A UEFA Champions League group-by-group breakdown of the possible advancement scenarios to the knock-out stages. The discussion is from a Manchester United perspective and it examines who the they might draw, who they'd like to avoid in the draw, and who they might prefer to draw.
The picture is starting to clear up for the first round of the knock-out stages for the UEFA Champions League. Manchester United, FC Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, and Malaga have already clinched top spot ahead of Matchday 6 -- the final group-stage matchday -- while we also know that AC Milan and Real Madrid will be the second seeds from their respective groups. United's achievement of topping their group means that they will draw a second seed from one of the other seven groups that they were not involved in. Keep in mind, as well, that the Red Devils could not draw another English side (Arsenal or Chelsea) for the first-stage of the knock-out stages. The knock-out stages begin in early February. Here's a group-by-group breakdown on how things stand ahead of Matchday 6.
GROUP A : FC Porto (13 pts) and Paris Saint-Germain (12 pts) have both earned advancement from their group and the two sides will meet in Paris on December 4. This means that Porto could earn top spot with a victory or a draw while PSG would need a victory to overtake Porto. United would be favored over both sides but each would be a difficult opponent. Sir Alex Ferguson has reportedly been watching Porto's James Rodriguez very closely and if United don't make a move for the attacker in January, supporters could possibly get a look for themselves if the Portuguese side is drawn.
GROUP B: Schalke '04 (11 pts) and Arsenal (10 pts) have both earned advancement from their group. On Matchday 6, Schalke travel away to Montpellier while the Gunners travel away to Olympiakos. As previously mentioned, we wouldn't draw either one of these teams if Arsenal finish second in the group due to them being an English side. If Arsene Wenger's side overtake Schalke though, United could draw the German side -- a club they faced two seasons ago in the Champions League semi-final. Schalke would be a favorable draw for United so hope that Arsenal overtake them.
GROUP C: Malaga (11 pts) have already clinched top spot while Milan (8 pts) finish second. The Italian giants are very weakened at the moment and they would be a favorable draw for United as well.
GROUP D: Borussia Dortmund (11 pts) have emerged as the top side from the 'group of death' while Real Madrid (8 pts) finish second. Most certainly, we definitely want to avoid Jose Mourinho's side and United would be underdogs in that possible match-up. Cristiano Ronaldo, though, would make his Old Trafford return and he would likely get a nice reception. Manchester City are currently bottom of the group (LOLOLOL!).
GROUP E: Shakhtar Donetsk (10 pts) currently top the group, Juventus (9 pts) are second, while Chelsea (7 pts) sit third. On December 5, Shakhtar host Juve while Chelsea host FC Nordsjaelland. A draw between Shakhtar and Juve would mean both of those sides advance while the former would top the group. Chelsea can only advance if they defeat Nordsjaelland and if Juve lose to Shakhtar. In that possible scenario, Chelsea would finish second in their group while Shakhtar would advance. That would be a good scenario for United because either of Shakhtar or Juventus would be very difficult draws.
GROUP F: Bayern Munich (10 pts) and Valencia (10 pts) have both earned passage to the knock-out stages. The German giants hold the tie-breaker so they'd simply need to match Valencia's result on Matchday 6 in order to top their group. United would certainly prefer to draw Valencia rather than Bayern but the Spanish side would definitely still be a challenge.
GROUP G: Barcelona (12 pts) have clinched top spot while Benfica (7 pts) and Celtic (7 pts) are currently battling for the second spot. Benfica hold the tiebreaker over Celtic. On December 5, Celtic host Spartak Moscow while Benfica must travel away to Barcelona. Either of Benfica or Celtic would be a favorable draw for United.
GROUP H: As you're fully aware, the battle in this group is for the second spot as United (12pts) clinched top spot after Matchday 4. Galatasaray (7pts) currently hold the tiebreaker on CFR Cluj (7 pts). The Turkish side travel away to SC Braga on December 5 while Cluj will come to Old Trafford. United cannot draw either Galatasaray or Cluj for the first-round of the knock-out stage due to them being in the same group.
Keep your fingers cross that we don't draw Real Madrid nor Bayern Munich (hope that they match Valencia's Matchday 6 result). The team that finishes second in Group A (PSG or Porto) would be a very difficult draw as would either Juventus or Shakhtar Donetsk (hope that Chelsea win on Matchday 6 while Juve loses). Rooting for Arsenal overtaking Schalke in Group B would allow the Germans to be a possible draw for United -- another favorable scenario. We'd be clear favorites over any of Milan, Celtic, or Benfica. These are the things to keep track of on Matchday 6. Oh, and Nick Powell too because he's fun.