UEFA Champions League Wednesday: Barcelona, Manchester United, Inter Milan Seek Control Of Their Groups

As much as Tuesday's UEFA Champions League action was about first-versus-second in groups E through H, it was also about clubs taking control of their groups, with Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Arsenal staying perfect through three rounds, applying rear naked chokes to their respective groups. On Wednesday, the tournament's last three champions look to do the same, with the day's most intriguing match-up seeing the holders, Inter Milan, welcoming Tottenham Hotspur to the San Siro.

Beyond performances from perennial powers, Wednesday's matches will be about redemption. Werder Bremen was expected to compete for second in Group A, but having been routed at the San Siro after being drawn by Spurs in Bremen, Werder needs to beat FC Twente to keep their knock-out round hopes alive. Benfica were Group B's favorites, but losing to Schalke's forced reconsideration. Formerly Group C-leading Valencia lost at the Mestalla to then-struggling Manchester United, while (in Group D) Panathinaikos seeks to revitalize hopes against Rubin Kazan.

Each of those clubs had knock-out round expectations, but losses on Wednesday could shift some foci to Europa League.

Group A

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
Italy Internazionale 2 1 1 0 6 2 +4 4
England Tottenham Hotspur 2 1 1 0 6 3 +3 4
Netherlands Twente 2 0 1 1 3 6 −3 1
Germany Werder Bremen 2 0 1 1 2 6 −4 1
  • Samuel Eto'o is tied for the tournament lead in goals scored (four) and is going against a Spurs defense that - and I know this is going to shock you - lost Ledley King to injury on Saturday. Spurs will also be without Rafeal van der Vaart, suspended after picking-up a red card against Twente, so while Tottenham could normally come close to matching Inter's talent, Wednesday will see them hamstrung.
  • In ten matches this season (Bundesliga and Champions League), Werder's allowed 23 goals. Twente isn't normally associated with firepower, but with Marko Janic and Theo Janssen recovered from injury, Michel Preud'homme will have a full team (to go with home pitch) as he tries to keep knock-out round hopes alive.
Group B

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
France Lyon 2 2 0 0 4 1 +3 6
Germany Schalke 04 2 1 0 1 2 1 +1 3
Portugal Benfica 2 1 0 1 2 2 0 3
Israel Hapoel Tel Aviv 2 0 0 2 1 5 −4 0
  • Though Benfica may have already let Porto get too far away in Portugal, their recent win over Braga shows they may be back on track. While Lyon's had even more troubles in France, sitting in 14th place, the raw talent on the pitch at Stade Gerland will justify our attention. With the teams having combined for eight goals in their respective weekend matches, that talent may be ready to assert itself Wednesday.
  • Conversely, Schalke's talent is still in hiding. Though they defeated Benfica in Gelsenkirchen last round, they've been unable to build any momentum in league. Granted, the Royal Blues are no longer in the relegation zone, having climbed all the way to 16th place, but if they were playing somebody other than Hapoel Tel Aviv on Sunday, you'd expect them to struggle. As is, Schalke will still be second at day's end.
Group C

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
England Manchester United 2 1 1 0 1 0 +1 4
Scotland Rangers 2 1 1 0 1 0 +1 4
Spain Valencia 2 1 0 1 4 1 +3 3
Turkey Bursaspor 2 0 0 2 0 5 −5 0
  • Wayne Rooney or not, Manchester United should have no trouble against Bursaspor, whose first Champions League experience continues to be a learning one. In Wednesday's match at Old Trafford, the Red Devils shouldn't have any trouble with Turkey's champions (and leaders). Particularly after losing in Glasgow, Bursa's yet to show they know how to manage Champions League.
  • For a couple of Valencia players, this will be their second trip to Scotland in a week, the Spanish national team having won 2-3 at Hampden Park last Tuesday.  Against Walter Smith's five defenders, Los Che will have to be much more aggressive than they were last match day against United, barely threatening their visitors at the Mestalla.
Group D

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
Denmark Copenhagen 2 2 0 0 3 0 +3 6
Spain Barcelona 2 1 1 0 6 2 +4 4
Russia Rubin Kazan 2 0 1 1 1 2 −1 1
Greece Panathinaikos 2 0 0 2 1 7 −6 0
  • Barcelona saw Xavi Hernández, David Villa and Pedro Rodriguez return for this weekend's win over Valencia, though only the last two are probables for Wednesday match at the Nou Camp. Barcelona goes into the game in second place, with Copenhagen surprisingly perfect through two rounds. While Barcelona lost to Rubin Kazan at a similar point in last year's tournament, the Blaugrana will use Wednesday's match to vault back into first.
  • At the onset of Group D play, pundits seemed split in picking Rubin or Pana for Group D's second place. Now, each are five points behind Copenhagen, and while the Lions' trip to Camp Nou could serve as a chance for one team to close that gap, the more likely result in Athens sees each club earning a point. Perhaps the teams will realize that, though even if they do, it's unclear which side can take three points.
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