Seven places in the final 16 are still up for grabs as the group stage of the UEFA Champions League concludes this week. So far Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Barcelona have qualified as group winners. Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen, APOEL and AC Milan have also qualified courtesy of securing second place in their respective groups. All is not lost for those who finish third, with a transfer to the Europa League round of 32 their reward. You can view the table standings at the UEFA website.
In Group A, Manchester City’s hopes of making the final 16 are on the ropes. They sit third on the table, one point behind Napoli. City host Bayern Munich in the final round while Napoli visit Villarreal, who have yet to pick up a point this competition. Due to their inferior head to head record against Napoli, Manchester City must beat Bayern Munich to have any chance of progressing. One reprieve for City is the fact that Bayern Munich have nothing to play for in this final fixture, with their qualification already assured.
Group C is still up in the air, with Benfica, Manchester United and Basel on 9, 9 and 8 points, respectively. Benfica have a superior head to head record against United and Basel, so they are through regardless. Basel will need to beat Manchester United if they are to progress.
Group E is also very much in the balance, with Bayer Leverkusen, Chelsea and Valencia on 9, 8 and 8 points, respectively. Leverkusen are guaranteed to progress, along with the winner at Stamford Bridge. A score draw will be enough for Valencia while a goalless result will take Chelsea through providing Leverkusen don’t lose.
The games will be held on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, AEDT. SBS will broadcast Chelsea vs Valencia live on Wednesday morning and Basel vs Manchester United on Thursday morning. For Foxtel subscribers, ESPN will air Olympiacos vs Arsenal live on Wednesday and Manchester City vs Bayern Munich live on Thursday.
I fancy Chelsea’s chances against Valencia. The London club comes into the fixture on the back of two 3-0 results, and they currently enjoy a twelve game unbeaten streak against Spanish clubs. A draw no bet wager on Chelsea at 1.28 may be a good option for those who are weak of heart.
While Olympiacos are struggling with injuries, Arsenal have selected a youthful squad for the fixture, so with no van Persie in the mix, it’s too risky to touch Arsenal.
Manchester City have been disappointing this campaign. To dominate the Premier League as they have and with the depth of squad at Mancini’s disposal, you would have backed them to secure at least second spot in the group. Even if they do beat Bayern Munich, a victory for Basel would see City dumped out of the Champions League into the Europa League final 32. You may want to consider the cruel (from City’s perspective) double result of City and Napoli to win. This two-leg multi has odds of around 2.77, depending on the bookmaker.
Given their Champions League experience, both in the squad and in the management, I’m going to back Manchester United to avoid defeat against Basel. The half ball wager on United is unfortunately very low at 1.11 odds, so the risk takers among you may fancy Manchester United to sneak through with a draw at 3.70.
Below are the latest odds (subject to change):
Update: Porto vs Zenit will be aired live on EPSN2 on Wednesday morning, and Inter Milan vs CSKA Moscow will be aired live on ESPN2 on Thursday morning.