Champions League Matchday 6: Key Battles to Watch

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2012

Champions League Matchday 6: Key Battles to Watch

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    With 13 of the 16 places in the next phase of the Champions League already taken, some of the bigger games carry less significance, as the group stages stutter towards a climax perhaps more suited to sparklers than fireworks.

    Where Manchester City's trip to Borussia Dortmund should be the pick of the fixtures, the early elimination, for the second year running, of Roberto Mancini's side means it does not carry as much excitement as a match involving the champions of England and the champions of Germany warrants.

    Instead it is on Wednesday night when there is business to be finished. With three places up for grabs there are still six sides hoping for a shot at Barcelona, Manchester United and the rest of Europe's elite in the last sixteen.

    Let's take a look at where qualification will be won and lost this week...

Fernando Torres vs. Himself

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    With pressure continuing to build, El Niño could find himself subject to more scrutiny than ever before should he fail to help Chelsea's hopes for a Champions League miracle against Nordsjaelland at Stamford Bridge.

    Of course, it will render irrelevant if Shakhtar Donetsk do not beat Juventus, but that won't prevent the heavy criticism that will follow should the Spaniard fail to register against the Danish side, who head into the game with a goal difference of -13.

    Against West Ham he looked, more than ever, a shadow of his former self. Despite assisting Juan Mata's goal in the first half he never looked comfortable on the ball and his movement off it was patchy at best.

    Labelled a 'confidence player' by old Coach Gregorio Manzano, if this game doesn't breathe some back into him then even his most ardent supporters will struggle to fight for his cause—especially if it means Chelsea dropping into the Europa League at Juventus' expense.

Burak Yilmaz vs. Osorio Alan

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    As expected, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi top the Champions League scorers chart with five goals. Unexpectedly, they are joined by Galatasaray's Burak Yilmaz and Braga's Osorio Alan—the two meet in Portugal on Wednesday.

    The added pressure is on Yilmaz, as his side are one of the six still hopeful of advancing to the knockout rounds. The Turkish side need to at least equal the result of CFR Cluj—who meet Manchester United at Old Trafford—if they want to ensure their progression.

    Alan can afford to approach the game in a more laid-back manner. Braga sit bottom of the group, four points behind Cluj and Galatasaray, who are both on seven points. If the Romanians provide a shock in England, then the need for Yilmaz to score will be greater than ever.

Celtic vs. Benfica

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    This is one of the biggest battles of the final match day, with the caveat that they don't actually play each other.

    Both clubs are locked on seven points, but the Portuguese side boast a better head to head record, meaning that if they match Celtic's result they will advance. The only problem is they face a daunting trip to Barcelona.

    Having already lost 2-0 to the Catalans in Portugal, they will, in all likelihood, need to win at a ground where no side has left with three points this season. They will seek hope in the fact that Tito Vilanova may tinker with his side, with the top spot in the group already confirmed.

    In Scotland, Celtic will be optimistic they can beat Spartak Moscow, having already beat them in Russia. With Victor Wanyama winning no shortage of plaudits and the firepower of Georgios Samaras and Gary Hooper, Neil Lennon's men look a good bet to continue their involvement in the competition.