Liverpool require a draw to qualify for the knockout stage of the competition, Spartak Moscow need to win.
Manchester City have already won their group, Shakhtar Donetsk will progress with a point, or by Napoli failing to win away to Feyenoord.
Standing over both games are big domestic fixtures for the Premier League teams with Liverpool playing the Merseyside derby and City the Manchester version (which also sees the top two in the table clash) on Sunday. United will be better rested for that, having played 24 hours earlier and not having had to leave the city, let alone travel to Kharkiv and back , a round trip of 5,000 km, where sub zero tempertaures and snow flurries awaiting them.
We can surely expect both English teams to play with the bigger picture and upcoming games firmly in mind, but Liverpool need to secure progression and will not want to head into the final quarter of the game without a cushion and lead, as they know Spartak will then be throwing the kitchen sink at them and we have been there before with the Reds and recently, having lost a three goal lead to Sevilla ( equaliser allowed in injury time) and conceded a 86th minute equaliser here to Chelsea, both in the last 15 days. Liverpool have made very hard work of this season and especially the Champions League and should have sealed progression with ease, in addition to the two points dropped in Sevilla, they led twice in the home leg with the Spanish side and missed a penalty and also had to settle for a share of the points in Moscow after winning possession 65%-35%, shots 16-4, on target 6-2, inside the box 11-2, saves 1-5 and hitting the woodwork. It would be a travesty were they not to progress, but they still have work to do. Their huge offensive threat means they are never going to offer great value in these type of contests and the fact that Spartak have not won in nine road Champions League games hardly helps, but the visitors have scored in eight, including twice in Barcelona through that sequence.
City have travelled with what is described as a strong squad, well, it does contain a lot of big names, but David Silva (knock) and Kevin De Bruyne (suspension) have not made the journey and youngsters Phil Foden, Brahim Diaz, Tosin Adarabioyo and Daniel Grimshaw are included. The group is 20 strong and there will surely be quite a lot of rotation and as many fringe players as possible seeing some game time , I am a little surprised that Kompany, Aguero and a few others have even made the trip, so maybe Pep Guardiola and his team are keen on protecting that ferasome record they are creating and winning does become a habit and the last time this team tasted defeat in a competitive match inside 90 minutes was at Chelsea back in April. They have scored in their last 19 away games, at an average of 2.47 per start, two or more in 15.
Donetsk are an experienced talented team and earlier in the group stage I wrote ............
They (City) have six group stage points from two games, a trip to Feyenoord where they won 4-0 and 2-0 defeat of Donetsk here in Manchester, that was 0-0 at the break and the second goal came in added on time, but was the type of fixture they would have dropped points in before and "maybe" they have added the professional win to their armoury, but I need to see more evidence of that before being fully convinced.The movement of Shakhtar’s fluid trio of Brazilians behind Argentine target man Facundo Ferreyra gave City plenty of problems before the break and if the visitors could have got to the hour mark level , or taken the lead (they had two big first half chances in quick succession) we might have learned more.
The Ukraine champions are and have always been, very comfortable on the ball, but we know they will sit back for periods and invite pressure and that City "always" score, so with the hosts only needing a point, this could get very cagey late. Facundo Ferreyra (see above) is in super form, with 20 goals in 26 appearance and he has a goal and assist in both home group games so far and I could see him having additional personal motivation tonight. The Argentine must at least be on the radar of the national team, he scored freely for the U20's and if Aguero is on the pitch, that will offer a comparison of sorts and also, after a dreadful season on loan at Newcastle United where he did not get off the bench and rarely on to it, he will be keen to prove himself against Premier League opposition. He had chances against a more motivated City in Manchester and looks big at circa 2.40 + to score this evening.
Not a day when much appeals, Liverpool to win and both teams to score at 2.40-2.50 is an option and far better IMO than asking them to cover such a big handicap when they do not need to win to progress. Having said that , three points would give them the group win and mean they could not risk facing PSG or Barcelona, as runner up their only possible opposition could be the "big two" or Roma/Besiktas as the other three section winners are British teams, the group winner would meet one of...........Basel, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Shakhtar OR Napoli, Porto OR RB Leipzig, Real Madrid, hard to say if there is any real advantage overall for them, both sides have banana skins awaiting .Shakhtar do not need more than a point themselves, but have conceded in all five group games and City , B(+?) team or otherwise, will be very difficult to keep scoreless for 90 minutes.