The fourth round of the Champions League group stages gets underway tonight with both Manchester United and Manchester City in action. Both clubs take a major step towards qualification for the last-16 with wins against Real Sociedad and CSKA Moscow respectively, but a number of teams can actually book their place in the draw for the next round today.
So who can book their place in the last-16 tonight?
Manchester United sit top of the group thanks to victories over Bayer Leverkusen and tonight’s opponents Real Sociedad, as well a draw at Shakhtar Donetsk. A win tonight would go a long way to securing their place in the next round, and if Leverkusen earn a win on their travels to Donetsk – a tough ask – the two sides can pull clear of the others. United would be sitting on the magical 10-points – which Sir Alex Ferguson claimed is usually enough to progress – and more importantly six points ahead of third-placed Shakhtar with just six remaining. With a superior goal difference, United could realistically book their place if Shakhtar lose tonight, and eliminate Real Sociedad in the process.
Real Madrid may as well be in cruise control, with a place in the last-16 virtually assured barring the biggest of collapses. A win against Juventus tonight would move them onto 12 points, and as they are already five points clear of second-placed Galatasaray, they stand a genuine chance of securing top spot tonight. It would require FC Copenhagen to earn a draw or better against the Turkish side, which on the face of things looks unlikely as they have lost every game in the competition so far, but at least they have home advantage in tonight’s match. Should Galatasaray emerge victorious and Juventus lose to Real, there would be a five-point gap between the two sides, and the Italian league champions would be facing the rather unsuccessful idea of dropping down to the Europa League.
Like Group B, there is one side out on their own in the shape of Paris St-Germain. The Parisian’s, like Real Madrid, already have nine points and a win against Anderlecht will see them go through to the first knockout round. In the other match tonight, Benfica and Olympiacos meet and should the two sides draw, PSG would secure top spot in the group. With both sides on four points, the winner would stand a good chance of joining the Ligue 1 champions in the last-16.
Bayern Munich sit top of the group thanks to three consecutive wins over Manchester City, CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen. However, City have done well to regroup from their 3-1 defeat to Bayern, taking wins against the other two sides in the group. Another win tonight when CSKA travel to the Etihad looks would put one foot in the last-16, as the Russian side would then need wins against both Bayern and Plzen and hope that City fail to pick up another point in their final two games, as well as a major swing in goal-difference in their favour. Victory for the reigning Champions League holders tonight should confirm their qualification for the next round.