The Champions League is starting to take shape as clubs enter the latter stages of group play. Reigning champions Bayern Munich, which secured their spot in the knockout rounds on Tuesday, lead the way, but a strong group of other contenders is emerging.
Several of those top squads are in action on Wednesday. Spanish powerhouse Barcelona and last year's runner-up Borussia Dortmund headline a day of action that also includes Chelsea, Arsenal, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Napoli.
Zenit St. Petersburg and Porto got the second part of Matchday 4 underway early. Let's take a glance at the rest of Wednesday's matches before previewing the top fixtures on tap.
Matchday 4 Predictions
|Groups E-H Matchday 4 Predictions|
|Group||Home Club||Road Club||Prediction|
|G||Atletico Madrid||Austria Vienna||3-0|
All matches start at 2:45 p.m. ET/7:45 p.m. GMT.
Picks for Top Matches
Borussia Dortmund vs. Arsenal
Marseille's struggles have made the battle to get out of Group F a tense situation for the other three clubs. Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal, along with Napoli, are all tied with six points, and only two will advance. It makes these head-to-head encounters absolutely crucial.
In the first meeting, a late lapse by Arsenal as they were attempting to push forward with hopes of securing three points at home allowed Robert Lewandowski to score the winner on a counter. It was a huge tally that changed the entire outlook heading into the rematch.
If Dortmund doesn't score that win, Arsenal head to Germany in good shape atop the group. Instead, they arrive at Signal Iduna Park desperate for a draw to avoid falling behind. It's a difficult position for the Premier League leaders.
Despite the loss, Arsenal should keep their overall plan the same in the second meeting. They were able to win the possession battle, getting a lot of touches for Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey. Both players have been in good form early in the campaign.
On the flip side, Dortmund have to figure out a way to flip that midfield battle in their favor so they don't have to rely so heavily on the counter. Better performances from Jakub Blaszczykowski and Henrik Mkhitaryan are necessary to make that happen.
It should be another close, hard-fought match, but last season's runner-up holds the slight edge.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 2, Arsenal 1
Barcelona vs. AC Milan
Milan are struggling mightily in Serie A play. They sit in the middle of the table after 11 matches and are already 19 points off the title pace being set by Roma. Amazingly, that poor form hasn't carried over to the Champions League. At least not yet.
The Rossoneri are currently in position to advance from Group H. They went through the group the first time without dropping a match, including a draw with Barcelona where they stood tall along the back line despite losing the possession battle by a consideration margin.
While they were able to secure a draw last time, they can't allow a club with as much talent as Barcelona to control the ball that much in the rematch. Barca didn't capitalize on it last time, but they aren't going to let that many chances slip away twice in a row.
So Milan must rely on more sustained attacks led by a resurgent Kaka and Riccardo Montolivo. If they are able to get the possession at least within a reasonable range, it will drastically increase their chances of at least a draw.
That said, Barcelona are one of the top title contenders for a reason. Even without Lionel Messi in top form, they are one of the most dangerous attacking sides in Europe thanks to players like Neymar and Andres Iniesta, among others.
That talent should shine through as Barcelona picks up the win.
Prediction: Barcelona 2, AC Milan 0