In my earlier Champions League review, I went through Groups A-D. I wrap up the review with Groups E-H, where English giants Manchester United and Arsenal have already secured qualification for the knockout stage.
After drawing with Rangers in Scotland two weeks ago, Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi saw to it that Barcelona took hold of the Group E lead with a 2-0 win at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.
The 2005/06 champions are on top of the group with 10 points, and Rangers, despite their loss, are still in second with seven.
But, Lyon is breathing down their necks. The French champions seemed destined for an early exit after losing their first two matches, but back-to-back wins over Stuttgart have revived their hopes. Wednesday’s 4-2 win put Lyon on six points, while the German champions have nothing to show for thus far, and need a miracle to even make the UEFA Cup.
Nov. 27: Lyon vs. Barcelona, Stuttgart vs. Rangers
Dec. 12: Rangers vs. Lyon, Barcelona vs. Stuttgart
Barcelona will seal qualification with a draw in France, and will seal the top spot in the group with four points in the last two matches.
If Lyon can take points from Barcelona, that will assure that they’ll have a knockout place to play when they go to Glasgow on the final matchday.
Rangers produced a dominant performance in a 3-0 win in France, and if they do the same at Ibrox, they’re through. But, they could assure their qualification for the knockout round if they win in Germany, and Barcelona triumphs in France in three weeks’ time.
After once again putting four goals past a Dynamo Kiev side seemingly content to just give up three points, Manchester United is the only club in the Champions League to have maximum points thus far, having picked up wins in all four of their matches. After squeaking by 1-0 in their first two group matches, United was dominant in taking six points off of Kiev by a combined score of 8-2.
Their qualification is already assured, and so will the group’s top spot with a win over Sporting at Old Trafford in their next match.
The favorite for the second spot is Roma, who could have all but sealed their qualification with a win over the Portuguese side, but instead needed an 89th-minute goal from David Pizarro to cancel out Liedson’s double and pull out a 2-2 draw in Lisbon on Wednesday. Still, they’re sitting pretty with seven points, three ahead of Sporting.
Kiev, well, it appears they’ve packed it in and packed it up for this year.
Nov. 27: Manchester United vs. Sporting, Dynamo Kiev vs. Roma
Dec. 12: Roma vs. Manchester United, Sporting vs. Dynamo Kiev
Roma can wrap up a spot in the next round with a win in Ukraine, which should happen.
Sporting still very much have a chance, but ideally, they’d need to get a result in Manchester and hope Roma lose or draw in Kiev, which would give the Portuguese club the chance to go through with a win over Kiev and United winning in Rome. Quite an uphill climb, but it’s possible.
It wasn’t a pretty start for Inter, as they fell two goals behind to CSKA Moscow after a half-hour. But, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Esteban Cambiasso led a ferocious comeback, and the Italian champions wound up with a 4-2 triumph.
They top the group with nine points, with Fenerbahce currently in second with eight points. The Turkish side have gotten points from every match thus far, and recorded a 2-0 win over PSV on Wednesday, with former Sheffield United forward Colin Kazim-Richards scoring his first goal for Fenerbahce in the victory.
The win puts Fenerbahce four points ahead of PSV, who have a three-point edge on CSKA for the UEFA Cup slot.
Nov. 27: Inter vs. Fenerbahce, CSKA Moscow vs. PSV
Dec. 12: PSV vs. Inter, Fenerbahce vs. CSKA Moscow
With a win in Moscow, PSV would keep their qualification hopes alive if Fener fall in Italy. But, they face a tough test with the Italian champions coming to Eindhoven on the final day.
That second spot is Fener’s to lose, as they do have a little breathing room, with a very winnable home match against CSKA on the final day. And, winning the group isn’t out of the question, if they can get a positive result in Italy.
Despite following their 7-0 home win over Slavia Prague two weeks ago with a goalless draw in the return fixture, Arsenal’s passage to the second round is assured, as they top the group with ten points, and have a goal difference of +11.
Sevilla’s had quite the tumultuous campaign, from the death of Antonio Puerta, to dealing with the Juande Ramos situation, and now breaking in a new coach while trying to revive their La Liga campaign, but the two-time defending UEFA Cup champions are firmly on pace to continue their Champions League run into the knockout stage. Renato’s brace led the Spanish side to a 2-0 win over Steaua in Bucharest on Wednesday to remain one point behind Arsenal.
Slavia Prague is all but out of it in terms of advancing in the Champions League, but are in position for a spot in the UEFA Cup, with four points from four matches. As for Steaua, the Romanian side are hanging on to hopes of taking that UEFA Cup place from the Czech club, but pride is on the line just as much as anything now.
Nov. 27: Sevilla vs. Arsenal, Steaua vs. Slavia Prague
Dec. 12: Arsenal vs. Steaua, Slavia Prague vs. Sevilla
Arsenal’s the favorite to top the group, but don’t discount Sevilla’s chances, with a favorable last two matches, including the home tie with the Premiership co-frontrunners.
The Steaua-Slavia Prague tie will help decide third place. If it ends in a draw, the Czechs are in the UEFA Cup. But, a Steaua victory would keep their hopes alive, as the 1986 European Cup champions would remain in European competition if they could somehow pull off a miraculous draw in London, and Sevilla take all three points in Prague.