Atletico Madrid and Athletico Bilbao are set to enter dangerous territory on Thursday, literally, as the teams travel to Israel.
Superstar striker Falcao and his Atletico Madrid team play the already eliminated Hapoel Tel Aviv, 40 miles (64 kilometers) from strife-torn Gaza.
A win will guarantee automatic qualification and maintain a perfect record for the Spanish team, and Falcao will be hoping to score to avoid a run of four games without a goal, a relative drought for his high standards. Hapoel have managed a solitary point from their four games.
Level on points with Madrid is Plzen. The Czech team will guarantee qualification if they are victorious at Academica. Academica must win to have any realistic chance of progressing from the group.
Athletic Bilbao will face Hap Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel.
Press spokesman Xavier Fernandez said the club had spoken on the phone with UEFA officials who had said the match would go ahead as planned. “We are not really in a position to contradict UEFA, and we will be going unless things get a lot worse,” Fernandez told The Associated Press.
Regional analyst Jorge Garma said media reports in the Basque Country were all unanimous in supporting the club in its decision to go to Israel, but many reported that UEFA had given assurances about the safety of the trip.
Spokeswoman Iosune Vegas said, “As of right now, the team is going to Israel. UEFA told us the match would be played, and we are going.”
Bilbao have just one point from their four games in group I. Anything less than a win would make it impossible for them to progress, and if Sparta Prague beat or draw with Lyon, who have already qualified, then both those teams will qualify.
Group A is proving to be one of the most interesting, given the closeness in points of the teams. Anzhi Makhachkala is leading the way with seven points, and may solidify that against Udinese, who are last with four points.
Anzhi has won six of their seven points at home, and have yet to concede in the Ukraine, so Udinese, who drew at home to Parma on the weekend, may find it a difficult game.
Liverpool host Swiss side Young Boys. Both teams have six points, and with two games left a win could be crucial for both team's qualification chances.
Serie A team Lazio host Premier League side Tottenham in another key game, to help decide who will qualify from group J. Lazio are two points ahead of Tottenham with eight points, and a win will guarantee qualification for them. Tottenham are on six points, so could go ahead of Lazio if Andre Villas Boas’ side take a win from the Stadio Olimpico.
Breathing down the neck of Tottenham is NK Maribor. If Tottenham lose, and Maribor can take three points away from Panathanaikos, they will push ahead of the north London club. Anything less than a win will make it extremely difficult for the Greek club, which are in last place, to qualify.
Napoli let a two goal lead slip into a disappointing draw against AC Milan, and will be hoping to bounce back as the team travel to Sweden to face AIK, two points ahead of their Swedish opponents in group F.
Edinson Cavani came fifth in the AP Global Soccer rankings after he scored four goals in Napoli's 4-2 victory over Dnipro two weeks ago. “It was a really wonderful night,” he said. “I always look to give my maximum but every game is different and we will certainly have to fight in Sweden.”
Also in group F, last-placed PSV Eindhoven host group-leaders Dnipro. A Dnipro win guarantees qualification, but if PSV win, provided Napoli don’t, they could go second on goal-difference.
Newcastle lead group D, and host Maritimo, knowing a win will send the north England team through with a game in hand. Bordeaux, in second place, can also guarantee qualification with a win at Club Bruges.
Inter Milan travel to Rubin Kazan for the big match of group H. Both teams have 10 points and have already qualified. Rubin have perfect home form, Inter have perfect away form.