After 16 matches on match-day 3 on October 20 & 21, 2015, the UEFA Champions’ League group stage reached the halfway mark. As the teams play another round on Match-day 4 on November 3 & 4, many of them will have their fates sealed. Defending champions FC Barcelona and the Russian side FC Zenit are nearly assured of round-of-sixteen berths after their victories on Tuesday. Incidentally, Zenit are the only side out of 32 that have won all three of their matches.
In eight matches on October 20, Barcelona defeated Belarusian club FC Bate Borisov 2-0 at Borisov; Bayer Leverkusen drew 4-4 with AS Roma at Leverkusen; Arsenal had a 2-0 home win against Bayern Munich; Dinamo Zagreb lost 0-1 against Olympiacos at Zagreb; Porto scored a 2-0 home victory against Maccabi Tel Aviv; Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv drew 0-0 with Chelsea at Kyiv; FC Zenit defeated Lyon 3-1 at St. Petersburg and Valencia won the home game 2-1 against Belgium’s KAA Gent. On October 21, Swedish club Malmo defeated Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 at Malmo; Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid were locked goalless at Paris; CSKA Moskva drew 1-1 with Manchester United at Khimki; Wolfsburg beat the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven 2-0 at Wolfsburg; Atletico de Madrid had a 4-0 home win over Kazakh club Astana; Galatasaray defeated Benefica 2-1 at Istanbul; Juventus finished goalless against Borussia Mönchengladbach at Turin and Manchester City defeated Sevilla 2-1at Manchester.
In their away game at Borisov, Barcelona defeated Bate 2-0 without Lionel Messi, who is yet to attain 100% match fitness. Substitute Ivan Rakitic scored in 48th and 64th minute to ensure 3 points for FCB. But the best performance came from St Petersburg Club Zenit, who won their third match on trot by beating Lyon 3-1 at home. Two brilliant goals in the second-half from Alexandre Lacazette and Hulk almost ensured Zenit’s progress to the round-of-sixteen. EPL side Arsenal outplayed Bayern Munich 2-0 at home despite brilliant work by Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Another German club Leverkusen had a 4-4 home draw against Italy’s AS Roma in a thoroughly exciting match. Both sides led by a two-goal margin at different stages. Within the first 20 minutes, Leverkusen went 2-0 ahead but Roma equalized by halftime. With seven minutes left, Roma had a 4-2 lead and just when it looked they would walk off with victory, Leverkusen’s Kevin Kampl and Admir Mehmedi made it 4-4. In another notable game on October 20, Portuguese Club Porto scored a 2-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv and inched closer to the round-of-sixteen berth.
On October 21, the match between PSG and Real Madrid ended in a goalless draw at Paris but both teams could still progress to the round-of-sixteen. Sweden’s Malmo scored their first group-stage win by beating Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 at home. The most emphatic victory on Wednesday belonged to Atletico de Madrid, who thrashed Kazakhstan’s Astana 4-0 in the Spanish capital. In Group B, while Wolfburg consolidated by defeating PSV 2-0 at home for their second win in three matches, next two teams Manchester United and CSKA Moskva have just one win and they drew their game 1-1 at Moscow. It will now be interesting to see which teams come off in the knock-out phase. In other matches on Wednesday, Galatasaray scored a 2-1 home win against Benefica; Italy’s Juventus and Germany’s Borussia Mönchengladbach ended goalless and Manchester City had a 2-1 home win against Sevilla.
As the teams go to match-day 4 on November 3, several scenarios could emerge. In Group-A, both PSG and Real Madrid could progress to knock-out phase irrespective of the result of their encounter on November 3, if Malmo lose to Shakhtar. But if Malmo wins or draws against Shakhtar, it will be curtains for the Ukrainian club. In Group B, Wolfsburg have the best chances but that doesn’t rule out the other three teams just yet. Wolfsburg play an away game against PSV while Manchester United play at home against CSKA Moskva. In Group C, Astana could go out of the Champions League if they lose again. In Group D, Juventus’ victory will ensure knock-out berths for them and Manchester City and Sevilla will compete with Monchengladbach for third place.
In Group E on November 4, FC Barcelona play Bate Borisov at Camp Nou. If they win, they go through if AS Roma fail to win. However, each team has a chance in Group F as Bayern Munich and Olympiacos have two wins and Arsenal and Dinamo Zagreb one each. In Group G, if Maccabi loses and the game between Chelsea and Dynamo Kyiv is not a draw, it will be the end of the road for Maccabi. Even if Maccabi manage a draw and Dynamo win, Maccabi will still get out. Finally Zenit in Group H needs one more win to enter the knock-out phase. If Gent lose again, Zenit will still qualify even if they draw with Lyon. If Valencia win and Lyon lose, Valencia will join Zenit in the round-of-sixteen.
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