UEFA Champions League 2012: 5 Possible Upsets to Watch Out for in UCL Week 4

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UEFA Champions League 2012: 5 Possible Upsets to Watch Out for in UCL Week 4
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The UEFA Champions League is back for another week, with 32 teams once again doing battle for the greatest prize in European football.

We've been stunned and fascinated by what's taken place in the opening three matches, and it looks set to continue again over the final three group-stage matches as teams try to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament.

But, as is so often the case in world football, the surprising and unexpected could well take place over the next few days in the Champions League. Underdogs could earn victories against the odds, while favorites could fall in results that nobody saw coming.

Looking for an upset in the Champions League this week?

Here's five possible results to watch out for.

 

EuroFootball/Getty Images

5. Anderlecht over Zenit St. Petersburg

It might seem like a little bit of an audacious play early, but the highly favored Russian side are not the easy win that many think they are heading into their match against Belgian side Anderlecht, who currently sit last in Group C.

Anderlecht haven't won a Champions League match at home since 2003 and know that with a loss, their slim chances at qualification for the group stage would become impossible—thus basically ending their European campaign.

This is a team with plenty to play for, and considering that they held Italian powerhouse AC Milan to a scoreless draw in their opening fixture of the Champions League, this is a team with plenty of potential to pick up an upset here—particularly against an exposed Zenit St. Petersburg side.

The Russian club only just managed to defeat the Belgian team last match—and that was on their home ground in Russia. This is in Belgium, on Anderlecht's home ground, and considering that Zenit are yet to score away from home in the tournament this year, that's certainly a big advantage to Anderlecht.

But the big clincher is the news that star summer signing Hulk will not participate in this one after being ruled out due to a hamstring injury (per UEFA).

An exposed side, a long way from home without their best player? Sounds like the perfect opportunity for a Belgian ambush by Anderlecht.

 

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

4. Spartak Moscow over Benfica

If we're going to be brutally honest here, I have absolutely no idea why Benfica are starting favorites over Spartak Moscow—even if they are at home in this one.

The Portuguese side are yet to record a win in the tournament so far, and lost to their Russian opponents in their previous match, albeit in Russia.

Benfica have only scored one goal all tournament—despite pushing Celtic and Barcelona in their respective fixtures—and simply lack the attacking edge required to be considered a "sure thing" at home in the UEFA Champions League this season.

They're currently lagging in last place, with a trip to Barcelona still pending, and look all but gone as potential qualifiers through to the Champions League group stage.

Spartak Moscow, on the other hand, are just one point off second-placed Celtic, and know that a result here would most likely move them into second place in the group, given that Celtic have to play Spanish giants Barcelona this week.

 

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

3. Malaga over AC Milan

There is little doubt that Malaga is one of the hottest teams in world football, and also one of the hottest teams in the UEFA Champions League this season.

The Spanish side didn't concede a single goal throughout the play-offs for the prestigious tournament, and are the only team that hasn't conceded a goal in the group stages either—winning all three of their matches so far in the process.

And considering they're up against an AC MIlan outfit that simply doesn't look itself in either the Serie A or the Champions League this year, there's a real chance that Malaga continue their winning (and defensively dominant) ways again in this one.

Milan currently sit mid-table in their domestic competition and have already lost three times at the San Siro this year—almost losing to lowly Anderlecht in their opening group-stage match earlier in the tournament.

Malaga has already beaten their Italian opponents in their previous leg, and while that was only by a one-goal margin, the Spanish side are simply too hot and too strong to count out of any fixture—especially against teams they have already shown they can beat.

Milan aren't traveling well; Malaga are. It's as simple as that.

 

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

2. Arsenal over Schalke

After watching Arsenal simply roll over and die when they played Schalke at the Emirates Stadium in their last Champions League encounter, you could be forgiven for thinking that the prediction of them toppling the German side—in Germany—was a little insane.

That perhaps looks even more ridiculous when you consider that Schalke have only lost two of their last 12 Champions League matches, combined with the fact that Arsenal have only won three of their last 13 away matches in any competition.

Trust me, I'm well aware how bizarre this sounds.

But after watching the Gunners' lackluster effort against Manchester United in the Premier League during the week, don't be surprised if Arsene Wenger's men come out here and make a statement that they are still the real deal this season.

They were reduced to 10 men at Old Trafford and only had one shot on target all match, but still only lost by one goal—a result I'm sure Wenger will be using to both encourage and motivate his players, and convince them that they can still win matches without playing their best football.

The Gunners proved they can earn the three points away from home despite playing poorly already this year, with a 2-1 victory over Montpellier in the Champions League perhaps both underserved and not a good reflection of the match itself.

Going into Germany and toppling a side that simply overran them last time is certainly a step up from that, but if the North London club are going to try and make a statement both domestically and across Europe, this is the match they need to do it in.

Don't be surprised if Arsenal don't come very close to a confidence-boosting and inspiring victory in Germany this week.

 

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

1. Borussia Dortmund over Real Madrid

But the hot upset tip for the week is Borussia Dortmund over Real Madrid—arguably the most anticipated fixture on the schedule for this week.

The German champions have stormed their way to the top of Group D—the strongest group in the competition—with a thrilling 2-1 victory over Madrid in Germany two weeks ago, giving the club one of their more memorable results in a long time.

And whilst Jose Mourinho's side will no doubt be geared up for revenge, and have the added advantage of playing this one at the Bernabeu, it's not completely out of the question to think that the reigning German champions can get the job done once more.

They've already proven they can perform at tough away fixtures in the Champions League—unlucky not to earn all three points when they played Manchester City at the Etihad—and have shown they have what it takes to topple the Spanish kings.

Granted, Madrid have won eight straight at home and Dortmund haven't won away in the Champions League in nine years of competition, but there is little doubting the momentum and belief that is currently riding through the Dortmund camp.

The same thing happened with Bayern Munich last year, who went to Madrid in the semi-finals of the competition and picked up a result when few expected them to. Dortmund, with the same German belief, could well do the same again here.

 

What's your upset predictions for the Champions League this week?

Comment below or hit me up on Twitter:  

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