Champions League knockout stage beckons for perfect quartet
Bayern, Real, PSG and Atletico can all seal place
Holders Bayern Munich and nine-time champions Real Madrid are among a quartet of teams seeking to record a fourth successive Champions League victory this week to secure a place in the last 16.
Paris St Germain and Atletico Madrid have also won all three games to date while Manchester City, who have won two and lost one match, can also secure their place in the knockout round with another win over CSKA Moscow in Group D.
Barcelona, who have dropped two points, will qualify if they win at home to AC Milan in Group H and Manchester United will take a big step towards the last 16 if they win at Real Sociedad.
Bayern visit Czech club Viktoria Plzen, whom they beat 5-0 at home two weeks ago, Paris St Germain are at home to Anderlecht after winning 5-0 in Brussels. Real Madrid go to old rivals Juventus whom they beat 2-1 last time out and Atletico Madrid are at home to Austria Vienna after winning 3-0 there on October 22.
Manchester United will be looking for another win over the Spanish side after beating them 1-0 at Old Trafford while Barcelona will be seeking victory against an out-of-sorts AC Milan at home after drawing in Italy two weeks ago.
European champions Bayern should have no trouble in their Group D match in Plzen following their demolition of the Czech champions at home.
On Saturday Bayern struggled past Hoffenheim 2-1 to reclaim top spot in the Bundesliga and equal a 30-year-old league record with their 36th straight game without defeat.
Bayern were far from their dominant selves but still did enough to equal SV Hamburg’s record from 1982-83.
Paris St Germain also won in Ligue 1, thrashing lowly Lorient 4-0 with in-form striker Edinson Cavani scoring twice as PSG moved three points clear at the top.
Brazilian Lucas and Jeremy Menez were also on target and it seems inconceivable that PSG will allow the Belgians to pick up their first points of the campaign in their Group C match.
Real Madrid cruised into a 3-0 lead against bottom side Rayo Vallecano in La Liga on Saturday but were unconvincing and survived a scare when they conceded two second-half penalties before securing a nervy 3-2 win.
Real play at Juventus in Group B on Tuesday but Real’s glaring defensive failings are concerning coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“The second half [against Rayo] was a disaster,” Ancelotti said. We can’t let teams back into a game like that when you have the quality of Real Madrid.”
Unbeaten Spanish champions Barcelona warmed up for their match with Milan with a 1-0 home win over Espanyol in Friday’s Catalan derby.
Alexis Sanchez scored the only goal but the biggest surprise was that Lionel Messi failed to score for a fourth straight league match in which he played the full 90 minutes, the Argentina forward’s worst run in almost six years.
But that run could end if Milan play as poorly as they did on Saturday when they lost 2-0 at home to Fiorentina for their fifth defeat in 10 league matches and were booed off by their own fans.
Atletico Madrid also had the perfect warm-up for their game against Austria Vienna with a 2-0 La Liga win over Athletic Bilbao with goals from David Villa and Diego Costa.
Manchester City, second behind Bayern in Group D, could also seal their place in the last 16 if they beat CSKA at home.
That would put them on nine points from four matches and even though CSKA could equal that total, City would advance with the better record against the Russian side.
They had the perfect warm-up too, beating Norwich City 7-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.