The Champions League group stage has now reached the business end, with just two games remaining for Europe’s big guns to seal a place in the knockouts.
Four teams have already confirmed their spots in the last-16 in Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Ajax. But for a number of high-profile sides, there’s still a lot of work to do.
Last year it was Chelsea and Manchester City who contested an all-English final, with Kai Havertz giving the former a slender 1-0 victory.
Thomas Tuchel’s side, who sit top of the Premier League table after 12 games, can secure their place in the last-16 against Juventus on Tuesday night, while Pep Guardiola goes head-to-head against potentially Premier League-bound Mauricio Pochettino once more on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Michael Carrick will lead Manchester United into their season-defining crunch fixtures after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign came to an end, and he can seal qualification with a victory on Tuesday.
With just two rounds of fixtures remaining in this year’s Champions League group stage, Sportsmail takes you through the state of play.
The Champions League group stage is at its business end with the knockouts now in sight
Anything but progression to the last-16 for Manchester City would be a total shock, though Guardiola would tell you there’s work still to be done.
They come up against PSG on Wednesday night, needing just a point in their final two outings to officially qualify for the knockouts.
That’s because, even with two victories, Club Brugge would only be able to level points with the Premier League champions, with head-to-head record then coming into play. City beat the Belgians 5-1 and 4-1 earlier in the campaign.
Manchester City need just a point against Paris Saint-Germain to qualify for the last-16
Pep Guardiola (left) and Mauricio Pochettino (right) go head-to-head on Wednesday night
PSG would secure their spot in the knockout stages with either two draws, coming up against Club Brugge in their final outing, or by winning either of their final fixtures.
Meanwhile, both City and PSG will qualify, regardless of their result, should Club Brugge fail to beat RB Leipzig on Wednesday.
The Belgians need two victories to stand any chance of qualification, while RB Leipzig are sat on just one point and are already out.
- November 24: Club Brugge vs RB Leipzig
- November 24: Manchester City vs Paris Saint-Germain
- December 7: Paris Saint-Germain vs Club Grugge
- December 7: RB Leipzig vs Manchester City
Group B is set for an enticing finale, with three teams of huge historical significance still fighting for a runner-up spot.
Liverpool have already secured the title of group winner, however, and will be seeded going into the round of 16 draw. Jurgen Klopp’s side have won all four of their matches to date and can safely rotate as they focus on the Premier League.
Though the battle for second place is intensely close, Porto can secure their progression with an away win at Liverpool on Wednesday, so long as third-placed Atletico Madrid lose to AC Milan.
Four points would ultimately be enough for the Portuguese outfit.
Liverpool have already wrapped up Group B with a perfect record of four wins in four games
Liverpool wrapped up qualification for the knockouts with a 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid
Spanish giants Atletico know they must avoid defeat at home to Milan on Wednesday to keep qualification in their own hands, with a final-day win away at Porto then enough.
Meanwhile, AC Milan know that qualification is only possible with two wins. A loss against Atletico on Wednesday would see even third place – and therefore a Europa League spot – move out of sight.
- November 24: Atletico Madrid vs AC Milan
- November 24: Liverpool vs Porto
- December 7: AC Milan vs Liverpool
- December 7: Porto vs Atletico Madrid
Similarly to Liverpool, Ajax can also relax after securing their place in the knockouts in the first four group stage games.
The Dutch side conceded just two goals as they largely strolled to four wins from four, including a 7-1 aggregate thrashing of Borussia Dortmund in their two clashes.
Dortmund are in a battle for a runner-up spot, though after defeating Sporting CP 1-0 in their home clash, another win in Wednesday’s reverse fixture would see them progress to the knockouts by virtue of head-to-head record.
Ajax are one of four teams who have already confirmed their place in this year’s knockouts
Ajax qualified for the Champions League round of 16 with victory over Borussia Dortmund
A draw would see it go down to the final day, but the German outfit would still have a better head-to-head record, meaning any win against bottom side Besiktas would do.
However, Sporting could also secure their knockout place on Wednesday night should they beat Dortmund by two goals.
Having lost all four of their matches to date, Besiktas’ Champions League hopes are already gone. However, an unlikely two wins from two could see them finish third and thus drop into the Europa League.
- November 24: Besiktas vs Ajax
- November 24: Sporting CP vs Borussia Dortmund
- December 7: Borussia Dortmund vs Besiktas
- December 7: Ajax vs Sporting CP
Real Madrid are in a strong position to qualify for the Champions League knockouts, despite their shock defeat to Sheriff back in September.
Los Blancos have won three of their four games to date and can seal a last-16 spot with victory over Sheriff on Wednesday.
A loss could see Carlo Ancelotti’s side drop to third in the table with just one game remaining, however, with the Moldovan outfit moving ahead via head-to-head record.
Real Madrid can qualify for the knockouts with an away win over Sheriff on Wednesday night
Los Blancos have won three of four fixtures, though suffering a shock defeat against Sheriff
Having already beaten Inter Milan, two draws would be enough for Madrid, who finish their group stages against the Italian giants.
Inter can also qualify with a game to spare on Wednesday, proving they beat Shakhtar Donetsk and Madrid avoid defeat to Sheriff.
Shakhtar still have slim hopes of a Europa League place at least.
- November 24: Inter Milan vs Shakhtar Donetsk
- November 24: Sheriff vs Real Madrid
- December 7: Real Madrid vs Inter Milan
- December 7: Shakhtar Donetsk vs Sheriff
Bayern Munich have comfortably made the knockouts once more, scoring a whopping 17 goals in their four victories to date.
They need a point to officially confirm top spot in Group E, though even if they were to lose both games, Barcelona would have to beat the German giants by four goals to leapfrog them into first place. A seeded place almost certainly awaits.
All eyes are on Barcelona, with Xavi now confirmed as Ronald Koeman’s successor. The legendary midfielder won his first game in charge, beating Real Sociedad 1-0 over the weekend, but now a crunch Champions League affair awaits.
Bayern Munich have already secured qualification, but there’s still work to do for Barcelona
All eyes are on Xavi Hernandez’s Barcelona as they look to qualify for the knockout stages
The Catalan side face third-placed Benfica on Tuesday, knowing a win will take them through to the knockouts. It would put them on nine points and out of reach for the Portuguese side, currently on four.
However, in finishing their group away at Bayern, while Benfica will play at home to bottom side Dynamo Kyiv, they will desperately want to wrap it up at the Nou Camp on Tuesday.
For Benfica, a pair of historic wins in their final two outings would see them progress to the last-16.
Meanwhile, a Europa League spot is the most likely aim for Dynamo Kyiv, though mathematically a last-16 place is still possible.
- November 23: Dynamo Kyiv vs Bayern Munich
- November 23: Barcelona vs Benfica
- December 8: Benfica vs Dynamo Kyiv
- December 8: Bayern Munich vs Barcelona
Michael Carrick’s Manchester United are in a battle for a Champions League knockout place
The table suggests Manchester United are in a genuine battle for a Champions League knockout place – and so they are. However, their task ahead, although not easy, is simple. Beat Villarreal on Tuesday and qualify for the knockouts.
Again, it’s head-to-head record, rather than goal difference, that determines who progresses if two sides are on equal points, meaning Cristiano Ronaldo’s 95th-minute winner at home to Villarreal could now prove crucial.
United can take comfort knowing their final game is at home to bottom side Young Boys, while Villarreal travel to Atalanta. However, they did lose to the Swiss side in the reverse fixture.
Meanwhile, similarly to United, Villarreal can also confirm their qualification on Tuesday night, so long as they beat the Manchester club either 1-0 or by more than two goals.
Should that be the case, United could find themselves in third place come the end of the evening, providing Atalanta beat Young Boys. The Italians simply need two wins to guarantee qualification, though four could be enough should United beat Villarreal.
Young Boys next face a decisive game against Atalanta: win and even a top-two place remains possible; lose and even a Europa League spot is out of the question.
- November 23: Villarreal vs Manchester United
- November 23: Young Boys vs Atalanta
- December 8: Manchester United vs Atalanta
- December 8: Atalanta vs Villarreal
Group G is one of the more open of the eight, with just four points separating RB Salzburg in first and Sevilla, who are surprisingly in fourth having failed to win any of their games.
Plenty of twists and turns are expected yet, however, with Salzburg and Lille going head-to-head on Tuesday night, while Sevilla – who could be second by the end of the night – host Wolfsburg.
Sat two points ahead of Tuesday’s opponents Lille, Salzburg could guarantee qualification with a victory. They would also take top-spot should Wolfsburg fail to beat Sevilla away.
Group G remains entirely up for grabs, with all four teams still in contention to qualify
RB Salzburg can guarantee qualification for the knockouts with victory over Lille on Tuesday
Neither Lille or Wolfsburg can secure qualification on Tuesday but both can both move into the top-two with victories, before they go head-to-head in the final fixture.
Sevilla still have it all to play for, but a loss on Tuesday would see them drop out of the Champions League.
- November 23: Lille vs RB Salzburg
- November 23: Sevilla vs Wolfsburg
- December 8: RB Salzburg vs Sevilla
- December 8: Wolfsburg vs Lille
Qualification for the Champions League last-16 is already all-but decided in Group H, with Juventus through and Chelsea on the verge.
Juventus have been dominant throughout, conceding just two goals in their four impressive victories to date.
The Italian outfit can claim top spot with a point at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, which would ensure them a better head-to-head record.
Juventus are already through, while Chelsea need just a point to secure qualification
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea can secure qualification with a point against Juventus on Tuesday
Meanwhile, Chelsea need just a point to officially progress to the knockouts, but a victory of more than one goal would also see them leapfrog Juventus going into the final game.
Zenit St. Petersburg can still qualify for the knockouts, mathematically anyway. They need to win their remaining two games, including against Chelsea, where they would need to win by at least two goals. Chelsea would also have to lose to Juventus. It seems a Europa League place is more likely.
Meanwhile, Malmo have no chance of qualification for the knockouts, but the Europa League remains a possibility.
When is the Champions League last-16 draw?
The draw for the 2021/22 Champions League round of 16 will take place on December 13.
It will be held at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland and will get underway at 11am in the UK.
The draw will consist of the eight group winners and thus seeded teams and the eight runners-up. The seeded side will play away in the first leg.
No teams from the same nation can be drawn against each other at this stage of the competition.
Champions League key dates
- Round of 16 first legs: February 15-16 & 22-23
- Round of 16 second legs: March 8-9 & 15-16
- Quarter-final and semi-final draw: March 18
- Quarter-final first legs: April 5-6
- Quarter-final second legs: April 12-13
- Semi-final first legs: April 26-27
- Semi-final second legs: May 3-4
- Final: May 28 at the Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg