Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC, who have
been European champions 13 times between them, will both be eliminated
from the UEFA Champions League if results go against them in their final
group stage matches tonight. AS Monaco FC, runners-up to FC Porto in
last season's final, also face the prospect of an early exit when the
remaining four places in the first knockout stage are decided.
Madrid will see their dream of a tenth European title end if they
lose at already eliminated AS Roma in Group B. Madrid are third in the
three-way battle for the two qualifying places behind FC Dynamo Kyiv and
Bayer 04 Leverkusen, who are level on points with Madrid. If Madrid win
they are through no matter what the other outcome is. A draw would only
be enough for Madrid if Dynamo won. If both matches end in draws,
Leverkusen will advance with Dynamo as they have a better head-to-head
record against the Spaniards.
Goals at a premum
There is also a three-way battle in Group A where goals will be at a
premium because Olympiacos PFC, Monaco and Liverpool have such close
goal differences. Olympiacos kick off at Liverpool as group leaders
while Monaco travel to last-placed RC Deportivo La Coruña in second
place. All three could either win the group, finish second or be
eliminated. They could also all finish with ten points - and identical
head-to-head records - in which case goals would determine who advances.
Unlike Madrid and Liverpool, former champions Juventus FC and FC
Bayern Munchen can take a more relaxed approach to their final Group C
matches, having qualified already. However, their opponents Maccabi
Tel-Aviv and AFC Ajax will be doing just the opposite. With Juventus
sure of first place and Bayern second, Ajax and Maccabi are both chasing
a UEFA Cup spot. Ajax hold the advantage with a better head-to-head
record against the Israelis and will go through if both finish with the
same number of points.
The only issue to be decided in Group D is who finishes top out of
Manchester United FC or Olympique Lyonnais, which will determine their
knockout round seedings. Group leaders United are at UEFA Cup-bound
Fenerbahçe SK but Lyon can overtake them if they beat winless AC Sparta
Praha at home and United lose or draw in Turkey.