Champions League 2012-13: Breaking Down Wednesday's Most Important Games

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2012

TURIN, ITALY - DECEMBER 01:  Sebastian Giovinco  (L) of Juventus celebrates his goal during the Serie A match between Juventus and Torino FC at Juventus Arena on December 1, 2012 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

While most of the big-name teams in action on Wednesday have already clinched a berth in the next round—Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich—there will still be three spots on the line, and a handful of hungry teams gunning for them.

Will defending Champions League winners Chelsea be knocked out of the competition in the group stages? What part will Barcelona and Manchester United play in the proceedings? Can Celtic build on its win over the Catalans and move to the next round?

Questions, so many questions. These three games will provide the answers.


Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Juventus

So much is at stake in this game. If either side wins this game, they also win the group. If it is a tie, both advance. Meanwhile, if Juventus loses and Chelsea beats Nordsjaelland, the Blues will finish second in the group.

Coming into the game, Shakhtar is atop the group at 10 points, Juventus is in second with eight and Chelsea is still alive—just barely—with seven points. However, a Juventus win does the Blues no good, as Shakhtar holds the tiebreaker over Chelsea.

All of Group E comes down to this game, and it's hard to envision Andrea Pirlo, Marchisio and company failing to at least earn a draw in this game.

Sorry, Chelsea, but you won't be defending your Champions League crown past the group stage.


Barcelona vs. Benfica 

You've got to feel for Benfica. The Portuguese side is guaranteed a spot in the next round, currently tied for second place with Celtic at seven points, but holding the tiebreaker.

All that stands in their way is a meeting with world super-power Barcelona. Ouch.

The Catalans surely won't be at full strength, having already clinched the group. Even still, a Barcelona side comprised of mostly reserves is still a formidable foe. If Benfica loses, Celtic needs only a draw to advance.

This Benfica side has plenty of talent and experience in the Champions League, so I wouldn't count them out. However, if I were a betting man, I'd expect to see Celtic advance to the next round.


Galatasaray vs. Braga

This is truly the key game in Group H, as Galatasaray comes into this game tied in second place with Cluj at seven points, but holds the tiebreaker. In other words, if Galatasaray wins, the result between Cluj and Manchester United becomes irrelevant.

With that being said, Galatasaray had better earn the three points. Manchester United has already won this group and has a key Premier League game against Manchester City this weekend, so I'd be shocked if we saw anything resembling the Red Devils' first team on the pitch.

In other words, Cluj has a very good chance to win that match, and a tie for Galatasaray might knock them out of the competition. Beating Braga will be no easy feat—Braga won the first match, 2-0—making this the Group H game to watch.


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