The final matches of the group stage are today and tomorrow, after which the field will be cut in half and there will be a winter break until February when the knockout stage will begin with the round of 16. Most of the groups have already been settled, but there are 3 pretty compelling storylines all involving quote unquote bigger clubs.
Complete Champions League standings can be found here.
1. Barcelona-Werder Bremen. Today. ESPN2. 11.45 a.m. PST.
Chelsea are through with 10 pts. but this match will determine the other team to go through. Werder Bremen also have 10 pts and Barca have 8, meaning that Barca have to win outright today or they will crash out. Bremen obviously only need a draw to go through. Could be a great game, as Werder Bremen play free-flowing offensive, attacking footy so there is potential for some Joga Bonito. The Nou Camp is the largest stadium in Europe at 100,000 and it will be an electric environment tonight for sure. Ronaldinho has been asked to carry the load lately with the injuries to Eto'o, Messi & Saviola, and of late he has been delivering. An exciting playoff match before the playoff eveb start, so it should be very exciting.
2. Porto-Arsenal. Tomorrow. Setanta USA. 11.45 a.m. PST
Arsenal need a draw to guarantee a place in the knockout stage. The could also make it with a loss as long as CSKA Moscow also lose to Hamburg, but that is not something that they want to have to rely on. Henry is suspended through card accumulation, but ironically Arsenal have kicked ass this year when he hasn't played (won away to Hamburg, won 1-0 over ManUtd at Old Trafford, dominated Spurs 3-0 on the weekend); hopefully they can keep that going, but Porto are no joke. They won the Champions League in 2004 under uber-asshole Jose Mourhino, and although he and several of the key players from that team have moved on they are still a quality side playing at home and they will certainly be up for it.
3. Manchester United-Benfica. Tomorrow. ESPN2. 11.45 a.m. PST
Celtic are through no matter what. ManUtd only need a draw to advance, but a loss will see them crash out for the 2nd year in a row. This is much more unlikely on paper than Barca or Arsenal failing to make it, but you never know. I for one would love to see it happen.
All of the other groups have already been decided as far as the two teams to qualify, with 2 exceptions. In group D Shoktar Donetsk could steal 2nd place from Roma with a win combined with a Roma loss, and in Group H 2nd place is up for grabs between AEK Athens and Lille (although they do not play each other tomorrow).