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2021/22 Champions League: Round 5 Preview and Permutations

As we enter the penultimate group stage round of this season's Champions League, context will be very important when considering your Superbru picks as some teams are already through, others are already out and some groups remain very even!

With a similar article to come ahead of Round 6 once we arrive there, this preview will change format slightly for these final two rounds with a focus on the permutations. Many of you mentioned you found this kind of thing helpful last season so hopefully it will be the same for this campaign. Obviously with 2 rounds to go there are quite a few situations that remain complicated but with our Superbru picks the main focus, it's easy enough to simplify in terms of what each team's motivation will be and how attacking/defensive they're likely to be this week.

Here we go then, starting with tonight's action.


Group E: Dynamo Kyiv vs. Bayern Munich and Barcelona vs. Benfica

The situation: With a perfect record of 4 wins from 4, Bayern Munich have already sealed qualification. Dynamo Kyiv, who have just 1 point, won't progress. Barcelona (6 points) will progress if they defeat Benfica (4pts) but are in danger of going out if they draw or lose since they face Bayern in Round 6 when Benfica host Dynamo.

Team News: Barca are missing quite a few players including Ansu Fati, Pedri and Sergio Aguero. Benfica and Dynamo appear close to full strength but Bayern have Dayot Upamecano suspended and lots of players doubtful due to Covid-19/an ongoing issue regarding vaccines and quarantine including Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich, Jamal Musiala and Eric Choupo-Moting.

Opinion: Bayern often continue crushing teams even after they've sealed their progression to the Last 16 so I'd still expect them to beat Dynamo comfortably but Barcelona v Benfica is tough to call and should be a belter! Xavi is now in charge at the Camp Nou and won his opening league game against Espanyol 1-0 - it certainly feels like they have more of a chance during this optimistic period following his arrival but after losing 3-0 in the reverse game there's a very real chance that Benfica could essentially eliminate Barcelona this week.

Group F: Villarreal vs. Manchester United and Young Boys vs. Atalanta

The situation: All to play for. Manchester United currently lead the group but only on head-to-head over Villarreal who they now face away from home in a huge fixture. Atalanta are two points behind the joint leaders meaning they can get themselves right in the mix with a win over Young Boys but the Swiss underdogs still have a small chance themselves if they can somehow win each of their last two.

Team news: Villarreal have been missing Gerard Moreno a lot and he remains a doubt. Manchester United will be without Rapahael Varane, Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood while Luke Shaw and Edinson Cavani are doubts. Young Boys have Christian Fassnacht and goalkeeper David von Ballmoos sidelined. Atalanta are expected to remain without wing-backs Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens.

Opinion: Manchester United's board have now even managed to make a mess when doing what many have been calling for as they've finally sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but have Michael Carrick (one of Solskjaer's assistants) in temporary charge for this game and have announced an intention to then hire a different temporary manager until the end of the season when they can. As a result, it remains very hard to predict how they'll get on against Villarreal who have been okay rather than great in recent games without their talisman. Atalanta should win in Switzerland to setup a very interesting end to this group.

Group G: Lille v Salzburg and Sevilla v Wolfsburg

The situation: Another one where there is everything to play for. There have been a lot of draws in this group meaning there's just 4 points between leaders Salzburg and 4th-placed Sevilla (who were group favourites before a ball was kicked). Salzburg can seal progression with a win in France tonight but Lille will go above them if they can come out on top while Sevilla could really do with a first win in this tournament this evening ahead of going to Austria in Round 6.

Team news: Lille have Andre and Ikone suspended as well as Renato Sanches and Jonathan Bamba as injury doubts. Salzburg striker Noah Okafor was replaced at half-time in a league game on Saturday so is a doubt. Sevilla have Jesus Navas, Suso and Youssef En-Nesyri as injury concerns while Renato Steffen, who scored in the home game against Sevilla, is out for Wolfsburg.

Opinion: This group has been a nightmare to pick throughout and that'll probably continue. I'm tempted by draws since we've seen plenty but perhaps things will open up now with so much at stake? Salzburg have been great in attack and deserve to progress and I'll probably end up picking Sevilla just because they should be doing so much better than they are despite not showing much actual promise in this competition.

Group H: Malmo v Zenit and Chelsea v Juventus

The situation: Juventus are already through to the Last 16 but could still be beaten to the group winners spot by Chelsea meaning tonight's game at Stamford Bridge is a big one. If Juve can beat the Blues for a second time, Zenit could yet progress if they defeat Malmo as expected and then defeat Chelsea by the necessary scoreline in Russia in Round 6. Malmo are on 0 points and can't progress.

Team news: Mateo Kovacic is ruled out for Chelsea and Kai Havertz is a doubt, Romelu Lukaku might make the squad but won't play more than a few minutes at the end of the game if so according to Thomas Tuchel. Juventus have named their travelling squad and it doesn't contain Georgio Chiellini, Aaron Ramsey, Federico Bernadeschi or Danilo. Central midfielder Anders Christiansen is a doubt for Malmo who face a Zenit side that should be very close to full strength.

Opinion: This group is mainly about who progresses 1st or 2nd and Chelsea will feel they should still take that group winners spot given their form and home advantage against Juve this week. Zenit should certainly beat Malmo which would guarantee them at least Europa League football.


Group A: Brugge v Leipzig and Man City v PSG

The situation: Manchester City lead the group and are a point in front of PSG ahead of their clash this week despite losing in Paris. If either side manages to win at the Etihad they will secure progression to the Last 16 while City can also seal their place with a draw. Leipzig cannot qualify. Brugge are 4 points behind PSG meaning if they can win on Wednesday and Paris fail to win in Manchester, they could yet progress with a victory in Round 6.

Team news: Brugge look to be close to full strength but Leipzig have a few significant absences including Tyler Adams (suspended), Daniel Olmo, Dominik Szoboszlai, Konrad Laimer and Yussuf Poulsen (all injured). PSG will be without Julian Draxler in Manchester while City have Ferran Torres sidelined, Kevin De Bruyne in quarantine with covid and a question mark over Jack Grealish.

Opinion: Outside of their games against City, Brugge have been impressive and I think they could well beat Leipzig again to give themselves a chance depending on the result at the Etihad. City were good in Paris despite losing and though we could see more Messi magic to hand PSG the points, I think the hosts are the more likely winners - they're playing really well at the moment and are certainly more balanced and a better *team* than the visitors.

Group B: Atletico v Milan and Liverpool v Porto

The situation: Liverpool are already through as group winners meaning there's a chance they'll rotate in this round, though Jurgen Klopp often still goes strong with his lineups in this kind of situation. Behind them, all 3 teams are still in with a chance of qualification with Porto (5pts) a point ahead of Atletico and then Milan further back on just 1 point. That means Milan must win in Madrid this week to stand a chance of progressing.

Team News: Atletico have Felipe suspended and doubts over Joao Felix and Kieran Trippier. Milan are missing Rebic and Tomori as well as goalkeeper Maignan. Porto don't have any known issues but Liverpool have several players out including Firmino, Keita, Gomez, Jones and potentially Andy Robertson who missed the weekend win over Arsenal.

Opinion: You have to be cautious with your pick for the Liverpool game because the Reds have nothing to play for (despite being strong favourites) but they have a very good record against Porto. Atletico should then win at home after beating Milan in the San Siro. Atleti haven't been in great form but Milan have also stuttered slightly of late - they lost 4-3 to Fiorentina on Saturday and haven't shown up in this competition so far.

Group C: Besiktas v Ajax and Sporting v Dortmund

The situation: Ajax have absolutely smashed it in this group so far, winning all 4 of their games including a double header against Dortmund. They'll progress as group winners and Besiktas are out meaning we're left with a very interesting battle for 2nd between Sporting and Dortmund. This week's clash in Lisbon is huge - Dortmund won the reverse fixture 1-0 but Sporting are in fantastic form and don't have Erling Haaland to worry about...

Team news: There's a few suspensions - Souza for Besiktas, Alvarez for Ajax and Hummels for Dortmund. It's Dortmund who then also have the most significant injuries as in addition to the huge absence of Haaland, Reyna, Hazard and Schulz are doubts.

Opinion: This looks like a huge opportunity for Sporting to me given their attacking talent and Dortmund's issues. It should be a really interesting game and if Sporting can better the 1-0 scoreline they lost by in Germany they'll essentially be through as they can then afford to lose at Ajax in Round 6. As for the other game, yes, Ajax will almost certainly beat Besiktas.

Group D: Inter v Shakhtar and Sheriff v Real Madrid

The situation: Real Madrid will secure their place in the Last 16 if they can get revenge against Sheriff and win this week. Inter will also go through if they defeat Shakhtar. Sheriff and Shakhtar are both still technically in with a chance of progressing themselves, particularly Sheriff who are just a point behind Inter, but Shakhtar have to win in this round.

Team news: Inter are likely to be without Alexis Sanchez and Stefan de Vrij, Shakhtar are missing striker Lassina Traore and left-back Ismaily. Real Madrid have named their squad which doesn't include Federico Valverde or Eden Hazard.

Opinion: Inter and Real Madrid should get the job done this week and they'll both be extremely keen to do so in order to avoid an awkward Round 6 where they face one another.

Good luck in Round 5!