Crunch time for some of Europe’s most wealthy sides is approaching. Milan, Madrid and Chelsea are among the clubs not yet guaranteed entry to the knock-out round. But there is no bigger story than that of Manchester City one of the favourites to win the Champions League according to Betfair at the start of the season, who are facing an embarrassing early exit from the UCL for the second year running.
They may be some people’s favourites for the EPL, but their CL performances have been appalling. Two points from four games have left them trailing badly at the foot of the so-called Group of Death.
If there is to be a remarkable face saving recovery, they will have to do it the hard way.
They play Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid who have seven points, five ahead of City, in the fifth round of games on Wednesday.
Anything but a win would leave both Madrid and group leaders Borussia Dortmund out of reach and signify City’s departure from the competition.
The match is at home. In the other fixture, Ajax host Dortmund. The Amsterdam side may well also be eliminated if they pick up less points than Real Madrid.
GROUP D TABLE
But it is the fate of City, who top the EPL that is catching the headlines.
They had a good weekend, thrashing Aston Villa 5-0 and hitting the top of the table temporarily pending the result of Manchester United’s match at Norwich.
United obligingly lost that game 1-0 leaving City at the top for the first time this season. United themselves had not failed to score since the opening day at Everton but have now done so twice in three days after they lost 1-0 to Galatasaray in Istanbul.
Nonetheless, they had already done enough to qualify and will be joined by either the Turks who just beat them or CFR Cluj-Napoca from Romania.
Other sides already through after just five rounds are Valencia and Bayern Munich from Group F and two La Liga sides, Catalan giants Barcelona from Group G and Malaga.
Arsenal and Schalke04 can boon their passage with home wins in Group B tomorrow. Milan will qualify if they beat Anderlecht in Brussels.