Going into the fifth round of matches in the UEFA Champions League group phase, Dortmund still had a chance to qualify for the knockout phase. They needed to get a win against Tottenham and for Real Madrid to lose against APOEL to set up a direct knockout with the Spanish giants at the Bernabeu on match-day six.
However, despite taking the lead against Spurs at home the Germans were unable to hold on as the English side came from behind to win the match, while Madrid put six past a hapless APOEL to confirm their place in the next round. The win by Spurs ensured that they will finish the group as winners, be seeded in the draw for the round of sixteen and will play the second leg of that game at home.
This is a huge achievement for a team that many thought would be eliminated at this stage of the competition and would have to drop to the Europa league to continue their European campaign this season. That was one of the surprising scenarios we witnessed last night in the UCL, other results worth talking about would be the one that happened in Spain, where Sevilla went into the break against Liverpool at home down by three goals and at the end of ninety minutes the Spaniards were able to salvage a very credible and important draw, a result that puts the Spaniard in a very good position to make the next round all they need do is get a win against bottom side Maribor on match-day six and they will be through.
Liverpool would have won the group and confirmed their place in the last sixteen had they been able to hold their lead, but since that didn’t happen; they now have to avoid defeat at home to Spartak Moscow on the final match-day of the group to guarantee their spot in the next round. Besiktas qualified for the round of sixteen for the first time ever in the club’s history with a 1-1 draw against Porto last night, while Manchester City, who had already won their group, maintained their 100% record in the competition with a 1-0 victory over Feyenoord at the Etihad.
Tonight will see the concluding part of match-day five of this season’s UCL competition and there will be two heavyweight fixtures in Turin and Madrid, I will be previewing these fixtures today starting with the game in Turin.
JUVENTUS vs BARCELONA
The Blaugrana will travel to Turin with the intention of keeping their unbeaten run alive in this season’s competition alive when they take on the Old Lady of Italian football; Juventus drew with Sporting in their last outing and missed the chance to get close to Barcelona in the standings. They lost 3-0 to the Catalans on an opening day at Camp Nou and are now three points adrift of the Spanish giants.
The draw against Sporting Lisbon didn’t do the Italians too much favour as it left the Portuguese team with a slim chance of making it to the next round ahead of the Italians, so Juve know that they need a win tonight to guarantee their place in the next round of the competition or they might be in a must-win situation when they take the trip to Olympiacos on matchday six. Barcelona were held to a goalless draw by Olympiacos which disrupted their 100% winning record in the competition as well as the chance to finish as group leaders.
However, all they need is a draw tonight to ensure they win the group. These sides have met ten times and there is little to separate them as Barcelona have four wins to Juve’s three with the remaining three ending in stalemates. Barcelona are yet to win in Turin as their four previous visits to Turin have yielded just two draws and two losses.
The last time these teams met here was last season and Juve hammered Barca 3-0. The Italians have a very healthy home record against Spanish teams with fourteen wins, eight draws and two losses from twenty games, while Barcelona’s record on Italian soil consists of six wins, nine draws and six losses from twenty-one games. Paulo Dybala, Gianluigi Buffon, Blaise Matuidi, Mattia De Sciglio and Alex Sandro were all rested at the weekend and should all start for Juventus tonight, while for Barcelona, Gerard Pique is available again after serving a one-match ban against Olympiacos.
Barcelona are the form team right now with Juventus not firing on all cylinders yet this season. However, the Old Lady’s home record in the UCL has to be taken into account as they are unbeaten since 2013, spanning twenty-one matches. This could be a cagey affair and I expect Juventus to at least avoid a defeat here and maybe sneak a win.
ATLETICO MADRID vs ROMA
The Rojiblancos will be looking for their first win in the Champions League this season when they welcome Roma to the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano. They have been winless so far in the competition with three draws and a defeat from their four games so far. They have picked up only one point at home in the UCL as they were beaten by Chelsea and drew disappointingly with Qarabag. They are winless in their last six matches in all competitions and desperately need a win tonight if they are to remain in this season’s competition. They are also in danger of dropping out entirely from Europe if they do not find their form soon.
On the other hand, Roma thrashed Chelsea 3-0 at home in the last round of matches to move to the top of the table and they only need a draw to advance to the next stage despite whatever happens in the matchup against Chelsea and Qarabag. Roma are unbeaten so far in the competition with 2 wins and 2 draws.
There will be little pressure on them tonight as their final group game will be at home against the lowly Qarabag. Atletico are unbeaten against Roma in their last three matchups and they have a decent home record against Italian clubs with seven wins and three losses from ten, while Roma have garnered four wins, three draws and seven losses from fourteen trips to Spain. Stefan Savic is suspended for the Atletico and will miss this one after being sent off against Qarabag in their last game, while Alessandro Florenzi has not travelled with the Roma squad after failing to recover from a slight knock picked up at the weekend.
Diego Simeone will have to find a way to inspire his misfiring attacking unit, which has managed to score only two goals in four games in the competition, to complement the work being put in by his workaholic midfield and defense. Roma have shown that they will not sit back and defend away from home, something that Chelsea experienced in London when they played out a thrilling 3-3 draw. I see a thrilling game that could swing either way.