UEFA Champions League returns: Five matches to follow on matchday five

Europe’s biggest clubs are back in action as the Champions League group stage matches resume.

Soccer Football - Champions League - Group C - 1. FC Union Berlin v S.C. Braga - Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany - October 3, 2023 The players line up before the match as fans display an anti UEFA banner REUTERS/Annegret Hilse
The UEFA Champions League group stage resumes after 20 days [File: Annegret Hilse/Reuters]

All eyes will be on who qualifies for the next round as the UEFA Champions League group stage moves into the final two rounds of matches after a 20-day break for international football.

The group-stage results will also affect entries to other international competitions this season and next.

The 2025 FIFA Club World Cup, next season’s Champions League and this season’s Europa League knockout rounds are all effectively in play right now.

That gives extra incentive even to those teams which have already advanced to the round of 16 in February, including Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Real Sociedad, Leipzig, to keep pushing for the best possible results. Likewise for the six teams already out of contention: Benfica, Red Star Belgrade, Antwerp, Salzburg, Union Berlin, Young Boys.

The first priority for the remaining clubs will be to earn one of the 10 remaining places in the Champions League round-of-16 draw on December 18.

Here’s a list of five must-watch matches as the famous European club football competition resumes:

AC Milan vs Borussia Dortmund (Tuesday, November 28)

Everything is open in the fascinating Group F where Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Newcastle can still finish in any position from first to last and only three points separate the four teams.

A win for Dortmund will all but confirm their qualification for the next round, but if the Italian giants win it will open up the group even further.

Newcastle United vs PSG (Tuesday, November 28)

Newcastle manager Eddie Howe believes the match against will be a “defining moment” in the English team’s season.

Newcastle stunned PSG 4-1 in the first meeting at St James’ Park but have slid from top to bottom in the standings after successive defeats to Borussia Dortmund and would be unable to reach the last 16 if they lose to PSG.

PSG are second, a point behind leaders Dortmund in a tight Group F, with AC Milan and Newcastle also targeting the knockout rounds with just three points separating the four teams.

Barcelona vs FC Porto (Tuesday, November 28)

A win against Porto will be enough to put Barcelona back in the knockout rounds after two consecutive group-stage eliminations in previous seasons.
It may not be enough, though, to ease the pressure on coach Xavi Hernandez, who has struggled to get his team to play well recently.

Barcelona will advance with a win, or with a draw if Shakhtar do not beat Antwerp in the other Group H match. The Catalan club failed to reach the knockout stage in the two seasons after Lionel Messi left the club.

“There’s always pressure at Barca,” Xavi said. “It’s always been like this and that won’t change. You have to win at this club.”

Galatasaray vs Manchester United (Wednesday, November 29)

It’s equally tight between Manchester United, Galatasaray and Copenhagen to finish second behind Group A winner Bayern.

Galatasaray hosting Man United on Wednesday could be the highest-stakes Champions League game of the week, with implications for each club and their respective countries. A loss for either team in Istanbul raises the risk of finishing last in the group which would mean no European football in February.

Real Madrid vs Napoli (Wednesday, November 29)

Napoli would advance with a win at Madrid, the already qualified Group C leaders, although they likely must wait for a final showdown when they host Braga on December 12.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti’s side only need a point against Napoli, who they defeated 3-2 in Italy, to guarantee top spot in the group.
“Tomorrow’s game allows us to finish the group stage where we have done very well so far,” Ancelotti said.

Real Madrid are on 12 points in Group C with Napoli five points behind in second. The Serie A side can join Real in the last 16 with a win in Spain or matching Braga’s result with Union Berlin.

Source: News Agencies