5️⃣ big questions ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action | OneFootball

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Richard Buxton·29 November 2023

5️⃣ big questions ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action

Article image:5️⃣ big questions ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action

The penultimate round of Champions League group stage fixtures conclude on Wednesday with some potentially pivotal fixtures.

Here are the five biggest questions ahead of tonight’s action.

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Can Man Utd keep hopes alive in ‘Hell’?

Article image:5️⃣ big questions ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action

Few opponents strike fear into Manchester United quite like Galatasaray.

Trips to Istanbul spark feelings of unease at Old Trafford ever since the club was dumped out of the Champions League during a tempestuous maiden visit in November 1993.

Such was the searing hostility that night, underpinned by a banner declaring ‘Welcome to Hell,  Alex Ferguson vowed never to return to Turkey; a pledge undermined just 10 months later.

‘Hell’ has since relocated but Erik ten Hag may harbour similar feelings if the Red Devils’ latest continental adventure falls away at the new Ali Sami Yen Stadium, where they also remain winless.

Rooted to the foot of Group A, the Dutchman could have done without such an unenviable fixture as his side continue to lurch between the extremes of progress and stagnation.

Anything other than a win by the banks of the Bosporus on Wednesday would bring another missive which greeted Ferguson’s charges full-circle: ‘This is the end of the road’.

Will Kane continue his Bayern hot streak?

Article image:5️⃣ big questions ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action

Elsewhere in Group A, Bayern Munich are already home and dry into the Champions League knockout stage but still aiming to go one better.

Thomas Tuchel’s side have made short work of their campaign with a 100% record and an eight-point cushion over next opponents Copenhagen.

A home encounter against the Danes is likely to be a relative formality despite ‘FC Hollywood’ already assured of their place as comfortable group winners.

Bayern also have the fortune of possessing Europe’s most potent marksman this season with Harry Kane continuing to plunder at will.

With a record-setting 18 goals in 12 Bundesliga outings and 22 from 16 in all competitions, the England captain remains in the form of his life.

Kane’s Champions League form has been equally prolific, with only last month’s 2-1 win at Parken Stadium constituting his sole blank.

He will be keen to atone for that rare blot on an otherwise impeccable copybook as the Allianz Arena prepares to mark its 100th outing in this competition.

Who wins out in potential Bernabéu thriller?

Article image:5️⃣ big questions ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action

Real Madrid’s trip to Napoli was the pick of Matchday 2’s fixtures as a five-goal thriller swung in the visitors’ favour.

Their rematch at the Santiago Bernabéu promises to be a similarly intriguing prospect with both clubs in respective states of flux.

Serie A’s fallen champions are now under the tutelage of a returning Walter Mazzarri after dispensing with Rudi Garcia earlier this month.

Los Blancos, meanwhile, are grappling with a midfield injury crisis as Luka Modrić joins Aurélien Tchouaméni and Eduardo Camavinga on the sidelines.

Carlo Ancelotti also has to contend with Vinícius Jr facing a lengthy lay-off but can still call on Jude Bellingham to rise to the occasion during the Brazilian’s absence.

The record holders have already sealed qualification but could claim top spot with a win over the Partenopei, themselves seeking to secure progress from Group C.

Those permutations could see all the makings of another potential classic beneath the lights in the Spanish capital.

Are Sevilla set to miss a last shot at glory?

Article image:5️⃣ big questions ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action

Sevilla’s Champions League hopes hang by a thread but they will still steamroll to Europa League glory – that used to the theory, anyway.

Defeat to PSV Eindhoven will not only end another season for Diego Alonso’s side among the continental elite but also threaten to deny them one last shot at glory.

Los Nervionenses have invariably thrived after dropping into UEFA’s secondary competition, with two of a record seven-title haul won from that exact position.

But their great fallback plan is set to become a thing of the past as European football’s governing body are set to roll out the introduction of a 36-team league format next season.

That so-called “Swiss model” means the sun is officially setting on the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán’s era of dominance over the Champions League’s poor relation.

PSV can book their place in the knockout round with a win over their Group B hosts, who would require a near-miracle in next month’s finale at Lens to snatch third spot.

Sevilla have never finished a group stage campaign empty-handed but face the genuine prospect of it finally happening at the worst possible time on Wednesday.

Will Arsenal show lessons have been learned?

Article image:5️⃣ big questions ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action

Arsenal only need a point against Lens to clinch their first Champions League knockout stage appearance for eight seasons.

Yet last month’s corresponding fixture was a harsh lesson for Mikel Arteta’s side that they are still not without glaring imperfections.

A 2-1 reversal at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis threw the goalkeeping dilemma back under the microscope after David Raya gifted the hosts an early lead.

The Spaniard is not alone in making glaring errors for the Gunners, as second-choice stopper Aaron Ramsdale proved in last weekend’s win over Brentford.

Arteta is almost certain to recall Raya after missing the encounter with his parent club but given his faux-pas in France, the spotlight will burn a little brighter.

Ramsdale’s fading hopes of a lifeline in the Emirates Stadium’s no.1 battle will hinge on whether his contemporary can show that lessons have been learned.