Each team in the Champions League group phase plays six matches, and the meat in the sandwich is the double-header of fixtures that occurs midway through the campaign.
It is here where dreams are shattered and hopes reborn, so it is well worth keeping a close eye on the drama that is set to unfold this week and then again at the end of October (30-31).
So how do things stand in the Champions League so far, and where are they set to go?
The surprise package in Group A has been Benfica – and not for the right reasons. The Portuguese outfit were expected to take second place behind Manchester United, but defeat to CSKA Moscow at home (1-2) and an absolute shellacking from Basel (0-5) has rather changed things.
Quite why Benfica have struggled is anybody’s guess seeing as though they are going fairly well in the Primeira Liga, and now they must salvage something from the wreckage with a double-header against United.
Jose Mourinho’s side have two wins from two, and they will be confident of all but securing their place in the last 16 with at least four points from the pair of ties with Benfica.
CSKA and Basel are in a straight dogfight for second spot, and it might just be worth favouring the Swiss underdogs. CSKA have won just 25% (4/16) of their most recent Champions League matches on home soil.
This is the group in which PSG and Bayern Munich were supposed to qualify from with ease, and it is still hard to overlook that assessment.
The Parisians are likely to run away with it – their double-header is against bottom side Anderlecht, and while Bayern are reeling somewhat after a 0-3 reverse at the hands of the French side, they have since sacked the manager that had taken them backwards: Carlo Ancelotti.
They have since appointed Jupp Heynckes as his replacement, and that feel-good announcement of the club legend should coincide with improved performances. Celtic fans, you have been warned….
Chelsea’s recent stuttering form and injury list – both N’Golo Kante and Victor Moses are out for the foreseeable future, while Alvaro Morata is still struggling with a thigh strain – will have shrewd punters on red alert.
The Blues host a Roma side that has won four of their last five in Serie A and is unbeaten in a pair of Champions League outings – at 5/1, they could be the bet of the week.
Elsewhere in Group C, Atletico Madrid will be hoping that Chelsea and Roma take points off each other while they take care of their own business: a double-header against the outclassed Qarabag.
Neymar who? Barcelona’s fine start to the campaign extends to the Champions League, where they have won two from two without conceding a goal. They’ve done the hard part as well in seeing off Juventus and Sporting Lisbon, and can now enjoy their double-header against Olympiakos with relish.
Which will likely lead to a straight shootout between Juve and Sporting for second place, and be under no illusion the Italians are not as strong as they once were. Soundly beaten by Barca at the Nou Camp, they have since lost to Lazio 1-2 and drawn with Atalanta 2-2 – a criminal defensive record for a side of Juve’s defensive stature.
Of all the groups, it is perhaps Group D that is likely to serve up the biggest shock.
Liverpool had better make light work of bottom side Maribor, or they may find themselves having to get points from tricky fixtures with Spartak Moscow and Sevilla.
That latter duo embark on their double-header during the next couple of weeks, and the Russian outfit’s inability to beat Maribor is perhaps suggestive of their lack of quality.
Nevertheless, expect Liverpool to top Group 3 come Halloween night and the end of Gameweek 4.
Premier League fans will know all about Manchester City’s brilliant form so far this term, and they head into their decisive double-header with Napoli in fine spirits after demolishing Stoke 7-2 at the weekend.
But write off Napoli at your peril: they have won eight from eight in Serie A, and while they lost in Donetsk they made up for that with a resounding 3-1 win over Feyenoord. Whichever way these two encounters go between the English and Italian champions-elect go, they will be entertaining, that’s for sure.
Can either Shakhtar or Feyenoord edge their way into the reckoning? The Ukrainians have already taken three points from Napoli, so technically they should be favourites to finish second in Group F. But Dutch champions Feyenoord will provide stern opposition regardless of their tepid start to the campaign.
When you put Monaco, Porto, RB Leipzig and Besiktas in a group, you don’t expect the Turkish side to top the pile after two rounds of matches.
But that’s exactly the situation here, with Besiktas opening up with victories over Leipzig (2-0) and Porto (3-1).
Their toughest test comes in the form of Monaco in this double-header, although the French side were dismantled 0-3 on home soil by Porto last time out.
The Portuguese outfit have been excellent this term, and their 180 minutes against Leipzig in the next few weeks could be a titanic collision.