The group stage of Europe’s elite competition draws to an end tomorrow and five places are still to be filled for the round of 16. There are a number of games of and groups to look out for but on Tuesday (ughhh Wednesday morning) all eyes will be on Group H, the ‘group of death’ which has certainly lived up to its name and all three teams have their fate in their hands on the final matchday to reach the next round. RB Leipzig will be hosting Manchester United while Paris will be hosting the Turkish side İstanbul Başakşehir who are already out of Europe but can play the role of party spoilers. Parisians should be wary of the Turkish side, they have proved that they are no pushovers, an impressive performance against the Red Devils at Istanbul got them a memorable victory, and against Naggelsman’s side a historic comeback was all but complete had there not been a heartbreaking late goal by the Leipzig forward Alexander Sorloth. PSG on the other hand will take solace in the fact that Neymar has turned up for their last two European games and has been quite impressive in hauling his side to victories against Leipzig and United. The other game of the group takes place at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig. The Red Devils only require a point to qualify for the next stage but their manager has declared that the side will not be playing for a draw. Leipzig’s need for a victory to qualify might set up an open game not only enjoyable to watch for the neutrals but could also be helpful to Ole’s side which enjoys playing on counter-attacks. Case in point, the reverse fixture between the two sides, the game started off in a cagey manner but once United got in front and Leipzig tried to attack on all fronts in the second half, they were expertly picked off by United who ran riot after the introduction of Marcus Rashford in the second half. Solskjaer will also be without his two striking options of Martial and Cavani, while Fred will also be out suspended.
The next day brings two groups to limelight, Group A and B. At the beginning of the competition not many would have predicted these two groups to have gone down to the wire but here we are. Atletico Madrid will face RB Salzburg where they would require a point to qualify while Salzburg would need a victory to overtake Atletico and qualify for the round of 16. Diego Simeone’s side will feel at home in this situation, a trademark defensive masterclass of his is what will be required at Salzburg and his side will feel confident to pull that off. The bigger surprise perhaps is in Group B, a group that seemed straightforward at the beginning has us twisted in knots, when the two games of the group kickoff, all four teams will be in contention to qualify for the next round. The might of the Galacticos and the grit and passion of Internazionale has been unable to seal this group and these sides can get kicked out if they fail to deliver results and do not get favorable results from the other game(s). Mönchengladbach currently sit at the top of the group with 8 points and a hefty goal difference of +9 and only require a draw at maximum against Madrid who are at 7 points and will look towards the other game if they fail to win against the German side. Antonio Conte’s side will line up against Shaktar with not only a win needed but also with the hope that the game between Mönchengladbach and Madrid doesn’t end in a draw.
To round it up, in Group D Ajax will host the impressive Italian side Atlanta in which they must win to go through to the next round, while in Group F Club Brugge will require a win to overtake Lazio for a place in the round of 16.