UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: BARCELONA, DORTMUND A STEP AWAY FROM ROUND OF 16

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: BARCELONA, DORTMUND A STEP AWAY FROM ROUND OF 16

BY APESIN ADEMOLA.

 

Lionel Messi returned from injury layoff ahead of time and should be in the squad as Barcelona hope to wrap up proceedings in Group B on time.

 

Three wins in as many matches have set the Catalans ahead of the field, three points clear of tonight’s opponents, Inter.

 

The Nerazzurri will however be baying for blood at the San Siro having lost the first leg 2-0.

 

Inter’s resurgence is signposted by their being second placed in Serie A ahead of Napoli.

 

Since suffering a lone goal home defeat to Parma on Matchday 4 of the current Serie A season, Inter have gone on to win all their matches in all competitions, except the setback at Camp Nou. That is nine matches on the bounce!

 

In that same group are Tottenham and PSV Eindhoven, who both file out at Wembley chasing their first win of the group stage.

 

The first leg ended 2-2 in Eindhoven, the only time both times will gain a point in three group fixtures.

 

Spurs battled out a 3-2 win away to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the English Premier League on Saturday to displace Arsenal at fourth spot.

 

That followed their 3-1 win over West Ham United also on the road, which extinguished their home lone goal loss to Manchester City.

 

With five points adrift of the second round qualification bar, Spurs know that this is a must-win encounter.

 

In Group A, Borussia Dortmund will qualify for the Round of 16 with two matches to spare if they achieve double victory over their Spanish hosts, Atlético.

 

Diego Simeone’s side crumbled 0-4 at Signal-Iduna Park in Dortmund a fortnight ago but have won two other games since then – 2-0 against Real Sociedad in LaLiga and 1-0 away to UE Sant Andreu in Copa del Rey – and forced a 1-1 draw away to CD Leganés in their last match on Saturday in the domestic league.

 

The pressure is more on Atlético, who are three points adrift of their opponents as maximum points will draw them level going into the last two fixtures of the group stage.

 

Given that their subsequent opponents will be AS Monaco and Club Brugge, both posting only one point in three group matches, the chances of Atlético advancing to the knockout stages with Dortmund will be boosted by victory tonight.

 

In the earlier match in the group, Thierry Henry will be seeking his first win since his managerial career commenced at his former club, Monaco.

 

Henry, whose club career began at Monaco before he blossomed at Arsenal, signed a three-year managerial deal with his former club on October 18.

 

He has lost two matches and shared honours in the other two, and hoping to win his first match versus Club Brugge this evening.

 

Defeat for either Monaco or Brugge, who finished the first leg 1-1 in Brugge, will spell elimination from the elite club competition.

 

In Group C, despite the highly-prized stars in PSG, the Parisians have failed to match up to pre-tournament rating in the Champions League this season.

 

Although they established a record of 12 consecutive wins in Europe’s top five leagues with their defeat of Lille last Friday, that impressive run has not been translated into Europe as they have managed only one win against Serbian minnows Crvena Zvezda.

 

They drew with Napoli and lost to Liverpool to stand at No 3.

 

Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and company face second place Napoli, who battled to a 2-2 result in Paris two weeks ago.

 

Napoli have been in decent form in Serie A, currently sitting third in the table after 11 games.

 

They won their last game against Empoli 5-1, which should give them confidence going into this crucial clash with the French champions.

 

Victory over Liverpool and a draw with PSG should also give Napoli encouragement that they can challenge PSG again in this fixture.

 

Fresh from a frenetic 1-1 outcome at the Emirates Stadium versus Arsenal on Saturday, Liverpool go into battle with Group C’s whipping side Crvena Zvezda, who they thrashed 4-0 at Anfield in the first leg. The Reds might have exited the English League Cup quite early – losing to Chelsea at the first time of asking – but they are one of three teams without a loss in the English Premier League this season after 11 rounds of matches.

 

Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane will all be ready to make it double victory over their hosts, a result that will move them nearer the knockout rounds.

 

Group D have FC Porto ahead of Schalke 04 by two points, while Galatasaray are a point behind the German side.

 

Porto will strive at a double over bottom-placed Lokomotiv Moskva, who lost the first leg 3-1, while Schalke welcome Galatasaray to their Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen. The reverse fixture ended goalless.

 

Fixtures…

Group A:

  • AS Monaco v Club Brugge (first leg 1-1) (6:55pm)
  • Atlético Madrid v Borussia Dortmund (first leg Borussia Dortmund 4-0) (9pm)

 

Group B:

  • Tottenham Hotspur v PSV Eindhoven (first leg 2-2) (9pm)
  • Internazionale Milano v Barcelona (first leg Barcelona 2-0) (9pm)

 

Group C:

  • FK Crvena Zvezda v Liverpool (first leg Liverpool 4-0) (6:55pm)
  • Napoli v Paris Saint-Germaine (first leg 2-2) (9pm)

 

Group D:

  • FC Porto v Lokomotiv Moskva (first leg FC Porto 3-1) (9pm)
  • Schalke 04 v Galatasaray (first leg 0-0) (9pm)

 

 

 

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