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Champions League preview - Tuesday's matches

Back in August, when the group stage draw was made for this season’s Champions League, no-one could have envisaged the predicament three of our four English participants would have found themselves in ahead of the final set of games.

However, the floundering form of West London’s finest and both Manchester clubs has left them facing 'all or nothing' deciders this week to stay in the biggest club competition of them all. Stamford Bridge is the destination to be Tuesday night as Chelsea face their last chance saloon.

Group E – Chelsea vs Valencia

Following a disappointing couple of away results the Blues can’t afford to slip up again as they host Spanish opposition with just as much at stake.

A win or a goalless draw will suffice for Chelsea who can take heart from a perfect European home record so far, the troubles Valencia regularly have on their travels and the fact they haven’t beaten an English side in their last seven Champions League encounters.

Juan Mata will be looking forward to locking horns with his old pals once more so soon after his move to England. Roberto Soldado, the Valencia striker, has the best minutes-per-goal ratio of anyone in the Champions League era (one every 79 minutes) and is potent enough to shatter Roman Abramovich’s Euro dreams yet again.

Group E’s other game takes place in Belgium as Bayer Leverkusen look to secure top spot with a victory over Genk. If they slump to a surprising defeat, that may just let both Chelsea and Valencia in, but the permutations of that scenario are too complicated to list here; let’s just say it’s unlikely to occur!

Group F – Olympiacos vs Arsenal

The Gunners' impressive European progress has been largely forgotten thanks to the struggles of their fellow countrymen. Yet Arsene Wenger and his team can take a bow and enjoy a stress free trip to Greece, safe in the knowledge they will top their group no matter what.

Some fringe players will no doubt get their chance to shine, especially the exciting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who has already scored a Champions League goal when making his debut against the same opposition in September. If Olympiacos win they will have a chance of qualifying depending on events in the group’s other game.

It is a complicated one again but, if Marseille can overcome bottom side Borussia Dortmund in Germany, they go through. Dortmund’s only hope rests on at least a four goal win for themselves and victory for Arsenal.

Best of the rest

The other two groups not featuring English clubs have far more clear-cut scenarios.

The game in Portugal between FC Porto and Zenit St Petersburg will decide the second qualifier from Group G. The home side must win to go through; a draw is enough for the Russians to join surprise leaders Apoel Nicosia, who take on Shakhtar Donetsk hoping to retain the top spot.

Group H has unsurprisingly already seen Barcelona and AC Milan qualify. The only issue remaining is to find out which of the minnows, Bate or Viktoria Plzen, will drop into the Europa League.

By Phil Nicholas

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