5 things to know about Group C of Champions LeagueBy TRUNG LATIEULE , Associated Press
Nov. 4, 2013 9:12 AM ET
PARIS (AP) — With Paris Saint-Germain hosting Anderlecht and Olympiakos welcoming Benfica, here are five things to know ahead of Tuesday's Group C matches in the Champions League:
Paris Saint-Germain is still on course for a perfect record after winning its first three matches. Only five teams have won six straight group matches in a Champions League campaign: AC Milan in the 1992-93 season, PSG in 1994, Spartak Moscow in 1995, Barcelona in 2002 and Real Madrid in 2011.
PSG is tied with Real Madrid for the most prolific attack in the Champions League with 12 goals scored, and is tied with Bayern Munich and Barcelona for the tightest defense with just one goal conceded.
It only needs to beat Anderlecht at Parc des Princes on Tuesday to secure qualification for the knockout phase. Four goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and one from Edinson Cavani helped PSG thrash Anderlecht 5-0 in Belgium in the last round.
The Parisian club routed Lorient 4-0 on Friday to move two points clear atop the French league.
Ibrahimovic has become the face of PSG with his spectacular goals and intimidating presence on the pitch. But Thiago Motta is the true heartbeat of the team.
Motta has attempted (388) and completed (350) more passes than anyone else in the Champions League this season. The Italy midfielder is also tied with Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria for most assists in the competition with four.
Known as an injury-prone player when he was at Barcelona and Inter Milan, Motta played only 12 French league matches last season. But he has managed to stay healthy this season, playing 10 league matches already.
Gone are the days when Anderlecht was a force to be reckoned with in European football. With zero points from three matches, Anderlecht will likely finish bottom of its group like last year.
When Anderlecht visits PSG, the priority for the Belgian club will be to score its first goal in the Champions League this season. Only Deportivo La Coruna in 2004 and Maccabi Haifa in 2009 have failed to find the net in the group stage of the lucrative European competition.
Anderlecht will miss Matias Suarez, who scored six goals in the Belgian league this season. The Argentine forward injured his knee in practice on Oct. 26 and will be sidelined for the rest of the season.
Anderlecht won the UEFA Cup in 1983 and the Cup Winners' Cup in 1976 and 1978.
FIGHTING FOR SECOND
The top spot seems out of reach for both Olympiakos and Benfica as both trail PSG by five points. But whoever wins the match between the two teams on Tuesday will put itself in position for the second qualifying spot for the knockout phase.
"We are on the right track," Olympiakos midfielder David Fuster said. "It seems that we are closer than in any other given year to make it to the next stage. We have to go on. Next home encounter against Benfica is of vital importance."
Both Olympiakos and Benfica finished third in the group stage last season, which earns a spot in the Europa League. Benfica went on to lose 2-1 to Chelsea in the Europa League final.
Olympiakos beat bitter rival Panathinaikos 1-0 Saturday to stay top of the Greek league. Kostas Mitroglou scored the winner for his 13th league goal this season.
Benfica striker Oscar Cardozo was nearly offloaded this summer after angrily shoving coach Jorge Jesus on the pitch in the final of the Portuguese Cup, which the team lost 2-1 to Vitoria Guimaraes in May.
But Cardozo has apologized and has helped Benfica move into third place in the Portuguese league by scoring five goals, including one in Friday's 3-0 win over Academica de Coimbra.
The Paraguay forward also netted a late goal to salvage a 1-1 draw with Olympiakos two weeks ago in Portugal.
Associated Press writers Barry Hatton in Lisbon and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.