There is a special tension and excitement to the last group stage game in the UEFA Champions League. To some, of course, the game is a dead rubber; there is little on all of the fixtures faced by three of England’s top clubs, as Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have already qualified for the knockout stage.
The same cannot be said for Manchester United. With a tricky trip to Germany to face RB Leipzig, The Red Devils need to avoid defeat to make it to the promised land and look forward to Champions League rather than Europa League fixtures in the New Year.
Elsewhere, there is the lip-smacking prospect of potentially the last-ever competitive club meeting between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, objectively viewed by many as two of the greatest football players of all-time.
RB Leipzig vs. Manchester United
One of the tightest ties of the final group stage Matchday takes place in Germany as last season’s semi-finalists face off against three-time winners Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side battered Leipzig 5-0 at Old Trafford on Matchday #2 but lost in Turkey against Istanbul Basaksehir and last week’s defeat against PSG has left the English side requiring a point to qualify in Germany.
With Anthony Martial pulling up on Saturday, United could be shorter in attacking options than perhaps they anticipated before performing yet another great escape against West Ham on Saturday evening, but they should still have enough to cause damage to Leipzig on the break, who must win to progress.
Leipzig themselves won 4-3 against Istanbul Basaksehir last time out, but this changes little in terms of their progression; even a draw last time out would have meant the German side need a home win at the 11th hour to escape the group.
At 13/8, Leipzig are slight favourites, with United a best price of 31/18 and the draw 29/10. Of the three options, we prefer the draw, but in-play is where you can take advantage of the swings in play. Both sides have come back from deficits this season on plenty of occasions, and when a side goes behind it might just be the perfect time to back them, whichever side it is. Doing so on the draw and win is a smart way of spreading the investment to cover both eventualities.
Barcelona vs. Juventus
Could this be the final competitive club meeting between the two greatest players of the generation?
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo renew old acquaintances at Camp Nou as Barce host Juve with the top place in the group up for grabs.
With ‘CR7’ out with COVID-19 in the reverse fixture, Messi inspired the Catalan former Champions League winners to a clinical 2-0 victory. With Ronaldo back at the Nou Camp, will the Portuguese player – who is the top scorer in Champions League history – be able to inspire The Old Lady to victory before the fat lady sings?
Ronaldo will need to be at his best, as Juventus will need to win by three goals to take top spot in the group. They’re 5/2 to get a victory of any kind, however, and that could well happen. We’d take those odds against an out of sorts Barce team still heavily in transition under Dutch coach and former Barce defender Ronald Koeman. The 6/5 on offer for Barce to win their sixth straight game in the group aren’t worth taking and the 11/4 for the draw seems to have a lot more value in that respect. If Juventus are to win, they’ll need their talisman to be at his best and Ronaldo to score and Juventus to win is a more appetising 14/5.
Gameweek #6 Fixtures in full:
Tuesday 8th December
Lazio vs. Club Brugge (5.55pm GMT kick-off)
Zenit St. Petersburg vs. Dortmund (5.55pm GMT kick-off)
Barcelona vs. Juventus (8pm GMT kick-off)
Chelsea vs. Krasnodar (8pm GMT kick-off)
Dynamo Kyiv vs. Ferencvaros (8pm GMT kick-off)
PSG vs. Istanbul Basaksehir (8pm GMT kick-off)
RB Leipzig vs, Manchester United (8pm GMT kick-off)
Rennes vs. Sevilla (8pm GMT kick-off)
Wednesday 9th December
Ajax vs. Atalanta (5.55pm GMT kick-off)
FC Midtjylland vs. Liverpool (5.55pm GMT kick-off)
Bayern Munich vs. Lokomotiv Moscow (8pm GMT kick-off)
Inter Milan vs. Shakhtar Donetsk (8pm GMT kick-off)
Manchester City vs. Marseille (8pm GMT kick-off)
Olympiakos vs. Porto (8pm GMT kick-off)
Real Madrid vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (8pm GMT kick-off)
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Atlético Madrid (8pm GMT kick-off)