The second to last week of group play is about to get underway in less than an hour. Some games don’t really matter, but there are a slew that have serious implications for the knockouts. Anyway, less talk, more picks.
CSKA Moscow v Bayer Leverkusen
DP: Leverkusen 2-0:
BD: Leverkusen 3-1: This is a huge, huge game in Group E. Bayer could make serious headway in gaining a coveted spot in the knockout round here with a win versus Moscow who has looked inconsistent at best. In 4 games they’ve yielded a minus 4 goal differential yet still managed two draws. A Bayer loss would help Tottenham immensely, but I just don’t see it happening. Leverkusen rolls.
Leicester City v Club Brugge
DP: Leicester 3-1:
BD: Leicester 3-0: This has been a year of firsts for Leicester and an easy win here will ensure another: their first knockout round qualification versus lowly Brugge. Nothing more to say here. It’s essentially a lame duck game. Move along.
Dortmund v Legia Warsaw
DP: Dortmund 3-0:
BD: Borussia Dortmund 4-0: This is an important game for Dortmund while they jockey for the top spot with fellow knockout qualifer Real Madrid. Auabameyang and the boys are fresh off their victory versus hated rivals Bayern over the weekend. I like Dortmund in an absolute romp.
Dinamo Zagreb v Lyon
DP: Lyon 2-1:
BD: Lyon 2-0: This is an interesting little game that might not get a lot of coverage this week simply because it doesn’t involve the two top teams in the group. But a win by Lyon would put them at a respectable 7 points with a game to go. Two wins and two Juventus draws and/or losses would put Lyon through to the knockout. Stranger things have happened, Barb! I’m not completely married to that prediction, but it sounds fun. Lyon takes care of business.
Kobenhaven v Porto
DP: Kobenhaven 2-1:
BD: Porto 1-0: This should be an excellent game between the two teams fighting for spot #2 in Group G. Both Porto and Kobenhaven have been incredibly stingy only allowing 3 and 2 goals through 4 games, respectively. Expect a low scoring affair here with Porto slipping past late. If Porto draws or loses they could leave the door open for Kobenhaven to sneak past them in the final week of the season.
Sevilla v Juventus
DP: Draw 2-2:
BD: Draw 1-1: Sevilla has been absolutely monstrous in all competitions this season garnering a top 3 spot in La Liga and have yet to concede a goal in UCL games. They’ve been wickedly efficient. The last time these teams met in Week 1, the game ended in a scoreless draw. I see another draw here too with Juventus finally breaking down that backline to get a point in Spain.
Monaco v Tottenham
DP: Draw 2-2:
BD: Tottenham 3-1: Monaco beat Spurs fair and square at Wembley in Week 1. It was a hard lesson for these young lads to learn to kick off Champions League play – especially at home. To be honest this entire UCL group play has been a hard lesson in what is required to even qualify for the knockout round. Spurs, currently in 3rd place, face an uphill battle to break through, but after an inspirational late win versus West Ham over the weekend, it could galvanize this team to a win against the Group E leaders. I like Spurs here because I’m biased and I would rather die on my shield.
Sporting Lisbon v Real Madrid
DP: Real Madrid 3-1:
BD: Real Madrid 3-0: Madrid throttled their crosstown rivals over the weekend and despite myriad injuries look incredibly unstoppable. I think winning Group F still matters to them and a victory against Sporting will give them a chance to do just that.
Rostov v Bayern Munich
DP: Bayern 4-0:
BD: Bayern Munich 4-0: These Bayern players are going to be pissed after dropping a hotly contested game versus Dortmund three days ago. Look out Rostov. Poor, poor Rostov. Munich is going to take out all of their pent up anger and frustration on a Russian side that has looked sadly out of place in this competition.
Besiktas v Benfica
DP: Besiktas 2-1:
BD: Benfica 2-1: Look out. Group B is going to come down to the wire. The winner of this game could arguably win the group, which I would have laughed at if you’d told me that before group play. Besiktas have clawed to 6 points through 4 games and haven’t lost yet, which is incredibly impressive. That said, one of their three draws was against lowly Dynamo so I’d be lying if I told you they inspired a lot of confidence. I’ll give Benfica the edge here slightly simply on gut instinct.
Celtic v Barcelona
DP: Barca 5-1:
BD: Barca 4-2: I’m sad to see Celtic leave this competition, but sometimes you have to face reality. Barcelona will put them out of their misery and lock up Group C. Not much else to say. Moussa Dembele, farewell sweet prince.
Ludogorets v FC Basel
DP: Basel 1-0:
BD: Basel 2-0: Here’s a game between two teams who have left a lot to be desired thus far this season. It means nothing and the result has literally zero importance other than a slight pat on the back to the team that doesn’t finish in last place. Basel by a nose.
Atletico Madrid v PSV Eindhoven
DP: Atletico Madrid 2-1:
BD: Draw 1-1: Atletico is through to the knockout already. I anticipate a not even close to full strength Atletico side coupled with an emotional let down after the Madrid Derby. Don’t expect much.
Napoli v Dynamo Kyiv
DP: Napoli 2-1:
BD: Napoli 2-0: Napoli have left the door open in Group B, which is both terrifying for them and very exciting for me. Thankfully they have this game against Dynamo to take 10 points in the group and gain slightly more solid ground heading into the final round of group games coming up in 2 weeks, but anything less than three points here and things are going to be pretty dicey.
Monchengladbach v Manchester City
DP: Man City 3-0:
BD: MC 2-0: City have performed admirably thus far in Group play. They responded impressively after a 4-0 drubbing at Camp Nou to slay the Catalans 3-1 at the Etihad. I can’t see Gladbach putting up any kind of fight in this one. Yaya Toure back!
Arsenal v PSG
DP: Arsenal 2-1:
BD: PSG 2-1: This game is purely for bragging rights in Group A. Oh and I guess a more favorable matchup in knockout play. Both these teams know they’re moving on, so I would anticipate the most inspiring of play. PSG takes it because they aren’t scum.