Top four matches to watch in today’s Champions League games

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Liverpool celebrating their Champions League trophy
Liverpool celebrating their Champions League trophy

An engrossing Champions League group stage comes to a conclusion this week, with all of Europe’s biggest sides in action.

While half of the Round of 16 teams have already booked their places in the knockout stages, eight of the spots in the next round are still up for grabs as we head into match day six.

We bring you four of the big matches to keep an eye on in the midweek actions.

Red Bull Salzburg vs Liverpool

While Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have been imperious in the Premier League, establishing a considerable lead at the top of the table, they have not been so efficient in Europe where they must avoid defeat away in Salzburg today.

Not since 2012 have the cup holders, Chelsea, failed to reach the knockout stages to defend their title, but Liverpool face a considerable obstacle if they’re to avoid such a fate.

Salzburg will be quietly confident of their chances in front of their own fans, where they’ve scored eight in their two matches to date.

Liverpool head into the match in top spot of Group E, and will advance as group winners with a win. However, they’ve been tested by Salzburg before, finding themselves repeatedly undone at the back in a 4-3 home victory earlier in the competition.

In an interview with BBC Sports, Jorgen Klopp had this to say:

“Everybody knows it’s a final and we’re prepared for that. Salzburg have to win against us. We are not a typical Champions League winner, we’re still ambitious like crazy. We will go for everything and run for our lives.”

However, the outstanding Salzburg striker, Erling Braut Haaland has scored in every group game to date, and if he does so again, the Merseysiders may find themselves facing an early elimination.

Erling Haaland is a proven goal scorer for Salzburg

Napoli, in second place on nine points, are favourites to down bottom-placed Genk in the group’s other match.

Inter MIlan vs Barcelona

Two former winners meet at the San Siro where Inter host Barcelona knowing that they need to win to guarantee their place in the next round.

Barca have already qualified with 11 points from their opening five matches, although they’ll have their work cut out against an Inter side on seven points, who currently lead Serie A following a superb revival under Antonio Conte.

However, their early-season form would be tarnished if they were to fall at the first hurdle in the UCL.

In the group’s other match, third-placed Borussia Dortmund, also on seven points, face Slavia Prague, although BVB have an inferior head-to-head record against the Italian giants.

Dortmund will fancy their chances of beating already-eliminated Slavia, meaning that Inter will need a victory over Barca in front of their own fans to progress.

Lionel Messi is one of several high-profile Barcelona players who will be rested, but can Conte’s boys make the most of their home advantage?

Bayern Munich vs Tottenham Hotspur

Both of these two have already qualified for the Round of 16, and with a five-point advantage over Spurs, Bayern have already guaranteed their progression as group winners.

With the pressure off, this has the potential to be a fascinating clash at the Allianz Arena, particularly considering Bayern smashed the Tottenham 7-2 at the new White Hart Lane earlier in the campaign.

Things are very different for the North London giants now though, with Jose Mourinho having replaced Mauricio Pochettino, although it remains to be seen whether the Portuguese coach has truly ended Tottenham’s defensive failings.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 02: The Tottenham Hotspur team line up during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Wembley Stadium on November 2, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

However, there’s no doubt that the two-time UCL winner gives Spurs an advantage on these big European nights, and it will be fascinating to see how Tottenham have improved and progressed since that miserable evening on October 1.

While Bayern are overwhelming favourites still, Tottenham have been breath taking at times going forward under Mourinho, and if they demonstrate some of the invention and artistry that underpinned the 5-0 rout of Burnley on Saturday, they could spring a surprise.

Chelsea vs Lille

Right from when the draw was made, Group H had the potential to be the most intriguing of the eight pools, with all four sides having considerable reason for optimism.

Unfortunately for LOSC Lille, last year’s surprise runners-up in Ligue 1, their campaign is already over after taking just one point to date, but they could end the group stage on a high with a strong result away at Chelsea.

They have reason for optimism too, with the Blues losing their way under rookie manager Frank Lampard.

While the ex-England midfielder overcame a slow start at Stamford Bridge, they’ve struggled in recent matches, winning just one of their last five in all competitions.

Lille, by contrast, have won their last three, with Nigeria superstar Victor Osimhen scoring the winner in their weekend triumph over Brest.

If Chelsea beat Lille, they will progress, but failure to do so, and they face the Europa League, unless the result between Ajax and Valencia in Amsterdam goes their way.

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