Make me your Homepage
left corner left corner
China Daily Website

Now or never for Champions last-16 hopefuls

Updated: 2013-12-10 07:37
By Agence France-Presse in Paris ( China Daily)

Final opportunity for teams in the group stage to advance in Europe's prestigious club competition

Holder Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona are already through to the Champions League round of 16. Eight other places are up for grabs when the groups end on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Group A

Manchester United (ENG) vs Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR): Smarting from its fifth Premier League defeat of the season, already qualified Manchester United hosts Shakhtar seeking some much needed European solace. United's second successive home defeat, a 1-0 reverse to Newcastle on Saturday, has taken much of the gloss off its superb 5-0 rout of Borussia Dortmund a fortnight ago, a demolition which sealed its passage to the knockout stages. David Moyes will want a quick and sharp response from his team which he said had lacked sparkle against Newcastle, a loss which left the Premier League titleholder 13 points off leader Arsenal. A draw is essential to take Group A honors and give United a much needed boost ahead of the crammed Christmas domestic program. Shakhtar, in buoyant form at home - it leads its league by five points - must match Bayer Leverkusen's result to qualify. Victory for the Ukrainians would deprive Moyes' men of top spot. United is boosted by the return of Wayne Rooney, who was suspended for Saturday's game.

Real Sociedad (ESP) vs Bayer Leverkusen (GER)

Leverkusen will qualify for the last 16 at the expense of Shakhtar as long as it sees off winless Real and the Ukrainians lose at Old Trafford. A draw will be enough for Leverkusen if Shakhtar loses thanks to its superior head-to-head record. Leverkusen has painful memories of its last trip to Spain, a 7-1 drubbing at Barcelona in the 2011-12 round of 16 - its heaviest ever European defeat. Bayer goes into the tie on the back of a hard fought 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund to leave it four points shy of Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich.

Group B

Galatasaray (TUR) vs Juventus (ITA): A draw would be enough to see Juventus through to the knockout stages, given its better head-to-head record against Copenhagen than Galatasaray's, but even a draw is a tall order in the Istanbul cauldron the Turks call home. It is made even more so by the fact the Turin club was dealt a severe blow with the news influential playmaker Andrea Pirlo will miss what is its most important test of the season so far with knee ligament damage, which is expected to sideline him until the New Year - by which time Juve's Champions League campaign could be a fading memory.

FC Copenhagen (DEN) vs Real Madrid (ESP): Copenhagen has only pride left to play for as even an unlikely victory over Real would leave it in third place in the group and out of the competition. Real, on the other hand, has cruised through its campaign so far, scoring at will, most recently with the 4-1 drubbing of Galatasaray which, ironically, rekindled rival Juventus' hopes of progressing. Despite being already qualified, coach Carlo Ancelotti is expected to play stars Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Group C

Benfica (POR) vs Paris Saint Germain (FRA): The host has more to play for than the visiting side, which is already assured of being group winner. Benfica, though, must better the result of Greek side Olympiakos if it is to reach the last 16. Benfica does have a bit of a hold over the French visitor in that it has beaten it in Lisbon on the past two occasions it has played there. Much could depend on what sort of side PSG coach Laurent Blanc selects, whether he opts to rest several first team regulars or throws them all in as the side seeks to better its overall points haul of 15 - it presently has 13 - from last year's group stage. Lisbon is hosting the Champions League final but it is unlikely Benfica will emulate Bayern Munich in appearing in a final on home turf given its qualification is out of its hands.

Olympiakos (GRE) vs Anderlecht (BEL)

The Greek side should logically seal its place in the knockout stages at home to a Belgian outfit which has garnered just one point from its five games - albeit a draw with PSG - and which the host trounced 3-0 in Belgium with Kostas Mitroglou scoring a hat-trick. Coached by former Spanish great Michel, who was part of the Real Madrid team that overturned a 3-0 deficit in a UEFA Cup second-round clash in the 1984-85 campaign to win 6-1 in the return leg, Olympiakos is bidding to reach the last 16 for the first time since 2009-10. Anderlecht will finish bottom of its group for the seventh successive season it has competed in the competition.

Group D

Bayern Munich (GER) vs Manchester City (ENG): Defending champion Bayern, buoyed by a 7-0 demolition of Werder Bremen on Saturday which extended its unbeaten Bundesliga run to 40 matches, is already through to the last-16. It will win the group with a draw or with a defeat that is no bigger than its 3-1 away victory in Manchester in the teams' first game. Bayern has won 14 of its past 16 home Champions League fixtures, most recently a 5-0 success against Viktoria Pilsen on matchday three while its 3-1 win at CSKA Moscow a fortnight ago broke Barcelona's record for consecutive wins with its 10th straight victory. City coach Manuel Pellegrini is hoping to have Spanish playmaker David Silva back from injury. The Spanish attacking midfielder has missed City's past five matches due to a calf injury. Germany captain Philipp Lahm could return for Bayern having missed the past few weeks with a hamstring injury, but Bayern is definitely without winger Arjen Robben who has a thigh problem.

Viktoria Pilsen (CZE) vs CSKA Moscow (RUS): Neither side can make the last 16, leaving a battle to finish third and claim a spot in the Europa League knockout rounds. The Russians will come third with a draw or with a defeat that is not greater than its 3-2 home success against Viktoria. Pilsen has lost both home games in Group D without scoring a goal but had won 10 of its preceding 11 home fixtures in UEFA competition, including three in a row in this season's qualifying rounds. Before losing at Bayern (3-0) and City (5-2), CSKA was on a run of just two losses in 11 away outings in UEFA competitions.

Hot Topics
A sailor from British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Daring tries to catch a mooring line to dock in the north side of the bund at Huangpu River in Shanghai December 10, 2013.