When the Champions League draw comes up each year, you can bet soccer fans go through it and make predictions, pencil in teams guaranteed to advance to the quarterfinals and take pity on those teams who find themselves in "the group of death."
But each year there are surprising upstarts, talented teams that choke and more than a few results that turn heads around Europe.
With the first wave of games having been played in the group stage, which teams have been major disappointments and enter the fourth game of group play desperately needing a win, or at least a positive result? Which squads came in with high expectations but are now in danger of failing to move on to the next round?
Let's take a look at a few sides that need to shape up or get out.
AC Milan may be sitting in second place in Group C with four points, but when they face Malaga, a chance to win the group will be on the line.
The Spanish side has won its first three games and only needs a tie to all but guarantee a spot in the next round. But they face a Rossoneri side that has taken seven points in its last three Serie A games after losing five of its first eight games in the league.
AC Milan aren't going to win the Serie A this year, but they still are capable of going on a run in the Champions League. A win over Malaga would be a nice start in that direction.
Manchester City may be in by far the toughest group in Champions League play, but that's no excuse for last season's Premier League champions to take just one point—and a point they probably didn't deserve, at that—in their first three matches against Group D competition.
Now, it's win or bust for Man City. The team is certainly capable of beating Ajax at home, and they'll likely hope Borussia Dortmund can knock off Real Madrid or the two teams tie to keep them within striking distance of qualifying for the next round.
Manchester City's poor play in the Champions League is inexcusable. If the team can't turn it around, you can bet a whole lot of folks in Manchester will have quite the bitter taste in their mouths for the next year.
On one hand, it's hard to say Juventus played poorly in their first three games. Yes, you would expect the Italian champions to win at least one match, but give them credit for at least earning a draw in each one.
On the other hand, other than Chelsea you would think Juventus could more easily handle the likes of FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Nordsjaelland, yet that simply hasn't been the case.
Now, Juventus need a win against Nordsjaelland to make sure they keep pace as group-leaders Shakhtar (seven points) and Chelsea (four points) face off.
The Bianconeri will not be a happy side entering this game, however, as Inter ended their 49-game unbeaten streak in Serie A play over the weekend. Unfortunately for Nordsjaelland, they are likely to bear the brunt of Juventus' frustration as the Italian side looks to finally get a win in Champions League play this year.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets aren't afraid to get emotional after a big win.
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