Champions League 2012: Predicting Teams That Will Emerge from 'Group of Death'

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2012

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 03:  Gonzalo Higuain (2ndR) of Real Madrid CF celebrates their first goal with teammates Cristiano Ronaldo (R), Mezut Ozil (2ndL) and Sergio Ramos (L) during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Zaragoza at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 3, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

With two matches remaining for each club in Group D, which was given the tournament's "Group of Death" label, nothing has been decided. That should lead to plenty of drama, as only two teams can advance to the knockout stages.

As it stands now, Borussia Dortmund leads the way with eight points, followed closely by Real Madrid with seven. Ajax is in third, four points off the pace, and Manchester City has been a major disappointment, but remains alive for the time being.

The Borussians are riding high after earning four points in back-to-back matches with Madrid, an impressive accomplishment for any squad. They have to make sure complacency isn't allowed to set in, however. Nothing has been locked up yet.

Dortmund finishes group play with a match against City, which isn't pleased after letting several opportunities slip away already during the tournament, so the last thing they want is to need a result heading into that match.

It makes the next match against Ajax crucial for both sides. The Dutch champions were widely viewed as the odd team out in the group, but have managed to remaining within striking distance, mostly thanks to Manchester City's struggles.

Captain Siem De Jong, who scored twice on Tuesday to give Ajax an early lead before City fought back, has done a terrific job of making sure his team didn't get blown out of the water like some expected. A road trip to Madrid for the group finale is probably too much to overcome, though.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. are still the group favorites. Los Blancos are still searching for the form that allowed them to become La Liga champions last season, but their recent results suggest they are getting closer.

As long as Madrid is able to earn at least a point against the struggling Citizens the next time out, the club will be in great shape heading into that final match with Ajax.

Things aren't as promising for City. Although a glimmer of hope remains, the number of paths available is extremely small. Everything would have to fall exactly perfect in order for them to dig out of their early hole, and that's simply unlikely to happen.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see the defending Premier League winners make a run at it, but ultimately, the Citizens are likely to fall short of their UCL goals.

The clubs currently in the top two spots hold on, only to flip spots.

Prediction: 1. Real Madrid 2. Borussia Dortmund