The UEFA Champions league is nearing the end of the group stage, and this season has been full of surprises. Chelsea is dreading the possibility of an embarrassingly early exit from the competition after falling 3-0 to underdog Juventus. The Blues have only one match remaining in the stage, and it is a must-win against FC Nordsjaelland. Chelsea sits at third of four in Group E and is trailed only by Nordsjaelland, a team that has yet to win a league match. For Chelsea to advance not only do they need to beat Nordsjaelland, they also need Shakhtar Donetsk to defeat Juventus in their final match. Regrettably, star striker Luis Adriano of Shakhtar was suspended from his final bout for scoring an unsporting goal. In his match against Nordsjaelland, Adriano charged down the pitch and scored while an opponent was injured. Adrino had prevented a Shakhtar defender from kicking the ball off the pitch so the injured player could be substituted and this poor sportsmanship and the resulting suspension has cut Shakhtar’s chances of toppling Juventus from slim to just about nil.
Real Madrid, the likely favorite of Group D, has hardly been dominating. Madrid sits at 2-2-1, trailing undefeated Borussia Dortmund in the standings. Madrid has won the Champions league nine times and managed to keep Manchester City from advancing
after a close 1-1 draw that Madrid finished a man down. Madrid admits that their recent performance has left some to be desired, but the team is confident that they will be able to leave their mark in the knockout rounds. Manchester City has been a downright disappointment with no wins, three draws and two losses. F.C. Porto leads the Champions League in Group A with four wins, one draw and no losses. F.C. Barcelona is holding on to a healthy lead in Group G at 4-0-1 and is
expected to be a powerhouse throughout
Of the 32 Champions League teams, only one is without a point. GNK Dinamo Zagreb of Croatia sits at 0-0-5 with 0 goals for and 13 goals against. They face Dynamo Kyiv of Ukraine for their final match. Kyiv is 1-1-3 and out of knockout round contention, so Zagreb still has hope to net a single victory when they host Kyiv at home on December 4. On the
flipside, Borussia Dortmund and F.C. Porto remain undefeated, both at 4-1-0. Dortmund will face Manchester City (0-3-2) at Home, while Porto will face a much more competitive Paris Saint-Germain (4-0-1) in Paris. If Manchester City continues to play the way they have been, then Dortmund can be quite confident in holding on to the undefeated label, but Porto may have their hands full in Paris.
The top two teams from each of the eight groups (A through H) will advance to the knockout round which begins in early February. Of the 16 slots, only three are still up for grabs. Romanian club 1907 Cluj and Turkish Galatasaray A.S. are tied with seven points each in Group H, but Cluj faces Manchester United for their final match while Galatasary faces the winless SC Baga in Brazil. Alternatively, we can safely expect to see F.C. Porto, Paris Saint-Germain, F.C. Schalke, Arsenal, Malaga, A.C. Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayern Munchen, Valencia, Manchester United and F.C. Barcelona in the knockout rounds. The remaining three slots will likely go to Celtic, Chelsea and Galatasary. Each competitor in the UEFA Champions League is only one match away from the knockout round of 16. It is certainly too early to start picking champions, but by the looks of it F.C. Porto, F.C. Barcelona and Manchester United F.C. will be among the standouts as we inch closer to the May 2013 finals.
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