To use a golf analogy, the teams in the group stage of the Champions League make the turn today and tomorrow with the completion of the first three games of the group stage. And while it’s early, for some teams, it’s make-or-break time.
Group by group, here’s an analysis of who needs to win:
ROMA Needs To Win: Misery may love company, but it seems to love Roma too. Last weekend’s humbling 4-0 home defeat to Inter Milan is hardly the way Roma wanted to head into the lion’s den known tomorrow as Stamford Bridge. Roma also had to shudder at Chelsea’s 5-0 smashing of Middlesborough with what essentially a B team. Still, a good result keeps Roma in the hunt. And you can bet that Roma hopes Cluj wakes up from its dream campaign in Europe soon.
ANORTHOSIS Needs To Win: Yes the team from Cyprus, y’know, those guys who are leading Group B. Anorthosis has a win and a draw over Bremen and Panathinaikos, but its most crucial match is today against Inter at the San Siro. Mourinho says his team is cautious about the match, and well it should be. Minnows can bite, especially in a tournament such as this; over-confidence is a killer.
SPORTING and SHAKTAR Need To Win: If ESPN had any stones, this would be the match it would televise on Wednesday. This match, as well as the return leg in Lisbon on Nov. 4 will surely be bookend epic battles. These two are fighting for second behind Barcelona in the group, with Basel already all but an afterthought. Both clubs have 3 points. Sporting pounded Basel a month ago, while Shaktar lost a heartbreaker to Barcelona. Sporting may suffer from its lack of meaningful activity coming into this one due to the international break and having played only a domestic cup match.
PSV EINDHOVEN Needs To Win: With Marseille on the docket today and the Frech club less than inspired, Eindhoven needs a precious three points tomorrow to keep pace with Liverpool and Atletico–two teams in top form right now. A draw does neither Eindhoven nor Marseille any good. Liverpool and Atletico meanwhile, has the makings of a classic, though Liverpool could be dragged down by injuries.
CELTIC Needs To Win: With Manchester United finding its pace–surprise surprise that it coincides with Ronaldo finding his form and Rooney finding the back of the net–Celtic cannot be looking forward to today’s trip to Old Trafford. Celtic has one point from the first two matches, and cannot afford to lose today and be six points–or two matches–behind United with three to play. The math, in that case, just does work in Celtic’s favor, especially with Villareal having a sitter today against AaB.
FIORENTINA Needs To Win: Fiorentina has an opportunity today to make waves in this group with its visit against shaken Bayern Munich. Fiorentina has two points from two matches, even with Lyon, which figures to get a result against Steaua Bucharesti today. Bayern is struggling, having taken only three points from its last four matches in Germany. It leads this group with four points. A Fiorentina win certainly makes the final three matches much more interesting. Fiorentina is three points out in Serie A and has won three in a row.
FC PORTO Needs To Win: If for no other reason than confidence in this group, Porto needs to win today at home against Dynamo Kyiv. Porto has regained the lead in the Portuguese first division, but its 4-0 drubbing last time out at Arsenal was humbling and revealing. Porto is vulnerable and cannot afford another slip, especially with an Arsenal win today basically pushing the Gunners through to the next round.
ZENIT St. PETERSBURG Needs To Win: The darling UEFA Cup winners of 2007-2008 desperately need to get going in this group. With zero points from two matches, Zenit certainly welcomes Bate Borisov today to Russia. With Juventus hosting Real Madrid, Zenit quickly needs to close the gap on the top two, or else it will indeed be defending its UEFA Cup triumph–maybe.