This Tuesday and Wednesday will mark the end of the UEFA Champions League group stage matches. Bundesliga clubs Schalke and Werder Bremen will be involved on Tuesday, while Bayern Munich plays its final group stage match on Wednesday. All three matches will be available for viewing in the U.S. on the DirecTV UEFA channels at 2:30 pm ET. Additionally, Werder Bremen’s match with Inter Milan will be available on Fox Soccer Plus at 2:30pm ET Tuesday and at 1:00 am ET on the Fox Soccer Channel. Schalke’s match against Benfica will be televised on a delayed basis on FSC at 9:00am ET Wednesday.
Group B leaders Schalke will meet Benfica in Lisbon. Felix Magath’s club is assured of advancement to the knockout stages, while Benfica have already been eliminated after being upset by Hapoel Tel Aviv on MatchDay 5. Any result for Schalke Tuesday that equals or betters Lyon’s result in their match against Hapoel Tel Aviv will give the Royal Blues the top spot in Group B. Magath shook up the squad before Saturday’s win over Bayern Munich and has cut the team’s winter break to six days before resuming training. Whether his efforts to instill more discipline into the underachieving Schalke club will continue to be successful will be interesting to observe against an able Benfica club.
Werder Bremen will not advance into the knockout stages of the Champions League, as Thomas Schaaf’s club have struggled mightily in Group A play, gaining only two draws in their five matches. Tuesday’s match with Inter Milan will give Werder Bremen the opportunity for revenge, though, as they were humiliated by Inter Milan 4-0 at the San Siro. Schaaf will most likely be without French defender Mikael Silvestra and Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro, although both may be ready to feature in Werder Bremen’s upcoming Bundesliga match with table toppers Borussia Dortmund.
On Wednesday Bayern Munich will host FC Basel at the Allianz Arena. Die Bayern struggled to defeat FC Basel in Switzerland on September 28, needing two second-half goals by Bastian Schweinsteiger, including one in the last minute of play, to erase the 1-0 lead FC Basel had built thanks to former Dortmund star Alexander Frei. With their advancement into the knockout phase assured, it will be interesting to see what squad Louis van Gaal will field in this match. Reserve goalkeeper Thomas Kraft has already been tabbed by van Gaal to be the starter against FC Basel.
There isn’t a great deal at stake in the final matchday of the Champions League group stage for the three German sides as far as results are concerned this week, with Schalke and Bayern Munich already set to move on and Werder Bremen already eliminated. But with the disappointment all three clubs have experienced this season, victory would be a healing tonic all three thirst for, not only for the sake of each club’s progress but for their suffering fans.