Wednesday December 7th 19.45 GMT
Like getting handed a flyer to a show that you’ve already got a ticket for, here comes Match Day 6, the final round of matches in the group stages. Ideally for all the powerful people behind the Champions League, this would be a time of great tension and excitement, a shining example of the world’s premier club competition.
Fur coat, no knickers?
Instead, we get a round of football where very little is at stake. Coming into Tuesday night, only four of the 16 second-round places were available and only five of the 16 matches have qualification going. In other words, we’re being treated to a slew of largely redundant games. A cursory glance at the different groups will show that, for the most part, it’s the biggest clubs who occupy the top two spots.
The final days of Rome
Ah, the cream has risen to the top, I hear you say. And arguably it has but that it’s the usually the same cream year-in year-out doesn’t say much for the overall health of the competition or the ability of those outside of the gilded community to scale the gates and cause havoc within. Ever-increasing amounts of money are being ever-more funneled to a small circle of clubs and the crumbs that are occasionally brushed from the plate is all that we’re left with as a fig leaf of true competition.
A jewel amidst the ruins
Having said all that, this is one match between two good teams that really does have a lot going for it. The German team are two points ahead of their Spanish hosts and, with both sides having already qualified, a draw will be enough to secure them 1st place going into the draw for the knock-out rounds. Usually that would be a strong position to be in but many favourites to finish top in their respective groups look like they’ll be coming in second so the route that is traditionally less arduous may well become so this year.
Records and recoveries
Madrid are without the injured Gareth Bale but he looks to be the only injury as both Alvaro Morata and Toni Kroos are available for selection although Zinedine Zidane is expected to make minimal changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Barcelona at the weekend. The Spanish team are on course to equal the longest unbeaten run in their history and even though a draw will secure that in-house accolade, it is safe to assume that a win at home to finish top of the group is all that they are interested in.
Let them entertain us
They will have to be on their guard defensively because this Dortmund side love to score goals. A goal in this match will equal the most ever scored in the group stage and, with Sergio Ramos only recently back from injury, Madrid should expect to be in for an uncomfortable night at the back. The first match between the sides ended in a 2-2 draw and this column wouldn’t be entirely shocked if the same score line were to manifest itself here.
Happily for those poor deluded souls who might find themselves in agreement with this column, BetVictor and others are offering a price of 3/1 for draw. Whatever way the result goes, there will be goals and it could be a blinder of a match. You could place a bet but when the potential for pure enjoyment is so primed, you’re probably as well off just sitting back and taking it all in. After all, the knock-out rounds might disappoint yet again.