Champions League 2012: Complete Guide to Wednesday's Group-Stage Matches

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IINovember 20, 2012

Champions League 2012: Complete Guide to Wednesday's Group-Stage Matches

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    If Tuesday's Champions League action was anything to go by, then we're in for some fascinating football in the European competition on Wednesday.

    Not that the most prestigious tournament in the world wasn't already going to be brilliant, but with the added drama and pressure of knowing that one goal could be the difference between qualification and elimination, it's definitely drama-filled football at its finest.

    Wednesday sees a plethora of fascinating matches, including Premier League clubs Arsenal and Manchester City fighting for their survival in the Champions League, as well as AC Milan looking to wrap up their spot in the final 16 of the tournament.

    Read on for a complete guide to all of Wednesday's Champions League action.

Zenit St. Petersburg vs. Malaga

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    Wednesday, 21 November, 2012 at noon ET

    Stadion Petrovski, St Petersburg, Russia

    Zenit St. Petesburg came into the Champions League with plenty of potential given their strong summer transfer window, but have failed to really get anything going, winning just one game from their opening four matches.

    The Russian club have been poor throughout the tournament, but find themselves still in with a great chance to qualify through to the knockout rounds, providing they can get a result at home here against Spanish powerhouse Malaga.

    Normally, this one would seem like an easy call to make: Victory for Malaga. But there is far more to this match than meets the eye.

    First off is the fact that the Spanish club have already qualified, meaning that they don't need any points from this match. They may be tempted to rest a stack of players, and having seen Manchester United do the same thing and get beat by Galatasaray on Tuesday, the same thing could apply here for Malaga.

    Also, keep in mind this is in Russia. The closer it gets to winter, the more ridiculous it is to play Russian sides at home, simply because of the difficult climate and journey. 

    I'm calling upset here. Not because Zenit are that good, but more because I can't see Malaga wanting to invest too much on a cold night in St. Petersburg that, ultimately, doesn't matter.

    Zenit St. Petersburg 1, Malaga 0

Anderlecht vs. AC Milan

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    Wednesday, 21 November, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. ET

    Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Brussels, Belgium

    One of the more riveting matches in the Champions League is that between AC Milan and Anderlecht, who are essentially playing for a spot in the final 16 of the tournament.

    A win for Milan would ensure their qualification, whilst a win for Anderlecht sees them needing to hope that Milan lose to Zenit or that they can beat Malaga, a club that will have nothing to play for in the final rounds, as already mentioned.

    The two sides played out a scoreless draw when they met at the San Siro over two months ago now, but much has changed since then—particularly the play of Milan.

    The Italian giants were brave on the road to Malaga and picked up a vital point against them last week and will take plenty of confidence into this match against Anderlecht.

    Having said that, the Belgian club picked up their first win of the competition at home last week against Zenit and will be trying to ride the momentum from that win here, with the home fans garnering great support behind their Champions League dreamers.

    Will it be enough to get a result? Not in my eyes. But it will be close.

    Anderlecht 1, AC Milan 2

Ajax vs. Borussia Dortmund

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    Wednesday, 21 November, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. ET

    Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands

    Borussia Dortmund have been simply superb through the Champions League group matches, showing that they are indeed the team to beat in the tournament this year, having seemingly triumphed against a group of champion teams.

    However, they are not yet through to the round of 16 and enter this match against Ajax looking to shore up that position, with the Dutch champions looking to keep their qualification dreams alive.

    Ajax were strong at home against Manchester City, but were dusted up when Real Madrid came to town, and with the attacking prowess currently existent at Dortmund, it's hard to see anything but a similar result taking place here for the German side.

    They managed a tough 1-0 victory over Ajax when they met two months ago, but with their spot in the final 16 available, there's simply no way that Dortmund will slip up and let this fall. Not after all the hard work they've done against City and Madrid.

    Ajax 1, Borussia Dortmund 3

Manchester City vs. Real Madrid

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    Wednesday, 21 November, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. ET

    Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England

    In what is easily the most fascinating match of them all in Matchday 5, defending English champions Manchester City will look to keep their Champions League dream alive when they take on Spanish champions Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.

    The two sides played out a brilliant 3-2 Madrid victory last time they met, and since then, City haven't won a single fixture in the Champions League—picking up just two draws—to leave them on the brink of an early exit in the European competition.

    They are at home, then, in a must-win match against one of the premier sides in world football. I mean, does it get any bigger than this for City this year?

    They've risen to the top of the Premier League with a string of solid performances and haven't been beaten yet in the domestic competition, largely due in part to their strong home form. Granted, they haven't won at home in the Champions League yet, but having had several weeks to prepare for this one, you wonder whether Roberto Mancini's men are up for a fight.

    The Citizens are missing some key players defensively, which will no doubt help Los Blancos, who really don't need any assistance in attack. City do have the firepower to fight back, but they lack the final punch to stop that last goal or get the job done against a top team, something that will ultimately prove to be their undoing in this one.

    This one could be one of the best Champions League matches ever.

    Manchester City 3, Real Madrid 3

Porto vs. Dinamo Zagreb

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    Wednesday, 21 November, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. ET

    Estádio do Dragão, Porto, Portugal

    By contrast, Porto against Dinamo Zagreb is the perfect example of a meaningless game, for neither side can do anything in the competition.

    Porto have already qualified after picking up a 0-0 draw against Dynamo Kyiv last week, whilst Dinamo Zagreb know they cannot qualify for the final 16, having been beaten by Paris St. Germain.

    So expect Porto to rest a bunch of players here as they take on a club that is yet to pick up a point—or even a single goal—in the competition so far. 

    And even with players out, still expect the home side to pick up the points. Zagreb have been incredibly disappointing in the group stages of the competition and simply haven't been able to muster any real purpose or direction in attack so far.

    By contrast, Porto have allowed just two goals in their four matches—all of which came away from home in Ukraine—and haven't been beaten in the competition to date.

    Even with players out, the Portuguese club will be too strong.

    Porto 2, Dinamo Zagreb 1

Dynamo Kyiv vs. Paris St. Germain

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    Wednesday, 21 November, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. ET

    NSK Olimpiyskyi, Kyiv, Ukraine

    Dynamo Kyiv are playing for their Champions League future against Paris St. Germain, needing a win against the French powerhouse to keep their qualification dreams alive.

    They were swiftly beaten 4-1 by Paris St. Germain when they met in the opening round of the competition, but that was in France, and with the home ground advantage now in their favor, you think that Dynamo Kyiv might have a bit more of a chance here.

    They did, after all, hold group leaders Porto to a draw last week at home, the only team to take points off the Portuguese club in the tournament this season.

    The Ukrainian club aren't terribly strong away from home, but in front of their fans, they have been a lot better in the competition and haven't yet been beaten in the tournament. By contrast, PSG have managed just one win and a draw through their away fixtures to date, possibly opening the door for an upset to take place here.

    Only that I can't see it happening. PSG have invested too much money into progressing in this competition, and now standing on the cusp of qualification, are too organized and powerful to let this opportunity slip through their fingers.

    They might not get the full three points, but I can't see them losing. Not when they have this much to play for, and not when they still have the master himself on hand.

    Dynamo Kyiv 1, Paris St. Germain 1 

Arsenal vs. Montpellier

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    Wednesday, 21 November, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. ET

    Emirates Stadium, London, England

    Arsenal have come under a lot of criticism this year—both in England and in Europe—for their performances throughout both competitions. Now, they have a chance to prove their doubters wrong and progress through to the final 16 of the Champions League.

    Fresh off a huge 5-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the North London Derby on the weekend, the Gunners will be looking to get out to an early lead again here against French club Montpellier, who have failed to really get going in the tournament yet.

    Montpellier should have picked up at least a draw when they played against Arsenal back on Matchday 1, but let that opportunity slip away with some poor finishing. 

    Now, without the home-ground advantage, I can't see them even coming close to Arsene Wenger's side, who looked to have turned the corner since their last Champions League home game, when they didn't even manage a shot on target against Schalke.

    Olivier Giroud will no doubt be pumped to play his former club, and with some key players returning for the Gunners, they should pick up an easy win here.

    Arsenal 3, Montpellier 0

Schalke vs. Olympiacos

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    Wednesday, 21 November, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. ET

    Stadion Gelsenkirchen, Gelsenkirchen, Germany

    Schalke are yet to be beaten in the Champions League this year and currently lead Group B, but haven't yet secured their spot in the final 16. They can do that with a win at home against Olympiacos, who have proven to be a handful in the tournament this year.

    The Greek side had played well, but were seemingly out of contention until consecutive wins against Montpellier landed them just two points off the German club and back in contention for qualification.

    Olympiacos have scored in all four of their group-stage matches and nearly took points off Schalke when they met two months ago, falling in that one 2-1 in the end. They are strong on the road and will prove to be a much bigger test for Schalke than many are expecting here.

    After all, this is a club that is yet to win at home in the Champions League.

    They squandered a two-goal lead to finish with a 2-2 draw against lowly Montpellier—who finished that match with just 10 men—and also dropped points at home to Arsenal last week. 

    Can that happen again? I'm not completely sure. Olympiacos are good on the road and Schalke are poor at home, but it's hard to go against the German club here.

    They are second in the Bundesliga and on the brink of Champions League qualification. The small picture might suggest a potential upset, but the big picture says that the home side will get the job done and move through to the round of 16 in the process.

    So let's go with that.

    Schalke 3, Olympiacos 1


    What do you think will take place in the Champions League on Wednesday?

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