Pressure on Rodgers, Pellegrini and Wenger as the Champions League group stages reaches its climaxby Jack Kitson / 09 December 2014, 10:19Tweet
The final wave of Champions League group stage clashes dominate proceedings this week, with the fate of two Premier League clubs jangling nervously up in the air. Chelsea have already booked their spot in the next round as group winners, whereas Arsenal are also through, although in what has become a reoccurring theme they are likely to have to settle for second spot. However, the attention will be predominantly focused on Liverpool and Man City who are both bidding to avoid being hurled out of Europe'e elite competition.
Liverpool v FC Basel - Tuesday 9th December
Four points after five Group B games is a pitiful tally for a club that had pre-season goals of making waves in Europe. Usually this meagre return at this stage in the competition would have all but ended a side's chances of progressing through to the last-16. However, somehow Liverpool remain in contention for second-spot and, top put it simply, all they need to do is beat FC Basel at Anfield in order to avoid an embarrassingly early exit.
A failure to do so could have a damaging effect on Brendan Rodgers' future in Merseyside. The Ulsterman recently came under-fire after Liverpool suffered four straight defeats in all competitions. However, the Reds have since bounced back with two wins and two draws, and they will now be expected to beat bogey-side Basel, who have frequently raised their game when up against English teams. Rodgers can currently be found hovering around the 20/1 mark in the Premier League Sack Race, but do not be surprised if his odds are slashed if Liverpool come unstuck tonight. It is also worth mentioned that back-to-back league games against Man Utd and Arsenal are next in the calendar, in what is a decisive pre-Christmas period for both Rodgers and the club.
Galatasaray v Arsenal - Tuesday 9th December
After beating Borussia Dortmund two weeks ago Arsenal ensured that they will be present in the knockout-stages for the ninth consecutive campaign since losing the 2006 Final to Barcelona. However, during that time the North London club only have a semi-final appearance to their name. For the last four successive seasons Gunners supporters have watched in pure frustration as their side have faltered in the last-16, with Bayern Munich conquering their side in each of the last two terms.
Finishing top of a group can significantly improve a team's chances of reaching the quarter-finals, as it usually means they will avoid the tournament's big guns e.g. this season Real Madrid, Bayern and Atletico have all finished at the summit. To avoid that scenario, Arsenal must win in Galatasaray and hope that Dortmund lose at home to Anderlecht, while a huge win by a six goal margin will be enough if the German outfit are held to a draw.
A failure to at least do their part and win in Istanbul will only raise the anti-Wenger noise, which was heightened at the weekend after Arsenal suffered a 3-2 defeat at Stoke, which was their third loss in five league games; leaving the club 6th in the table and 13 points adrift of Chelsea.
Roma v Man City - Wednesday 10th December
A rejuvenated Man City have swatted away the doubters in stunning style after registering five consecutive wins. The second triumph in this impressive run was a last-gasp 3-2 victory over Bayern, which kept their last-16 hopes alive. The Citizens have since swept aside Southampton, Sunderland and Everton in the league, but now comes the real test; Roma.
In order to progress Manuel Pellegrini's troops must beat the Italian outfit at the Stadio Olimpico, and hope that CSKA Moscow don't stun Bayern in Munich, while a score draw will also be enough if CSKA lose. However, City's hopes were dealt a crushing blow after star man Sergio Aguero hobbled off at the weekend with a knee injury, and it has since been confirmed that he will be out for four weeks, which is an excruciating set-back as the club ventures into such a crucial stage of the season.