MATCHDAY four could be the point at which some clubs find qualification for the next phase impossible. Who will be the biggest name to find themselves exiled to the Europa League or even without European football beyond their group?
Group E: AC Milan – Chelsea; Dinamo Zagreb – Red Bull Salzburg
Nobody is taking control of this group yet, although if AC Milan and Chelsea draw in the San Siro, a win for Salzburg can put some breathing space between themselves and the big two. Chelsea and Milan both need to avoid defeat to set themselves up for the final two games, so this could be a tense, tight affair. Chelsea are in good spirit, despite losing Kante and Ziyech from their squad through injury. They’ve won their last two games by 3-0, against Milan and Wolves, so it looks like Graham Potter is getting his feet under the table at Stamford Bridge. Milan won the big game of the weekend in Italy, beating Juventus 2-0 and are in the mix at the top of Serie A. Austrian champions Salzburg won 3-2 in their last game against Altach, but Zagreb had a blank weekend. A defeat in the Croatian capital will probably put Dinamo out of contention.
Group F: Celtic – RB Leipzig; Shakhtar Donetsk – Real Madrid
Celtic could be on the brink of elimination if they lose at home to Leipzig having only earned a single point so far in the group phase. They may have to face the German side without Portuguese winger Jota, who was injured against St. Johnstone, a game that saw Celtic win 2-1. Leipzig, who appear to be picking up after a poor start to the season, drew 1-1 at Mainz, with in-form striker Christopher Nkunku scoring once more. Leipzig should also have Timo Werner in their line-up after he fell ill at the weekend. Shakhtar Donetsk host Real Madrid in Warsaw, determined that the recent escalation in the war with Russia will not undermine their morale. Real are in second place in La Liga, level on points with leaders Barcelona. They won 1-0 at local rivals Getafe in their last game. They have yet to concede a goal in the Champions League and are poised to clinch qualification to the last 16.
Group G: FC Copenhagen – Manchester City; Borussia Dortmund – Sevilla
This group is now a battle between Manchester City and Dortmund for top spot, although City with their awesome goal machine, Erling Haaland have to be favourites. City are firing on all cylinders and beat Southampton 4-0 at the weekend. They have a big game coming up after their trip to Copenhagen with an away game at Liverpool. It remains to be seen if Pep Guardiola may decide to rest one or two players at Parken. FCK drew 1-1 with league leaders Nordsjaelland in their last game and they’re still way behind in the league table. Dortmund came back from two-down against Bayern Munich in front of 81,000 people in their last Bundesliga fixture. They are up against a struggling Sevilla side that is now under new management after Julen Lopetegui was recently sacked. Jorge Sampaoli has been named as his successor. Victory for Dortmund will eliminate Sevilla and will leave them to fight out a Europa League place with Copenhagen.
Group H: Maccabi Haifa – Juventus; Paris Saint-Germain – Benfica
The pressure continues to build on Juventus coach Max Allegri after his side were beaten 2-0 against Milan. Juventus had their chances, but they clearly lack goal power. Juve cannot afford a slip-up in Isreal where they will be confronted by an intense atmosphere at the Sami Ofer stadium. Meanwhile, in Paris, Benfica will be hoping to maintain their Champions League form against PSG which has pushed two of their players, Antonio Silva and Odysseas Vlachodimos into the spotlight. Both are being watched closely by Premier League clubs. PSG will be without the injured Lionel Messi. PSG drew 0-0 in Reims at the weekend, with Sergio Ramos sent off. There are still persistent rumours about the strained relationship between Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, in fact some suggest the former is looking to leave the club.