Man City & Chelsea’s Champions League hopes hang in the balance, as Ajax faces Real Madrid juggernaut
For some teams the last 16 and knockout stages await; others will have to make do with the Europa League. Chelsea know their fate is in their hands, whilst Manchester City must hope for a win and a favour at El Madrigal.
Chelsea vs Valencia
Roman Abramovich has held UEFA Champions League triumph as his holy grail since buying Chelsea in June 2003, and the likes of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti have seen their stints at Stamford Bride cut short, as despite delivering the Premier League they have failed to win Europe’s top club tournament.
Andre Villas Boas is under increasing pressure to deliver in his first season in England, and a shaky month has seen his side fall 10 points adrift of league leaders Manchester City. In Europe, a disappointing draw in Belgium against Genk and a last minute winner for Bayer Leverkusen against The Blues at the BayArena sees the London club needing to win Tuesday’s game or draw 0-0 with Valencia to progress.
Unai Emery’s team have impressed recently in La Liga and on the continent, and a 7-0 win over Genk in their last European outing shows that the side from the Mestalla will be no pushovers. Seasoned at this level, Valencia house a number of players capable of winning the tie in England, none more-so than Roberto Soldado, who backed up a first half hat-trick against the Belgian champions with the winner against Espanyol at the weekend.
Chelsea will need to be at their best to get the result they need and the inclusion of former Valencia attacker Juan Mata in their side will provide added motivation for the visitors; Betfair have the home side as favourites however at odds of 1.79 to get a victory.
Manchester City vs Bayern Munich
Not many teams have outplayed big spending Manchester City this season, but Bayern Munich deserved their 2-0 win over Roberto Mancini’s side at the Allianz Arena back in September. The current Premier League leaders are unbeaten this season domestically, but a draw at home and defeat away to Napoli threatens the club’s Champions League status.
City need to beat Jupp Heynckes’ men on Wednesday and hope that Villarreal can stop Edinson Cavani and Napoli from getting three points in Spain to make the last 32. Despite naturally having one eye on events at El Madrigal, the hosts must focus on beating what is a rounded and dangerous Bavarian visitor.
Former City defender Jerome Boateng will get a frosty reception at the Etihad Stadium, but has solidified the Germans’ rearguard since is summer move. The likes of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Thomas Mueller and Mario Gomez need no introduction, and despite the fact that Bayern are already assured to top the group, the visitors will want to complete their group stage with a win.
City are favourites with the bookies, but so are Napoli; Betfair have City at odds of 1.64 to beat Bayern, but at 3.45 to qualify.
Ajax vs Real Madrid
The current Eredivisie champions have a fine tradition and history in Europe, but their 1-0 triumph over AC Milan in the Champions League final back in 1995 will feel like a lifetime ago for the Amsterdam Arena faithful.
Despite the fact that Ajax are three points and seven goals better off than third placed Group D team Lyon, Frank de Boer’s men are not yet through to the knockout stages. With the French outfit facing pointless and hapless Dinamo Zagreb, and the Dutch side locking horns the form team in Europe, Ajax must be careful not to let the balance swing.
Jose Mourinho’s men have the first El Clasico match of the season against Barcelona next weekend, and the Portuguese coach will want a positive result in Amsterdam to continue momentum going into the game at the Santiago Bernabeu. Los Blancos are the only side with a perfect group stage record this season, have scored the most goals and conceded the least – Ajax beware.
Ajax should qualify despite the calibre of their Wednesday opponents; Betfair have the Dutch side at odds of 3.1 to beat the Spaniards.