We’ll look over the results of Tuesday’s matches along with Wednesday’s matches in one big wrap-up article on Thursday. For now, we’re going to preview matches in Groups A through D.
We start with Liverpool where coach Rafa Benitez has been pestering club owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett about sanctioning more transfer activity in January. The owners have told him they will not discuss any plans until they arrive on Merseyside for the match against fierce rivals Manchester United on December 16. Liverpool are coming off a 3-0 win at Newcastle. This should tempt Benitez to field an unchanged line-up but don’t bet on it. Both clubs have the bulk of their squads to choose from and will both field stong lineups. Porto arrive at Anfield at the top of their domestic league and an unbeaten record in the Champions League as well. With all the talk about Liverpool and their managerial-ownership drama, now is a great time for Porto to come in and get a result. I think they will scrap for a draw in this one as the Reds have not had a great home record this season thus far and Porto know how to keep a game tight when they need to get a point.
Despite the 8-0 blowout they suffered against Liverpool on the last Matchday, Be?ikta? still have plenty to play for against Marseille. They are currently bottom on three points but a win for Be?ikta? combined with a Liverpool win would mean that all four teams go into the final round of games separated by just two points. A victory for Marseille combined with a Porto loss will take them back to the top of the group. Marseille are likely going to play a packed midfield and look to counter-attack through pacy players such as Samir Nasri, Mathieu Valbuena and Djibril Cissé. However, too conservative an approach could be fatal as the home crowd will defintely be an advantage for Be?ikta?.
In Group B, a resurgent Chelsea will be looking to prove a point against Rosenborg. The Norwegian side, currently second in the group, held Chelsea to a draw at Stamford Bridge and will look for at least the same result at home on Wednesday. However, Rosenborg have not played a competitive game for three weeks due to their season finishing ahead of the cold northern winter. Their players could be lacking match sharpness and would present Chelsea with an advantage. Weather could be a factor in this game as the temperature at kickoff is forecasted to be hovering around the freezing point and there is a chance of rain/snow. Under those conditions it could be a very turgid match and a draw is not an unreasonable expectation. The other wildcard will be the fitness of Chelsea striker Didier Drogba. He’s their most reliable source of goals and if not fit they’ll need to rely on the inconsistent Kalou and Shevchenko.
The other matchup in Group B should see Valencia put out of the misery by Schalke. I won’t be so bold as to say that Schalke will win the match but a draw is quite possible considering Valencia’s recent form. The pressure is on Valencia as they know that anything less than a win will end their hopes of progressing to the knockout phase. Schalke will take some comfort from the fact that they have won the only Champions League game they have played in Spain, beating Mallorca 4-0 in 2001.