Despite both sitting atop their respective Champions League groups, Liverpool and Manchester United are not guaranteed qualification to the round of 16 just yet.
While this isn’t so surprising in Liverpool’s case, with Jurgen Klopp’s men currently on nine points after five games, one shy of the usual 10 that tends to guarantee qualification to the next phase, United had enjoyed a perfect qualification campaign until last night’s defeat against Basel, which leaves them in slight danger of missing out on the next round despite already having 12 points.
Now, should Spartak Moscow record a victory at Anfield in a fortnight’s time and Sevilla win at Maribor, Klopp’s team would be eliminated from the competition at the group stage, much like they were during their last entry into the tournament, in 2015/16.
United meanwhile, are much better placed to qualify than the Reds’, but must also navigate a potentially tricky home tie against a Moscow team, with CSKA arriving at Old Trafford in two weeks time.
However, potentially tricky though CSKA’s visit may be, it’s not likely to be ‘five or six goal defeat’ tricky, which is what would be required to put Jose Mourinho’s dream of securing a third Champions League with a third club in jeopardy.
A CSKA victory by five goals would only be enough to prevent United qualifying as group winners while a six goal deficit would knock United into third place, but only if Basel beat Benfica in their final group game, which would put all three teams level on 12 points, with United then dropping into the Europa League on goal difference.
Given that United have only conceded twice during the current campaign, however, it’s unlikely Mourinho’s charges will ship five or more goals to CSKA, meaning their position as group winners is pretty safe.
Jurgen Klopp, meanwhile, may be more anxious than he wishes to be heading into his final group game.
(H/T 101 Great Goals)