Nov 27, 2007

What's At Stake In Today's Champions League Games

If it seems like it's been awhile since the last UEFA Champions League match day, it's because it has. Nearly three weeks to be exact, which is like three years in soccer time. No, not really. The last time these group's played, Man U and Arsenal qualified for the round of 16. Today, a number of teams can join them:

The key game today is probably Barcelona versus Lyon. After a slow start to the season Lyon have come on strong in recent weeks. They need to win today and hope that Rangers drop points at lame-duck Stuttgart--who themselves appear to have rediscovered their form, at least in the Bundesliga. All Barca need is a tie and they're through. If Rangers and Barca both win, it's over for Lyon. If Rangers win and Lyon tie, the French side are eliminated as well. If both teams tie, the situation will remain the same for the final match day, Dec. 12, when they face off at Ibrox. At least Rangers can drop no lower than third, which means they'll be playing European football after new year's no matter what.

In Group F, AS Roma travel to Kiev today. If Roma win, they're in, as they have a three point lead and the tie-breaker over third-placed Sporting Lisbon. Sporting play at Old Trafford and need to book points or they're eliminated, as Roma hold the tie-breaker. Kiev is done but can still make it to UEFA if they win today and then win or draw at Lisbon on the final matchday (Sporting would need to lose at Old Trafford as well). It looks increasingly likely that the Roma-Man U clash on the final match day will be a meaningless affair. It will certainly be for United, who have already qualified. Kiev does not appear to be as intimidating a place as in years past--Dynamo have lost both home games they played in this year's champs league.

In Group G, Inter Milan can qualify for the round of 16 with a victory over Fenerbahce at San Siro. Actually, the Turkish side can advance with a win as well. All the pressure is on PSV Eindhoven, as the Dutch side sit third, four points behind Fenerbahce and five behind Inter. PSV play at Moscow today. Anything but a win and they have no chance at advancing.

Finally, everything appears settled in Arsenal's group. The Gunners have already advanced and lead the group. Sevilla sit second, one point behind the Londoners and five ahead of Slavia Prague. If Arsenal let Sevilla win or draw today, it's all over for everybody involved.

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