Former European champions Juventus, Liverpool and Benfica, in particular, all have work to do if they are to stay in the running for a place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. The esteemed trio need to take something from their games on Wednesday, as Matchday 3 of the group phase comes to a conclusion.
Juve’s position is made all the more delicate by the fact they are tied on three points with the three other teams in Group A, leaving them with little margin for error.
Wednesday’s fixtures*Group A
Bayer Leverkusen-Zenit St Petersburg
Match of the dayLiverpool-Real Madrid, Anfield, Liverpool
*After kicking off with an unimpressive, last-gasp 2-1 win over Ludogorets and then slumping to a 1-0 defeat at Basel, Liverpool would like nothing better than a morale-boosting victory over reigning champions Real Madrid. Over the years the Reds have proved to be a bogey team for *Los Blancos, winning all three of their encounters, the first of those triumphs coming in the 1981 European Cup final.
Though Liverpool have scored in each of their last 14 Champions League home games, they have been experiencing problems at the back this season, shipping 12 goals in their eight Premier League matches, a cause for concern given Real Madrid’s rampant form of late. The visit to Anfield is the Spanish giants’ 100th away game in the competition. A win, which would be Real’s 40th on the road in Europe’s premier club tournament, would all but clinch them a place in the next round.
Elsewhere Having lost their last two games in the competition – to Galatasaray last season and Atletico Madrid this – Juventus will be at serious risk of a second consecutive group-phase exit if they fail to pick up points in Greece.
Lying bottom in Group C with no points, Benfica have to take something from their trip to Monaco, which would appear to be a tall order. The Ligue 1 club have lost just three of the 22 home matches they have played in the Champions League in all, winning 17 and drawing the remaining two.
A modest 14th in the Bundesliga but solid leaders in Group D with two wins, Borussia Dortmund will be keen to seal qualification at the earliest opportunity so they can turn their attention to their domestic woes. Victory over Galatasaray in Istanbul would represent a big step towards achieving that objective.
Did you know?Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s first non-British coach, will celebrate his 65th birthday in Brussels on Wednesday, when his side take on Anderlecht. The Gunners have played 1,024 matches since the Frenchman’s arrival at the club on 1 October 1996, winning 583 of those games drawing 244 and losing 197. Wenger’s win percentage during his Arsenal reign is 56.93.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored against 26 different teams in the Champions League, a record second only to former Real Madrid forward Raul, who found the net against 33 opposing sides in total.
On this daySix years ago today Atletico Madrid played out a 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the Vicente Calderon. Robbie Keane put the visitors ahead after 14 minutes, with Simao equalising for the hosts seven minutes from time. The two sides met again 15 days later at Anfield, where the roles were reversed, with Maxi Rodriguez giving Atleti the lead and Steven Gerrard conjuring up an equaliser for the Reds five minutes into stoppage time.
The stat14 - The number of years separating the last two wins for Swedish clubs in the Champions League: Helsingborgs’ defeat of Rosenborg on 18 October 2000 and Malmo’s 2-0 victory over Olympiacos at the start of this month.
Player to watchMarkus Rosenberg’s return to Malmo has been the catalyst for their largely impressive start in Group A. The 32-year-old skipper still has a nose for goal, as he proved by scoring the brace that sank the Greek champions. The powerful striker, who learned his trade at Malmo, left the club in 2005 and played for Ajax, Werder Bremen, Racing Santander and West Bromwich Albion, before returning to the nest this season.
What they said“We’ll need to take care with Malmo – we respect them a lot. At home they're very strong and remember they went in 0-0 at half time away to Juve. This is the Champions League and if we we’re careless or adopt an attitude of ‘we’re a big team, we’ll win all our games’, then we’ll be eliminated pretty quickly,” Atletico Madrid midfielder Arda Turan.
Have your sayWhich former Champions League group winners will fail to get through the group phase?