s current run of form has been fantastic, and they will look to continue that on Thursday night in Holland.
Jorge Jesus’ side is currently sitting top of the Portuguese League with a seven point lead over Lisbon rivals Sporting CP. They continued their fine form at the weekend with a victory over Braga, after coming up short mid-week against Porto in the first leg of the Taça de Portugal quarterfinals.
After getting eliminated from the Champions League in a group that saw PSG and Olympiakos go through, the Eagles are looking to make their way back to the Europa League final.
Preview: An easy challenge for Mourinho?
Steaua Bucharest will end their 2013/14 UEFA Champions League campaign rooted at the bottom of Group E. This was confirmed on Matchday 5 when they drew with Schalke 04, losing all hopes of at least qualifying for the Europa League. The Romanians will play for nothing more but pride at Stamford Bridge this Wednesday.
Manager Reghecampf expressed his frustration, stating:
“It is a pity we are in this situation. Initially I was hoping this would be an important game where we had the chance to qualify for the next round or the Europa League, but of course now the priority is the domestic league – that is not to say we will not give everything tomorrow though.
Preview: Milan and Ajax battle for qualification to Round of 16
The clash at San Siro will decide which of the two teams will join Barcelona from Group H to advance to the knockout stage of the Champions League. Whereas a draw will be sufficient for the Rossoneri to advance to the next round, Ajax will need all three points.
An unlikely win for Celtic over Barcelona can also see Milan claim the top spot in Group H and thereby allow themselves to be paired against an easier opposition in the Round of 16.
Preview: Moyes out to restore confidence
David Moyes reignited harsh calls for his dismissal when Manchester United failed to win away to Cardiff City last weekend. The former Everton boss is having a hard time to please supporters since succeeding the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.
What is almost certain is that the Red Devils will be in the next stage of the UEFA Champions League. Condemning Bayern Leverkusen to their first defeat at the BayArena since March will guarantee Last 16 tickets for Moyes' men. However, they will need to improve on their performances along the way to increase the confidence within the team and among fans.
Preview: Olympiakos looking to pull off an upset at Parc des Princes
The Greek champions will be looking to pick all three points when they face Paris Saint Germain, a victory will take them on level points with the group leaders and will definitely enhance their chances of making it to the next round.
However PSG who have been unbeaten in both league and European games will be very difficult to break down and Olympiakos will surely be pessimistic of their chances on Wednesday. Les Parisiens have won three of the four Champions League matches they have played this season and defeated Olympiakos 4-1 in the reverse fixtures.
Preview: Attack, attack, attack in do-or-die affair
Benfica opened up their Champions League campaign with a 2-0 victory over Anderlecht at the Estádio da Luz. Since then, they have lost to Olympiakos and PSG away from home, while they also drew with the Greek outfit in a very rainy affair in Lisbon.
That now leaves them third in the group, needing to win both their remaining matches, while also needing for Olympiakos to not win either of their remaining two match. If they fail to do that, a relegation to the Europa League could be probable, but they will need to get past Anderlecht first.
Preview: Old Lady looking to replicate league form in Europe
It has been a tale of two competitions for Juventus so far, having done so well in the league outings the league leaders are rock bottom in Group B of the Champions League. The defending Italian champions are surprisingly winless in Europe this season, with their four matches resulting in three draws and a loss.
Their antics have now put them in a do or die situation. A win can put the Italian giants back in the fray for a possible qualification to the next round, but a loss will rule them out for a place in the last 16.
Preview: Any miracle for Plzen?
This fixture is just a formality for the Citizens who have already qualified for the Round of 16. There is also no hope whatsoever for the visitors to join their opponents into the next stage as Bayern Munich possess the other Last 16 ticket. However, this does not mean that the public cannot expect an exciting game.
Viktoria Plzen could still make it into the UEFA Europa League although the task is a difficult one. They have their destiny in CSKA Moscow’s hands. The latter enter Matchday 5 in third position with 3 points while Plzen have none. That said, the Czech side must not only record a miraculous victory at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday but also hope that already-qualified Bayern Munich take full points in the Russian capital.
Preview: A Rather Arduous Task for the holders in the Arena Khimki
Russia, as most football viewers and most weather personnel are aware of, is most unwelcoming at this time of the year. The snow is as frequent as Dortmund’s counterattacks. Pep Guardiola cancelled his side’s final training session due to an attack by snow on their training ground. Nonetheless, Bayern does not want the snow and the freezing temperatures to hamper their ambitions. If they win in Russia, they will break a record they themselves and Barcelona host jointly – most consecutive wins in the Champions League. Currently, the record stands on nine wins.
Preview: With Barcelona already through, Ajax has it all to do
Barcelona is sitting comfortably in first place with 10 points, having already booked their place in the next round of the competition. Unfortunately for Ajax, they are unable to say the same thing, as they are currently third with four points.
With AC Milan one point ahead of them, and Celtic just one point back, the final two matchdays in this group will certainly be full of excitement.
The first time these two sides met at the Nou Camp, the Blaugrana ran away with a 4-0 victory. Lionel Messi scored three of the goals, but luckily for the Dutch outfit, the Argentine international will not be available for this match, as he is out with a hamstring injury.
Preview: Arsenal a win away from UCL Last 16 qualification
Arsene Wenger has put together an impressive streak with Arsenal in European Football, and on Tuesday, a victory will allow him to continue that. If the Gunners are able to get the full three points against Marseille, the English side will book their place in the next round of the competition.
When the initial draw for the competition came out, Group F was dubbed as the group of death. With a Napoli side that had just made some new acquisitions, and UCL Finalist Borussia Dortmund, not many analysts gave Arsenal a chance of progressing.
Preview: It is never too late to revive a Season
It is inappropriate to think that a team’s season could end in November. Dortmund’s season after all does not entirely depend on beating Bayern or winning the Bundesliga. A second place finish or even a top four finish would keep them moving steadily to a more stable future. However, Dortmund’s season does massively depend on the UEFA Champions League. An early loss would lead to losing out on millions in terms of Champions League money and potentially losing more stars
After all, a second place finish in the league and a place in the Champions League final was not good enough to keep Mario Götze in the club; it was not good enough to extend Robert Lewandowski’s deal either. This surely makes it easy to see why dropping out of the Champions League early is definitely unhealthy for the growth of everyone’s favorite second team.
Preview: Chelsea poised to clinch Last 16 tickets in Basel
The Blues can guarantee qualification to the next round if they are to beat the Swiss champions at their own backyard. However a victory might not come that easy keeping in mind the events which surfaced in the reverse fixture.
Chelsea took a lead in the 45th minute courtesy of an Oscar strike and Mourinho’s men looked certain to notch all three points from the match until Mohamed Salah levelled the scores in the 71st with a beautifully timed first touch shot. Streller scored another ten minutes later to hand Chelsea an unexpected loss.
Preview: Much more than just a friendly between two rivals
The German camp is currently trying to fully absorb the loss of one of their own to an ACL injury. Sami Khedira is set to miss the next six months of competitive football and might not be match fit ahead of the World Cup. Joachim Löw, while unhappy, is not too worried. He sent both Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer home from the camp to Bayern so as to experiment with the rest of the squad members.
The defensive midfield combination he will try will thus be devoid of both the stalwarts from the past three years, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira. Löw has also sent Mesut Özil back to Arsenal. He has been criticized for favoring the Bayern players ahead of Dortmund’s players as he has allowed the Bayern players additional rest by sending two of them back before the crunch fixture against BVB on Saturday. Löw replied in a rather straightforward manner. This is what he had to say according to ESPN:
Preview: Hodgson set to experiment as injuries pile up
Roy Hodgson is set to be without a number of star players as injuries continue to stack up at the England camp. Captain Steven Gerrard has been ruled out with a hip injury, whereas his club teammate Daniel Sturridge who has been on an impressive scoring run in the league will also miss the fixture.
Manchester United duo Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick who has been ruled out for at least six weeks will also not make the squad, whereas first choice right back Kyle Walker has also been declared as unavailable.
Preview: Spurs poised to seal qualification with a win over Moldovan champions
The Lilywhites have made a perfect start to their European campaign, having won all of the three matches they have played so far in the Europa League. AVB’s men have been especially threatening at their own home turf where they have lost just two out of their last 22 European games. If they manage to record another victory at the expense of Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday, Spurs will seal qualification to the last 32 of the tournament.
The match on Thursday is Tottenham’s sixth in 18 days and understandably Villas-Boas is likely to shuffle things around ahead of their important match against Newcastle on Sunday. AVB has further reiterated that budding talent part of the Tottenham roster will be given their opportunities to shine at the big stage but only after the team has successfully earned qualification to the next round.
Preview: Every point is important in this three horse race
When the Gunners took the pitch in their first meeting with Borussia Dortmund, fans were breathing an air of confidence. And despite knowing that they were up against last year's UEFA Champions League finalists, with the acquisition of Mesut Özil, these Arsenal fans and players look much more confident.
Unfortunately for the North London side, a few mental lapses saw them fall at home in a 1-2 scoreline, but that did not change anything within the squad.
Preview: Barcelona can guarantee the knockout stage with a victory
Some would argue that AC Milan's current lot of players is not all that impressive. Others would even go as far as to say that this is one of, if not the worst Milan squad in years. Whether you agree with that or not, the truth is that they are three points from the relegation zone in Serie A.
On the European front, Allegri's squad has not lost from their three matches, and they find themselves second, two points behind Barcelona.
A draw at the Nou Camp would likely be welcomed from Allegri, who is under serious pressure.
Preview: Blues hoping to go clear on top with a win over Schalke
A win for either side can take them to the top of Group E and forerunners to advance to the next round of the tournament. Chelsea will be vying for all three points after losing out to Newcastle in their last encounter. Jose Mourinho’s men were convincingly beaten by the Magpies and the Portuguese tactician has revealed his frustration on the uncharacteristic manner in which his side dropped points.
I’m not happy with the way we faced that match, as simple as that," he told reporters.
"Sometimes, when you win a lot of times, players forget why they win.”
Preview: A battle of Group H underdogs in Amsterdam
With Italian giants Milan struggling in the group, it seems like Ajax and Celtic both have a chance of creating an upset and reaching the Round of 16 in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League. When the two teams will clash in the Netherlands this Wednesday, much will be decided.
Away fans will be hoping for Barcelona to grant them a favour by beating Milan at the Camp Nou in Group H's other game. Indeed, if the Rossoneri lose, Celtic would jump into the second position on six points with victory over Ajax. Meanwhile, the latter will be forced to surrender all hopes of making the knockout stages should they lose. Europa League football will however still be a possible target for the Dutch outfit.