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Champions League preview: Can Rafa Benitez and Chelsea pull off a miracle?

by Sean Goff | December 5, 2012
Torres : xx

BOO BOY: Torres’ slump in form is affecting the whole Chelsea set-up (Getty Images)

By Andrew Robinson

The final games of the Champions League group stages are on tonight where the last remaining places in the knock-out stage will be decided.

Chelsea v FC Nordsjaelland (7:45 pm, Sky Sports 2)

Rafa Benitez was brought into Stamford Bridge to rescue Roman Abramovich’s Champions League trophy. Tonight is his chance to show the doubting Blues fans he can deliver.

The west London side take on Group E whipping boys FC Nordsjaelland knowing they need a win if Benitez doesn’t want to be the only Chelsea boss in 10 years not to qualify for the knock-out stages. The club won’t want to become the first reigning champions not to make it past the qualifying stages either.

Despite poor Premier League form, Chelsea are 1/10 to take the three points and 7/1 to repeat their 4-0 win over the Danish champions tonight.

Manchester United v CFR Cluj (7:45pm, Sky Sports 4)

Alex Ferguson’s boys welcome the Champions League’s only Transylvanian club to Old Trafford in a healthy position. With 12 points, they are already through as group leaders. They’ll want to tighten up their defence though after the 4-3 thriller against Reading.

The Romanians gave Fergie a scare in the reverse fixture, taking the lead early, and they are 9/2 to beat what will be a weakened Red Devils side.

Celtic v Spartak Moscow (7:45pm, Sky Sports 3)

Celtic have one last chance to make it a group stage to remember tonight. All they need to do is better Benfica’s result in the Camp Nou.  Spartak will be playing for pride though and could be a tough test but if your winning 1st goalscorer scores again Paddy Power will DOUBLE your odds (T&C’s apply).

But at home Neil Lennon’s side have been solid at home in the Champions League, beating Barca 2-1 along the way. They are 4/7 to keep their side of the bargain tonight, while the visitors are 9/2 to break Celtic’s hearts.

Former Hoops man and Irish international Aiden McGeady is 4/1 to throw a spanner in the works and score any time against his old club in the 90 minutes.

CelticSpartak

Shakhtar Donetsk v Juventus (7:45pm, Live on Sky)

Chelsea need the Ukrainian side to do them a huge favour and beat Juventus at home. Luckily for Rafa and Roman, Shakhtar have a 100 per cent record at home in the competition this season and held Juve to a 1-1 draw in Italy.

Donetsk boss Mircea Lucescu has promised to end Group E in style and his side are 12/5 to get the job done for themselves – and Chelsea. Gianluigi Buffon is worried about his side’s prospects and he’s every right to be. The Italian champions are 3/1 with Paddy Power to pull off a win and put Benitez under more pressure – particularly if they slip up against FC Nordsjaelland.

Bayern Munich v BATE Borisov (7;45pm, Live on Sky)

Group F is already decided, with Bayern and Valencia through already, but BATE Borisov and Lille have a lot of pride to play for. BATE got off to a great start this season, beating the French and German sides 3-1 in consecutive games.

The Belarusian’s are 16/1 to pull off a shock in the Allianz Arena and an even bigger 325/1 with Paddy Power to pull off a repeat of the 3-1 win.

Lille v Valencia (7;45pm, Live on Sky)

French side Lille have had a disastrous Champions League campaign in Group E. They have conceded 12 goals in five games and only netted four. Their poor form makes the Spanish visitors the 11/8 favourite, while Lille are 19/10.

Valencia secured a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture and are on offer at 12/1 to repeat the feat tonight.

Barcelona v Benfica (7:45pm, Live on Sky)

The tiki-taka style of Barcelona has secured them top spot in Group G. With this in the bag a weakened side could get a run out against the Portuguese side.

The Catalan club are 1/2 to end the group in style. Benfica boss Jorge Jesus is confident his side can pull off the win they need to make it into the knockout stages.  If you share his confidence, you can get on the Portuguese side at 5/1 with Paddy Power.

Sporting Braga v Galatasaray (7:45pm, Live on Sky)

Galatasaray head to already-eliminated Braga knowing that they need to match CFR Cluj’s result in Manchester, but with the Portuguese side playing for pride and testing United in the past, it won’t be an easy task.

Gala boss Fatih Terim said Braga were unlucky not to have made it through themselves, so he is expecting a tough and exciting game.

The Turkish side are 11/8 to pull off a win that will see them through or 9/4 for a draw that will seem them biting their nails for the Old Trafford score. Braga are 2/1 to pick up their first home win of the campaign.

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